It is an exciting moment! And one that demands much writing in journals and looking out of windows and pondering, watching and listening, but I am besieged by work these days, so I am trying to contain my excitement. I am attempting to tether myself to the desk (albeit a gorgeously situated one) and focus. Stay with the screen, stay with the project, stay with the words.
Which brings me to the day's topic: focus. Are we able to focus anymore?
I have taken on a few clients who I am working for on an hourly basis. Which means I need to very carefully note down how many hours I work for them (I am a Buddhist, and cannot lie, and am taking great lengths to be accurate in this).
And it's proving to be shocking. I appear to have a one-hour attention span, after which I automatically have to stop what I'm doing and leap onto something else. I do not seem to have the ability to stay present, on one thing, for longer than 60 minutes. Now, it's not that I'm lazy. I jump into something else, and work on that, then leap back and continue where I left off. I blame it partly on recent full-time jobs where I was multitasking many different elements, and thus working on five projects at once.
But it still makes me think, deep down, that there is something amiss here. Are we all becoming instantaneous junkies? Are we losing the ability to stay still? iPhones and Gmail and Pandora and Google News and Facebook all are training me to jump from topic to topic. Cannot stay too long, quick dart over there! Something new to stimulate me! It becomes like an addiction.
I see it when I pull out my meditation cushion and sit down, and close my eyes, and start to focus on my breath. I see how my mind wants to keep jumping. But the key is to stay still. To sit and be patient and remain with the breath. Don't give in to that urge. Don't jump up when the mind demands it. Just breathe.
And you know what happens when we remain still for just beyond our comfort level? When we go past that trigger that normally throws us into something else? It's painful for a moment, but then... ahhh... something shifts. We meet contentment. We feel a sense of calm and inner peace arise. We get a taste of the sublime. And then, it's like all the creative power comes through. All that power that lies in the subtle mind, below the chatter of distraction.
I am seeing, more and more, how my meditation practice and my life intersect. I need to train my mind to stay still, and I know that as a result, my work will improve. I will be able to go deeper, to find the solutions, to touch the creative space where the ideas dwell. And if it means turning off my web browser for three hours, I think it's a habit I need to start to cultivate.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org )