Quora, one of the most addicting sites ever created, added an interesting thread to my weekly digest this week*. The question? “Survey Questions: If your mind were a pie chart, what would it look like?” As I read through the thread, my thoughts immediately turned to mindfulness and so I thought I’d answer the question here. The answer is highly personal and slightly correlated to class some of the time. It’s not a true post on mindfulness, though, for I have a very, very rudimentary grasp of the topic and haven’t spent much time developing it.
I’m horrible at the simple act of focusing. Mindlessness is my weakness, arguably one of my greatest. As it is, I have around fifty tabs open across two windows of browser. They break down roughly as this:
Alternately, we could look at the “sticky notes” on my desktop. I currently have about twenty five that look like this:
I also have a game of Freecell up, two books in front of me, and Inception is currently half-watched in my DVD player (which is turned off). I pick at my shoulders in class, bite my nails, braid and rebraid my hair. There’s a to-do list on my white board, as well as a copy of my schedule to complement the one on my laptop.
My mother says I’ve always been like this. I hope that’s true because, if not, I think I need new friends because you’d think someone would have had me committed by now. Part of this may very well be my inherent nature, but I wonder how much of this is how we are immersed in the world today.
People throw around stats about the prevalence of attention disorders and the average amount of time people look at this, think about that, judge everything. Our culture simultaneously encourages and condemns distraction.
Think about it. The Facebook homepage uses three columns. The main, interactive column, a list of every application you’ve touched in the past, and a combination of alerts and ads specifically tailored to your tastes in the way only Facebook and Google can. It also has the chat sidebar and the “ticker” of the absolute breaking news of what my friends are listening to on Spotify as they procrastinate on Facebook. Finally, the top header-bar will light up with red little notifications and change the title of the page when something happens.
I’m not saying this is a horrible thing, and that we should all quit Facebook now. It’s a wonderful tool, but it does nuture a certain kind of dedication to a task.
The problem is, we also are required to do detailed, conscious, focused work daily. It’s the byproduct of being a human being in a service-driven economy, but even if we were doing more physical labor, the hope is that we would bring what we have to the table to do the best job possible. It’s why many focus-oriented applications have cropped up with the advent of social media.*** But when we don’t clear that desktop, mentally, virtually, and physically, it tends to warp into something like this:
Creating that chart, I again wanted to express some concern for my sanity. I’m pretty sure we’re not meant to be this cluttered all of the time. So I spent a few minutes trying to shut down the voice that tells me I can’t be mindful, and to just breathe.
I was about to report a complete failure on my part to get past two breaths, but then I realized two things. There is a moment of my day, an entire hour, actually, where I am aware of my entire body and in focus.**** But this post is already long and late enough, so that will have to wait for tomorrow or the next day.
Suffice to say, I need work. Almost as much as I need sleep. But admitting something’s not working is a good first step, right?
*My weekly digest is always interesting, such are the algorithms. It’s just that “Hypothetical Questions: If I were to get lost on an African safari and come face to face with a growling lion, what should I do to garner the best chance of survival?” is not exactly relevant to our topic here in 265.
**Counting only a portion of this post. Today may be an unfair sample, however, as I had a paper due. I like being an English major, don’t get me wrong.
***I actually do use some of them, I promise. Today is a good day.
****The second thing was a part of the last pie chart I forgot. I didn’t add it back in.