Being there. 6 ways to pay attention.

Ugh. It happened AGAIN! You have no idea what everyone is laughing at because you are busy checking your smart phone for notifications.
You can’t go back. All you can do is smile and nod.
You missed yet another moment. You could have connected. You could have been included in that moment of fellowship. You could belong.
But no. Your phone is the center of your world. One little ding or lit up mailbox and you zone out of the real world.
This has got to stop. You’ve got to find your focus and start connecting with those around you. Now.

This topic came up for me as I read the book, Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold. The book itself is about micro resolutions but one of the subjects in her book was a recently divorced father who had his kids every other weekend. They went away to a country house every other weekend and instead of spending time together, they ended up spending the weekend with their technology instead of with each other. Have you experienced this? I have. So the father started the resolution that they could only spend an hour a day on technology and then, all the phones and tablets went into a basket. The three kids baulked at first (who wouldn’t) but after two weekends, they started looking forward to the time they spent together “being there” together. Board games, hikes, charades, conversations….sounds like heaven.
pay attention
So here is how to get your attention back:

Focus your attention on every little action like you are in love. Arnold quotes acting guru Stella Adler. She writes that in an acting class Adler said, “How can you tell when someone is in love? How can you tell? You can tell because they pay attention. They pay attention to their lover’s every action, gesture and expression. So if you are playing someone in love, give the love object your complete attention in a scene. Even if you aren’t looking at your object directly.” As I write this, I am watching my dog. Is she by my foot or in another room? Is she wagging her tail or is she on the hunt. Take note of every action.

Take a technology sabbatical. I’m not sure when my children will be home next but I’m really thinking about taking a cue from the father in Arnold’s book and taking a technology sabbatical. I know I personally leave my phone in the kitchen to charge at night. At least my sleep is getting my full and undivided attention. But creating space to be devoid of any distractions from the world outside can obviously be very powerful. Perhaps it’s a “no phones during meals” rule or “no technology after 7 PM” rule. Create space to be technology free.

Create something worthwhile and positive. Rick Hanson says in his book Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, “Attention shapes the brain.” Your brain cells are growing based on what you focus on. So what are you creating in your brain? Are you creating negativity by focusing on the latest news story or dwelling on the job opportunity you didn’t get? Or on the latest decision by your boss that you don’t agree with? Hmmm. I’d rather create something more positive in all that grey matter. Be careful about what you are creating.

Attention is not critical. Judgment is. Attention is neutral. In Alison Shapiro’s Psychology Today article Paying Attention, “Attention is not critical. Judgment is. Attention is neutral. We begin to pay attention to something and then we start to judge it, evaluate it, categorize it and, yes, generally ‘criticize’ it. But judging, while certainly useful, is not attention. Judging involves an underlying assumption that our purpose is ultimately to categorize and take action.” This neutrality is complete acceptance. Funny, I’m really good at this when coaching a client but not as good when this comes to my children’s individual decisions. Quit judging and stay neutral.

Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing. Shapiro quotes her teacher, Frank Ostaseski, “Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing.” This lines up with the “Yes…and” philosophy of CRR Global. This is total unadulterated acceptance. Arms open wide to take in everything with no qualifications. No trying to tinker and change something. No resistance. No squinting and squirming. It’s similar to Byron Katie’s “Love what is.” Notice, accept, withhold judgment and welcome what is.

Be completely and utterly present. The whole problem with technology and the constant bombardment of information is that it takes us out of the moment. Out of the present. Listen for the farthest sound. Feel your big toe come in contact with the floor. Feel the rush of hot, humid air against your cheek. Listen for the sigh from your sleeping dog. Watch the squirrel leap from the branch to the roof. Now. Right now. Be there.

So now when you’re at that meeting. You are going to be jubilant.
You’re not tied to that phone and it’s deceiving notifications.
You’re leading the story and the laughs are around your nuanced spin.
You’ve got the world by the tail. Feels pretty good doesn’t it?

Originally published on Change Your Thoughts on September 11, 2015

2 thoughts on “Being there. 6 ways to pay attention.

  1. Kate Daniels

    I got your email!!!!! Thank you!!!
    This is was wonderful!!!

    Kate M. Daniels
    President and Executive Director
    Wayne County Chamber of Commerce
    PO Box 1107, Goldsboro, NC 27533
    phone. 919.734.2241 fax. 919. 734.2247

    Have you downloaded MyChamberApp yet?
    [cid:image001.png@01D0DE47.625C3A00] [cid:image002.png@01D0DE47.625C3A00]
    [cid:image003.png@01D0DE47.625C3A00] [cid:image004.png@01D0DE47.625C3A00]


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