“We better stop, now, what’s that sound? Everybody look – what’s going down?” – For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield
We live in an extremely fast and ever-changing world. Life comes at us virtually at the speed of sound. We have multiple distractions constantly pulling us in different directions. Almost everything we intellectually consume is fragmented into brief, yet intense, sensory inputs. We live in an instant, soundbite, world. Television and radio programs are strategically broken into commercials every 10 minutes, the Internet barrages us with pop-ups, background programs, and distracting advertising every time we open a new screen. We carry phones that buzz, beep, and remind us of all those things we have to do every day. If there’s anything out of the ordinary that occurs anywhere in the world, we can view a synopsis of it in a 30 second segment on YouTube. And, if any reporter gets an interesting interview with a presidential candidate or politician, you know you’ll hear snippets of it at least 20 times somewhere during the next 24 hours.
All this information and instant access creates a life that is overstimulating, hectic, too distracting, and downright annoying. The cost to society for all this excitement, information, and overstimulation is the belief that we all “have ADD.” Do we really, or, does the modern technological lifestyle and this age of TMI make it difficult, if not impossible for us to slow our minds down?
There is a huge downside to all this mental overstimulation. We tend as a culture to stress out over everybody else’s problems. We are moved to tears, anger, and outrage over things we have virtually no control over. Many of us are rats on treadmills of our own making, navigating an endless maze that is our daily schedule, one that we are reminded of by multiple buzzing and beeping electronic devices that we own. We need, for are a variety of legitimate reasons, to stay connected to some of these electronic devices and reminders. We have jobs, families, and appointments that we must be aware of and tend to as part of keeping our life in order. Like a lot of things, we need to figure out what to leave in and what to leave out. That has to be some way to slow down, and sort through, this insanity.
Many people find it virtually impossible to slow down in quiet their minds. A new trend in mental health is a return to some of the contemplative practices of ancient world. Meditation and movement practices such as yoga, tai chi, and dance are all old school ways of slowing down the pace of life. I find that most of my clients struggle with any mindfulness based practice that asks them to sit still. They simply can’t do it, at least initially, and many do not have the patience to even give it a legitimate effort. They come up with a very quick “I can’t do that, it’s not me,” excuse. They may even give it a half-baked effort, but sitting still and getting mentally quiet is not something they are willing to work toward. If you’re of that mindset, there is a mindful solution that works with your body and mind’s natural tendency toward being comfortable with distraction.
Here’s a mindfulness practice that will work for virtually everyone, even those ADD prone individuals. Like all meditative practices, it’s based on slowing down and noticing something. You will simply take a few moments to notice various things in your field of perception.
1. Allow yourself a few deep breaths that originate from deep down in your abdomen. Close your eyes and just listen to what’s going on in your environment at that moment. Notice the sounds, identifying up to five separate sounds. When you get to five, notice them again, one at a time. Take some time into this slowly. Which is the loudest? Which is the softest? Are there any other sounds that you hadn’t noticed? Are you able to hear any sounds that are internal to you, such as the sound of your breathing, the gentle rhythm of your heartbeat, or maybe that pulsing sensation that you hadn’t noticed on the side of your head? Allow yourself to gently take in a few relaxing, deep breaths while you simply notice the sounds of your world.
2. Scan your body for sensations and feelings. This can be done with eyes open or closed. You will get in touch, no pun intended, with your body’s internal sensations, aches, pains, and areas of relaxation, as well as areas where you body contacts the outside world. Feel your body against the chair, floor, or wherever you are situated at that moment. This practice can be even deeper if you stop and notice the sensation of where your body meets various articles of clothing that you are wearing. Can you feel your socks or shoes? Are you wearing a belt, T-shirt, or some other obscure article that you hadn’t noticed as yet?
Do you have any aches and pains at the moment? Are you able to relax and breathe in such a way that you can lessen the pain without movement? Are you able to relax to the extent that you can dissociate from a particular body part, practically making it invisible or nonexistent? This is not only a great mindfulness practice, but it is also a great way to manage minor aches and pains in areas of your body that carry stress and tension. This type of mindfulness practice is called a body scan and works very well for people who need to be doing something constantly, distracting, and then lulling them into a state of relaxation.
3. Take a moment and notice obscure aspects of your visual field. Look around and notice 3 to 5 things that are the same color, for example find three things in your immediate field of vision that share the same color. Don’t stress over this, it’s not a competition. Just give yourself an opportunity to notice what’s there, slowing things down and just noticing.
Are there objects in spaces that you occupy every day that you have noticed yet? Sit quietly you familiarize yourself with as many new objects in your immediate field of vision as you can. Be sure to relax, breathe deeply, and just notice.
4. Use your senses of taste and smell in the same manner. Get still for a moment and notice the smells of your environment, the taste of your foods and drink, and try to describe them to yourself. The goal is to allow your brain to notice one thing, then another, and then another, that is in your immediate environment. Just notice in a nonjudgmental way what is in front of you.
The goal of these mindfulness practices is to work with your natural tendency towards distraction. You decide what’s going to be distracting you. Sites, sounds, body sensation, smells etc. using your mind’s natural tendency to jump from one thought to another except you direct where your mind goes.
You’ll probably find that one of these sensory modalities is the one that you prefer, for example, sounds over things that are in your visual field. A body scan practice is something that everyone should develop, as it is a great way of managing the aches and pains that one accumulates over a lifetime The beauty of these activities are that they can give you your own internal reset button as a way of coping with the velocitized pace of modern life. Take a few moments, multiple times a day, and practice these activities without expectation. You just might find that you don’t have ADD after all.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org