OP: QUESTION 1: What is the effect/consequence of meditating in such a vague way? Of simply attending to consciousness without an ongoing object of focus?
Meditation requires an object to focus on which is real (Paramattha) or conceptual (Paññatti).
Also, consciousness does not arise without form or faculty as these 3 constitutes contact which is one our senses register. Therefore there cannot be consciousness without and object.
Dependent on _____ and _____,
____-consciousness arises. When the three meet, there is contact.
Cha Chakka Sutta
- the eye, form, eye-consciousness, eye-contact, feeling, craving, are not-self,
- the ear, sounds, ear-consciousness, ear-contact, feeling, craving, are not-self,
- the nose, smells, nose-consciousness, nose-contact, feeling, craving, are not-self,
- the tongue, sounds, tongue-consciousness, tongue-contact, feeling, craving, are not-self,
- the body, touches, body-consciousness, body-contact, feeling, craving, are not-self,
- the mind, mind-objects, mind-consciousness, mind-contact, feeling, craving, are not-self.
Cha Chakka Sutta
The object of Vipassanā are real objects (Paramattha Dhammas) corresponding to the classification as nama (mentality) and rupa (materiality) or the classification as citta (a moment of consciousness or a moment of experience), cetasika (mental factors accompanying consciousness), rupa (material phenomena) and nibbana (the unconditioned reality) or the classification as rupakkhandha (all rupas), vedanākkhandha (feelings), saññākkhandha (remembrance or perception), saṅkhārakkandha (all cetasikas, except feeling and remembrance) and viññāṇakkhandha (all cittas).
The object of Samatha in most cases are conceptual like people in case of Metta, coloured discs in case of Kasina.
One can develop choiceless awareness, especially when doing daily activities, i.e., you are aware of the object which comes to your attention and any sensation resulting from it. There is a danger in this though that you keep jumping from the most intense object which catchers your attention to another. The drawback in this is that there are a lot of other subtler objects in the background which one might not develop sensitivity. Therefore, for a reasonable time, one should systematically change the objects so one is even sensitive to the feeling the subtlest object creates.
OP: QUESTION 2: Would such a way of contemplating actually decrease focus and energy (virya) in some cases?
Since there cannot be consciousness without and object of focus, let me assume this is choiceless awareness where one does not direct one's focus to a particular object.
Less effort may be needed as one is not redirecting one's focus.
This comes at a cost as one is not putting effort to see and experience more subtler objects. Ultimately one must try to see reality of all phenomena.