Your Attention, Please...
In an ongoing quest to become more efficient and effective at life, I am reading a book entitled The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin.
Levitin’s approach to the subjects of organizing ties it to the neurological structures of the human brain. He finds a host of surprising insights. We are built to organize, it turns out. It is inherent in our DNA. This is not a quick and easy book for dummies on the subject with bulleted lists of things to do but finds its insights from deep within the heavily footnoted research listed in the back of the book.
Our brains have evolved into two modes of operation: the “mind-wandering” mode, which is actually the brain’s default mode, and the “central executive” or “stay-on-task” mode, committed to focusing on tasks and completing them. We learn to navigate between these two modes by experience, encoding successful experiences with one or the other to form a typical mode of operation.
The phrase “paying attention” is quite literally true. There’s a cost to attention. When we are paying attention to one thing, we are taking it away from something else. With the deluge of information coming at us these days, our “attentional filter” (another concept from the book) has to work overtime to separate the essential from the spurious. No wonder we feel overloaded, pressed for time, and exhausted.
Attention, according to Levitin, is a limited-capacity resource. While we may intuitively know this, it’s good to have it backed up neurologically. What this means to me is that if I want a close relationship with a person, a group, or God, I am wise to invest some of that limited resource.
To that end, I’ve learned to invest in a page-a-day prayer or meditation resource to bolster my relationship with God. Some examples that come readily to mind are Yes, And… by Richard Rohr, Sisterhood of Saints by Melanie Rigney, The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio by Patricia Treece, or Thirsting for God by Mother Teresa. Someone has already performed the central executive tasks of researching, organizing, writing, and editing the material.
My only job is to find a few moments to access it directly from my early morning mind-wandering default mode and be rewarded with reflection and insight. It’s a great deal for me.
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