Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Attention SURPLUS Disorder

Van Nuys SurplusImage via Wikipedia

Sounds funny, doesn't it? With all the emphasis on Attention DEFICIT Disorder, the idea of an attention surplus catches us off guard, makes us laugh, perhaps even elicits an "I wish!" response.

I think your experience of a deficit in attention is the response to so many demands on your attention. After all, how many blogs, emails, social media sites, children, tasks, friends, conversations, causes, projects, and events can someone REALLY pay attention to? Too many payments of attention can result in not enough attention to go around -- a deficit.

Another way of describing attention is with the infinitive form, "to attend." When you attend school, or an event, or a meeting, you show up. Attention is the state of having mentally shown up. We can look further at the word, and find "tend," as in, to tend a garden, or to tend bar. To tend in this way implies cultivation over a sustained period of time, and taking action toward what is needed. Things you have tended to, with your attention, have a tendency to grow.

Perhaps those who are labeled with attention deficit disorder are actually attempting to tend to too much, rather than too little. So many bright shiny objects and ideas out there are truly fascinating. The choices, the possibilities, the expectations, the load seems enormous. The rapt concentration of total absorption in an interesting project is derailed by another demand.

There are several possible solutions to this dilemma. Typical strategies involve elaborate devices or techniques to block out the "distractions." This approach pre-supposes that you are clear about what you want to be paying attention to in the first place. That's probably another topic. Other strategies employ the philosophy that you have to "stretch" your brain by loading as much into it as possible. Increase the capacity so you can get more in. In my experience, this is a short road. Trying to cram more through the "bottleneck" of neurological processing (as discussed in The Overflowing Brain by Torkel Klingberg) just leads to more frustration and overwhelm. Multi-tasking is no solution. (Take a short and impressive test here.) Yet, you can find several million Google entries from people and organizations who want to help you to improve your multi-tasking ability! (Computer processors should multi-task, not people.) If attention is the new currency of modern society, then your attention will have more and more demands placed upon it.

The ability to pay attention is the foundation of your ability to learn, to adapt, to relate, and to survive. If you want to get control of 1) the input stream, and 2) your response to it, then the Feldenkrais Method is your "refresher course." The Method uses simple, gentle, novel movements to engage your attention, then directs that attention in specific ways. Over time, you develop the ability to turn down the volume on all of the "outer noise," and discover your own guidance system. Along with lowered stress levels and improved attention, people also report improvements in their posture, balance, breathing, coordination, and comfort.

As your ability to pay attention improves, you'll notice improvements is many other aspects of your life. Best of all, attention will start to pay YOU.

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1 comment:

Barbara McCool said...

Mary Beth, how appropriate to address noise and multi-tasking in this loud universe. Just to be able to stop, regroup, get your balance, take a deep breath is a gift. Thank you for reminding us about Feldenkras and its magic. Barbara