64. Ready Aim Focus

Good morning and welcome to your sixty-fourth mediation. Are you listening to this right now? Of course you are. But are you really listening? In other words, are you dedicating a degree of your attention to listening that allows you to comprehend everything being said, to generate your own ideas around the topic, and to even predict what will be said? Or are other unrelated thoughts invading your listening experience, making it hard for you to focus? Are there external stimuli interrupting the experience? Maybe you are checking your phone to see if you have any messages, or maybe the TV is on, or maybe there is a baby crying in the other room. Maybe you’re just tired. Being present, or in the moment, is a challenge for all of us, probably now more than ever. We have access to too much information and to too many people – it’s hard to settle on just one at any given time. Not to mention, most of us work jobs where we are expected to check our email constantly, which disrupts whatever workflow we might have had if we were encouraged to keep work and communication about work separate. But even in those rare moments when we manage to free ourselves from external distractions, it can still be difficult to remain focussed and just do whatever it is you are doing. That can be frustrating, especially when you’re making a deliberate effort to be more present. And like all desires, the desire to be present can itself be the very force that sabotages your ability to be in the moment. But don’t worry! That’s all fine. Getting distracted is a necessary part of the process of learning how to be present. The key is to be able to identify when you are distracted, acknowledge that distraction, and then gently bring yourself back to a place of focus. This is the exercise that we must continually perform in order to strengthen our ability to be attentive. But in order to focus, you must have clearly determined what it is you are focussing on. You must have an aim. This could be anything from painting a picture to going for a walk to focussing on your breath. Some target at which you can aim your attention. And when you lock onto that target, you become fully immersed. You get lost in the activity. Thoughts of past and future as well as of other places cease to exist. You are in the here and now. The now and here. And then, often imperceptibly, you slip back into thinking about that borderline offensive thing your friend said to you the day before, or about that report you have due, or about how uncomfortably cold you are and how you’re due for a vacation to somewhere warm. It always happens. None of us can focus forever. We get hungry. The phone rings. It’s fine. Just notice. Notice that your attention has wandered and gently usher it back to the bullseye. This is a skill that you can practise and improve on. You won’t eradicate distraction, but it will set you back less and less, you will be able to retrieve your focus sooner, and you will be able to enjoy a more immersive and satisfying experience of whatever it is you are doing at any given moment. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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