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Focus on being present in meditation and you'll automatically become aware of how you are scattered and distracted.
Focus on kindness and you'll notice how you can be petty, judgmental and mean.
This month has been dedicated to writing.
I've been fantasizing about these four weeks when I could take a deep dive into my book proposal, undistracted and in a seamless flow of creativity.
I picked up a bad chest cold flying back from California so the first ten days were dedicated to coughing and phlegm production. When that started clearing up I was beset with computer issues.
Finally I hit a rhythm and even though writing can be hard, I've had a few spasms of insight and rushes of enthusiasm.
I keep returning to one of the best mantras I know: "Keep Going."
Hurricane Jose brushed against Cape Cod so much of our weather was grey and windy.
The bad news? No swimming. The good news? No shark attacks.
I hope this finds you well and in a good groove.
Three Ways to Train Your Attention
As I spent the last month on Cape Cod, I thought I'd explore three states of paying attention in relationship to swimming in the Atlantic.
Focus Have you noticed how often the happiest times in your life are when you are fully engaged?
The other day I was plotting out a long distance swim. Hurricane Jose had blown in intensely cold water. I knew that in order to swim a mile or more in cold chop, I had to really pay attention.
As I focused on the rhythm of the breath and the details my stroke, the more I felt a sense of absorption and intimacy in each moment. What started out scary ended up feeling blissful.
Flow Have you noticed that sometimes you experience life like a movie, one moment opening right into the next?
Some describe the ‘flow' state as being aware of change but at the same time, allowing it to be. Some report these experiences when they are engaged in sports, absorbed in a task, in moments of intimacy, being in nature, making art, sometimes in yoga, prayer or meditation itself.
I started my swim with a focused intention on not dying. That moment-to-moment hyper-focused attention gradually led to relaxation and then opened up into the flow state.
I became the observer of all the details, somehow both outside my experience, but at the same time, deeply connected.
Let Go Have you noticed sometimes you can feel completely, deeply relaxed but at the time time, intensely and vibrantly alert?
I got back to shore, still in my wet suit, wrapped up in towel and relaxed. The sun was dropping toward the horizon. Gulls gathered in front of me squabbling over fishing rights. A seal popped to the surface. All seemed perfect in the world.
There was nothing to add, nothing to take away.
Each of these states provides particular qualities that can be useful in your life.
Focus collects your attention in the here and now.
Flow cultivates your capacity to be the witness of change.
Let Go develops your capacity to surrender into the mystery of life.
Don't Just Do Something - Sit There!
There may still be a space for you in our fall retreat.
All great traditions speak of the power of slowing down and pausing.
When you do, the most amazing things can happen.
Me keeping an eye on Hurricane Jose. Fresh crab AGAIN?!? Longnook Beach before the storm. Longnook Beach under duress. Hurricane Jose brought some drama with 65mph winds. Its almost impossible to imagine winds twice this much and more further south. The pastels of late summer. The sun sets behind a bank of clouds. Another day of grey. Tara in way over her head. At low tide a seal settled on this rock just under the surface. It must have fallen asleep, then woke up a bit stranded. The infinite horizon. After the seal left, another resident arrives.
Video: Take A Few Moments to Hang with Some Bathing Geese
Early in the morning on the river I encountered these two geese doing their morning ablutions when a Great Blue Heron chose to stroll through the scene.
Shot with my Lumix GH5 at 35% speed.
Video: 12 Breaths Meditation: Images from Cape Cod
Explore the effect of a few minutes of Coherence Breathing and if you would like to keep your eyes open, some footage from Cape Cod.
Two Apps That Help Me Focus
Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique?
I've been using this practice for a number of years now. This month especially, slogging through designing a book and writing, I used it for much of the day.
If you have trouble keeping exclusive focus on one topic at a time, consider giving this a shot.
It's pretty simple.
* Choose a task. * Set a timer for 25 minutes. For those 25 minutes, focus all your attention on that one task. * Take a forced 5 minute break. Even if you're on a roll. * Do it again. * After a certain number of rounds, take a longer break.
Twenty five minutes is a decent amount of time for me to focus. If I'm on a roll and skip the forced break, I tend to burnout and throw myself off balance.
You can read about the process here - and find out how it got the name "Pomodoro".
An even better way to help you focus?
Add either dual binaural beats or a scientifically-engineered soundtrack.
The two apps I highly recommend:
Brain Wave This is for iOS and Android, both iPad and iPhone. You'll find a number of dual-binaural beat programs that range from high focus to meditation and deep relaxation.
Focus@Will I've been using this app all month. It's been enormously beneficial in helping me sustain focus.
Focus@Will has done a ton of research into acoustics and their effect on concentration and removing distractions.
This is web-based as well as an iOS app. It struck me as pretty expensive, but there's no question that I've already gotten my money back through my increased productivity.
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