From Distracted to Focused
Have you ever had this experience? You get in the car, drive somewhere, arrive 10 minutes later not knowing how you got there? It’s scary, magical and all too familiar, right? You were on automatic pilot; your attention was somewhere else. We spend much of our lives in this mode, distracted by a thousand things. Sometimes, it’s our own mental chatter distracting us. I like the terms monkey mind and the cement mixer. Monkey mind is when our thoughts ping pong around endlessly like little monkeys. The cement mixer is when we recycle a story over and over to no avail. Other times, distractions are external, we are doing three things at once– texting, doing the wash, and listening to the baby monitor.
Last week I shared Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter and it’s relevance to postpartum mental health. Siegel says, “When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.”
By purposefully focusing our attention on one single task, we strengthen parts of the brain that are essential for mental health. We give ourselves a break from monkey mind and the cement mixer by anchoring our full attention on just one activity. This week, I want to show you how to integrate the practice of Focus Time into your yoga practice and into your busy life.
On The Mat—
Start by choosing a yoga sequence that you love, then pick one specific intention or goal for your practice:
- I will breathe slowly and deeply, softening the palate
- I will hold poses longer
- I will attend to transitions between poses
- I will come back to the present moment with kindness each time I realize my mind has wandered
- I will notice moments of pleasure
Allow all other thoughts and concerns to be put on hold. Some parents make a to-do list and put it aside right before they start yoga to help them let go. While practicing yoga, even for just ten minutes, you give your brain a needed rest from multi-tasking and the stress of attempting to move in several directions at once. Enjoy.
Off the Mat—
Look for opportunities in your life where you can focus on something that you care deeply about. I like activities that give me feedback immediately, if I lose concentration. Mountain biking, pottery and writing all require undivided attention. But there are an infinite number of activities that we can attend to with our full attention.
We pay full attention to washing dishes and suddenly we are aware of the soft, warm water on our hands, the way the soap bubbles create rainbows, the satisfaction of a job done when we stack the last plate and hang the towel to dry.
When we change our baby’s diaper or massage her with focus, the experience becomes more tender, intimate, more memorable. We notice how her skin feels against our skin, the way her breath sounds, the way our own breath moves, the kind of stroke she likes, her laugh, her smile. Our baby feels our attention “Like the warmth flowers must feel when they bloom through the snow, under the first concentrated rays of the sun.” This concentrated attention comes and goes naturally and isn’t something to strive for over long periods, babies don’t need or benefit from our constant undivided attention. We all benefit when we make it a part of each day.
- What did you focus on in yoga this week?
- What did you focus on as a parent this week?
- What did you notice?
For more ideas about focusing check out Zen Habits
Let me know how Focus Time affected you and the people you love.
“May we focus on this one thing, may we be happy, may we be at ease.”