Sunday, September 13, 2009


Heard an interview with Winifred Gallagher about her book, Rapt Attention and the Focused Life and what she was saying was really resonating with me. Paying attention to what makes you happy, being in the moment, avoiding multi-tasking and unnecessary stimulus.

Because what you focus on actually helps to shape your reality. Not just in a glass half-full way, either. One example she was speaking about involved being sick. You can focus on being sick or you can focus on a task at hand and put your energy toward that task. At the end of the day, if you have focused on being sick you may in fact become sicker; if you focus on the task not only will you have accomplished something but you may actually have been taking steps to heal yourself. Fascinating.

Even the phrase, 'paying attention'. When you pay attention you are giving up a part of yourself to focus elsewhere. Because there is a limit to how many things we can focus on at once (multi-tasking is a myth!), you are 'spending' your most limited and precious resource.... you. So choose carefully.

From an interview with Gallagher on Amazon Books:

Science's new understanding of attention can help shape your answers to this question, which pops up all day long in various forms. When you sit at your computer, will you focus on writing that report or aimless web browsing? At the meeting, will you attend to the speaker or to your BlackBerry? Research suggests that your choices are more consequential than you may suspect. When you zero in on a sight or sound, thought or feeling, your brain spotlights and depicts that "target," which then becomes part of the subjective mental construct that you nonetheless confidently call "reality" or "the world." In contrast, things that you ignore don't, at least with anything like the same clarity. As William James succinctly puts it, "My experience is what I agree to attend to."

When you finally get home at the end of the day, do you really want to dwell on petty events when you could immerse yourself in some amazing music or mindfully prepare the evening meal? Yes, sometimes easier said than done but it doesn't hurt to practise.

Many people don't know what brings them into moments of flow, so it is useful throughout the day to take note of when you are feeling focused or lost in the moment. You might think you would prefer to be at home rather than work, but the results may surprise you. Understanding what brings you joy and pleasure makes it all that much easier to pursue!

Lately I've been feeling burnt out at the end of the day or too sleepy to get out of bed in the morning to do yoga; yet I know it really makes me feel focused. I've lost my cooking mojo, yet I know a diet of whole foods prepared at home is better than take-out pizza. So I need to be more aware, to consciously choose. To practise choosing mindfully.

1 comment:

Annika said...

Totally is complex. I try practising every day doing something enjoyable, not always an easy task.