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What's Got Your Attention?

Do you have trouble paying attention? Do you often lose your keys, your phone, a note you jotted down, an important bank statement? I have many times. I used to blame myself or the Gods or you name it for my misfortune. “See, just another way life is torturing me. If I didn’t have to (drive my daughter to school in the morning or race to the grocery store because we have no milk, or work so much, etc.) I could remember where I put things.” Excuses, excuses, excuses. I would really work myself into a frenzy and feel defeated. But I see things differently now.

Maybe it wasn’t bad luck or karma that was responsible for these occurrences, but rather my lack of attention. And I can’t just blame myself. As I’ve said many times, we aren’t born with a user manual. For most of my life (especially after having a family) I’d spend my time running here, running there, always feeling frantic and multi-tasking to get it all done. Isn't that what everyone does? How else do we get things done? Now, I will add that I think I might have a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder as I often find it hard to put my attention on just doing one thing at one time. However I think it’s more a result of automatic programming. I heard someone say that everyone has a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder and I think that is especially true now in the age of technology. How many of us truly put our attention on what we are doing in the moment? Can you think of one thing you do mindfully? I can really only think of two things in which I am or was completely in the moment, one being when I’m acting, the other (and this is crazy but true) when I played ultimate frisbee. I know what you’re thinking, “what the heck is she talking about, ‘ultimate’ what?” See, in my twenties I dated someone who introduced me to ultimate frisbee. He was a wizard with a disc and used to play in Central Park with a bunch of people on the weekends. Knowing I was athletic he invited me and I did and immediately loved it.

I remember one time sitting on the thick grass with a beautiful blue sky overhead, waiting to get back in the game, and realizing that playing ultimate was one of the only times in which my mind wasn’t wandering off to other things (like critical thoughts). I was completely focused on what I was doing at that moment. I was “in the zone” as they say and I must tell you it was amazing. I felt such peace and joy and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I felt this way everyday?”

At the time I didn’t think that was anything but a pipe dream, but I’m here to tell you it isn’t. What would happen if I put my attention on the present, not the past or the future? What if I incorporated more mindfulness in other things I did? Maybe I would experience something closer to what I felt playing frisbee? Unfortunately at that time I wasn’t convinced, because I certainly didn’t act on it. Being in my twenties I didn’t realize that mindfulness was the way to happiness. I didn’t see the importance of incorporating it into my life and I certainly didn’t know what a profound impact it would make in my happiness. If I did I wouldn’t have spent so much time ruminating about the past and fearing the future. If I did I truly believe I wouldn’t have suffered so much. I now see that beating depression takes more than just medication. It takes stopping the automatic responses you have when a negative emotion or thought arises. And that is a HUGE part of why I haven’t experienced the dramatic mood swings that used to be so common.

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