― Mary Oliver
You know how it is when you’ve got 10 things to do and then find yourself distracted by Facebook or Twitter. After an hour goes by you kick yourself for wasting time and then spend the next 20 minutes trying to figure out which task to tackle. And the thing is you’ve even done some study of time management. WTH!
Why do we let our attention get hijacked by all those things that won’t get us closer to accomplishing our goals?
Sometimes it’s procrastination brought on by fear of failure or success. Sometimes we’re tired. And sometimes we’re just so overwhelmed that it’s easier to goof off than try to get through our long list of things to do.
No matter what reason we have for getting distracted, we can always bring our attention back to the present moment. With practice we can become aware that we’re distracted and leave Facebook after only a few minutes instead of wasting a whole hour or two.
Our mind likes to think and jump all over the place sometimes. That’s okay. Paying attention isn’t about being able to stay on task so much as it’s about being able to come back to the task after being pulled away.
What I just described is mindfulness. I practice mindfulness meditation most days and have learned to carry the practice into my everyday life. I practice staying aware of where my attention is and then placing it where I want it.
So don’t get mad at yourself for getting distracted. Instead, practice coming back to the task at hand and continue. No judgement, just return.
And if you find yourself getting angry that you got distracted or you became aware that your attention was averted for a long time, acknowledge your anger, don’t repress it. Just notice. Usually awareness takes the sting out of feelings. Accept the anger as a part of you. Let it be heard. Write down how you’re feeling even to help you get some distance from it.
At some point you’ll notice that a part of you is watching the whole process. Put your attention there. This observer is your higher self. Let it guide you.
Success is in the practice of paying attention and in the willingness to stay open to what is right in front of you.
If you’d like to learn about and practice mindfulness meditation, I recommend joining Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. She’s a wonderful teacher and the practice will help you live a more meaningful and successful life.