In this final volume of the Manifesto on Attention, I would be remiss to not talk about meditation.
When I was 22 I read a book called Awakening The Buddha Within. It was my introduction to meditation and mindfulness.
When I sat down to attempt my first meditation, I was immediately confronted with a profound realization.
I had no control over my mind.
When I tried to focus on my breathing, I became distracted in under 60 seconds. Time and time again, my thoughts wandered off.
Up until that point, it felt obvious that thoughts were self-directed. It turns out not to be the case.
And to be clear, meditation doesn’t fix this problem 100%. None of us can be completely mindful all of the time. But developing a meditation practice has been the single best strategy for making improvements in this regard.
So in honor of that cherished first experience, I want to share a snippet from a guided meditation that I often return to:
(you’ll have to imagine that dreamy guided meditation voice)
To help you maintain that focus on the breath,
silently start to count the breaths as they pass.
One with the rising sensation.
Two with the falling sensation.
Then three, then four.
Just up to a count of 10.
When you get to 10, you can stop,
then start again at 1.
Just try that a couple of times through.
Remember to allow thoughts to come and go,
but the moment you get distracted,
just gently bring the attention back again,
to that physical sensation of the breath.
… [long pause] …
It’s perfectly normal for the mind to wander off.
Remember as soon as you get distracted,
as soon as you realize that the mind has wandered off,
just gently bringing the attention back again
and just picking it up on the number you left off on.
This is such a powerful concept. There are so many moments in life that get away from us. An argument with a significant other, when your 100-pound german shepherd breaks things with his long fluffy tail, irrelevant email solicitations from thoughtless salespeople, people hitting “reply all"… The list is never-ending.
Whenever these happen, meditation has made it easier to pause, notice the anger or frustration welling up, refocus, and begin again.
I hope you have enjoyed the Manifesto on Attention. And perhaps it will provide a small nudge in the direction of mindfulness and intentionality, both online and otherwise.
Ps if you especially enjoyed this Manifesto, please take a moment to forward this email to a friend or loved one.
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