We all seem to know this, that being present reaps the greatest rewards as a human,but very little do we embody and practice it. There’s just so much snatching at our attention in the modern world, and we have wired ourselves these days to be scattered and fractured. The other day I saw a girl in a ‘Be Here Now’ Ram Dass tribute tee, scrolling through her phone, whilst flicking through a magazine, with headphones on talking to a friend on said phone, waiting for a coffee. We’ve all been there.
The Shallows author Nicholas Carr says, “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
I remember years back realising that my capacity to read at length had diminished. At work, my attention span was chaotic and at home, I was doing a hundred things atonce, all the time, because my mind was like a kite caught in constant gusts.. I was skim reading anything and everything and mostly dipping in and out of social media than actually engaging in beautiful, inspiring books.
So I steadily went about rebuilding that part of my brain that could be present to one thing. It took some serious attention, was frustrating and yet one of the most rewarding things I have applied myself to. I started with 15 minutes a day, reading something inspiring, no interruptions. Then as our Vedic meditation practice trains us to gently come back to the mantra, no judgement, I transferred this philosophy into gently coming back to the present moment in the day, no judgement. Then I just kept extending this.
I realised over time I had a deep seated fear, that if I actually stopped to do all the stuff that filled my day, and instead was gentle with the things I loved, that nothing ‘important’ would get done. So I had found myself at a juncture, filled with such imagined nonsense where sitting quietly to read a spiritual book seemed so indulgent! I had over time started to believe that things like that were reserved for holidays. Once a year if I were lucky. You can see where I am going…
Now I’m presently by no means some utterly all here now monk, and I am frequently found laughing in stitches at some dog in a video on Instagram, but I try to chunk everything together, including social media, and just be present to just that instead of everything at once. And I always make space for things that nourish me, instead of making excuses about what I could be spending my time on. We’ve really got productivity all upside down.
Perhaps give some thought to how you might rewire your attention span, your priorities and how you spend your days.
Sent with love,