Our attention, it turns out, is quite fragile.
We start by focusing on one topic and, before you know it, our thoughts drift elsewhere.
Frequently, this shift in attention results in moving us away from the present moment to some thought or event that has already occurred in the past, or to some event that may happen in the future.
Despite our best intentions to “stay in the moment”, without practice most of us struggle with remaining present.
In Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, Winifred Gallagher gives us multiple strategies for improving our ability to concentrate and pay attention.
One of these strategies involves training our attention by practicing some form of mindfulness meditation.
Veteran meditators describe an increased ability to remain present, and not only when they are actively meditating.
The effects of meditation seem to stick with us throughout the day.
The Tibetan word for mindfulness is “trenpa”, or “the ability to hold your attention to something.”
When we are mindful, we are focused fully on what we are doing.
If we are conversing with a friend or colleague, we are making nothing more important than that conversation.
If we are being mindful while we eat our meals, we are savoring and appreciating our food.
If we are meditating, we are staying focused on our breath or on some mantra we may have learned works best for us.
While it is more common, and natural, to meditate on the past or the future, the challenge lies in claiming our inherent ability to bring our focus back to the present.
Increasing our ability to be present, with ourselves and with others, will lead to more sticky attention, and to less drifting from one thought or project to another.
If you are inspired to take a closer look at meditation, consider Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation orThe Relaxation Revolution.