My post-semester sabbatical from blogging lasted a bit longer than I’d anticipated. Nothing bad happened: I simply devoted 100% of my writing efforts to a few manuscripts I wanted to get off of my desktop. There are more–there are always more–but I finished the third yesterday, so I feel caught up enough that I can return to other public writing activities.
For me, writing is an immersive activity, requiring my full attention. Whether I write for an hour or eight, I need to commit my entire cognitive load to the task. This time, however, I was surprised to find this familiar work significantly easier and more efficient. In the past, I had to take time to psych myself up for producing polished, cohesive prose. I had to carve out an entire day and feel “just right” for the task. And afterwards, I was spent. This year, I simply sequestered myself in a coffeehouse (or created the coffeehouse environment in my office), took a few mindful breaths, and began. I quickly hit that sense of flow,* and the work came far more easily. I typically needed only a few hours at a time, rather than the full day. When I finished, I turned to other tasks without feeling like I’d just helped a friend move.
As I write this draft, I noticed the tag cloud identifying the blog’s most frequent tags (topics) by font size. “Attention” is a familiar benefit of a mindful practice. I now look forward to devoting this attention to this blog again, as well as other varied writing activities.
Each time I sat down to write, I started with the simplest practice of all, the one I posted in my second entry to The Mindful PhD called “The Easy Way & the Easier Way.” Given the above, I think I’m going to put this blurb on my assignment sheets for my student essays.
“The creatively named Easy Way is to simply bring gentle and consistent attention to your breath for two minutes. That’s it. Start by becoming aware that you are breathing, and then pay attention to the process of breathing. Every time your attention wanders away, just bring it back very gently.” (Tan, 2012, p. 26)
Here’s a timer. In “The Easy Way & The Easier Way” you did this for two minutes. Now, set it for 4:00 or 5:00. When you click “Start,” look down comfortably, or close your eyes. The timer will alert you at the end.
Remember, focus on your breathing. As your mind wanders, that’s okay. Just notice “wandering,” and then return to your breath. Wandering. Breath.
See you soon!
* Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi describes flow in the passage to the right (Elliot & Dweck, p. 600). I’ll pick up this topic in more depth in a later post.