Sunday, March 22, 2020

Maura Thomas and managing my attention

I can feel benefits to me when I sit still for ten minutes and return my attention to my chosen anchor every time I find I have wandered off.  But it wasn't until I read Larry Rosenberg's "Breath by Breath" that I got extra momentum to respect the importance of what I give my attention to.

Then, the other day, I met the work of Maura Nevel Thomas.  She is an author and speaker interested in what she calls "attention management."  When an old retired person like me, thinks about attention and what I give my attention to, it seems like a rather small subject.  However, if I were half my age and traveling about, I might find that I am allowing my attention to be switched to things I didn't select and that I don't actually want to pay attention to.

I don't carry a smartphone but if I ever do, I will be careful and restrained about the use of "notifications."  They are the sights and sounds I permit to interrupt me. You have seen those moments in movies about exciting events when the heroine bypasses the secretary and walks right in on the important meeting, to notify the boss that the whole Michigan plant has exploded!!

Maura Thomas seems to focus on "productivity" and wants to convince me not to spend attention and energy on interruptions and unimportant events.  She is not the only voice against "distractions". There are books by others on being "undistractable", on "disconnecting" and on "unplugging."

Very often, when we are open to a change in activity, we use habits and opportunities to find the next thing to do.  If I set my determination to pay the bills too high, I will fail to notice that my wife has fallen and needs help. If I set my concentration too low, I will spend time on every robocall offering me a magazine I don't want.  It helps to practice noticing where I am putting my mind and what I am doing with it. We are in oceans of books, movies, friends, projects and it would be better not to squander my hours.

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