Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa: I’ve had a checkered history with blog posts because of old mental patterns I don’t want to release. My computer was once my sanctum sanctorum, the place I went to write, the object of fiercely undivided attention. Since I have a massive case of ADD (doesn’t everyone?) focusing my entire mind on one thin line of prose is no easy task for me, and once I’ve managed that, the imposition of other people into my quiet space can feel almost unbearable.
These days I’ve come to accept that very few things can have anyone’s undivided attention any more. I’m having to make due with divided attention. For example, blogs are divided attention—anyone can read them—and because I’m writing them I have less time for individual coaching, or sending long and frequent emails to my dear friends and relations. This goes against my grain, stirs up all sorts of painful stories in my mind: But they NEED my UNDIVIDED attention! It all makes me just a tiny bit stressed, like a lab hamster in an experiment that involves setting off deafening smoke alarms right in my cage at random intervals.
But just now, I ran across a tidbit of thought that is reorienting my feelings about our current Age of Distraction. It’s an article by Steve Silberman in this month’s edition of the magazine Shambala Sun. The author describes a conversation with the wonderful Buddhist teacher John Tarrant, who says, “People first learn to meditate while sitting, then while walking. Eventually they learn to cultivate the mind of awareness while talking or preparing a meal. Why should websurfing be any different?”
Tarrant goes on to describe how he experiences a mindful approach to the Internet. There is a calm awareness deeper than physical or mental sensation, the compassionate observer who merely notices events going on around us or in our chattering “monkey minds.” Tarrant says, “It’s calm and having a good time, noticing, ‘He’s got a headache,’ or, ‘Hes online now, and he thinks his attention is scattered.”
“He thinks his attention is scattered.” This sentence is a revelation to me, and also an objective. I plan to begin observing myself online as I observe myself during my morning ritual, when I sit by the window, sip a cup of tea or coffee, and sort the disturbances of my thoughts and emotions from the calm of the observing awareness. I plan to pay a lot of attention to my divided attention.