How often is your brain actually focused on something? For me, when I am having a discussion, solving a problem, or writing, then my brain is incredibly focused. Though if I am doing something less stimulating (for example, repetitive work, chores, etc.), then my brain simply will not give its undivided attention to the task. In life, I must admit that my brain probably spends more time being less-engaged than more-engaged. I think this is a problem.
I think we live life most fully when we are living “in the moment,” our minds are present, and we engage more of our senses. A true “in-the-moment” experience is when you loose track of time because you were so engaged, or when you didn’t realize how hungry or thirsty you were because you were so focused on the activity. I think our minds crave these moments and that is why we forget in these moments how to function like a proper human (e.g. like making time for restroom breaks).
Yesterday, I followed a yoga video to completion for the first time in a long time. In the past year, I have made a few half-hearted attempts at yoga. For example, I would look up poses online and then just try to perform them while listening to an audiobook or watching TV. This is probably the exact wrong way to do yoga. One thing I did not realize until yesterday was just how engaging yoga could be. I followed a video on Youtube on a relatively simple yoga routine. As a first timer, I listened and watched closely to everything the instructor did and said. I tried to match my breathing and stretch and push myself along with the instructor. It was more difficult than I had expected. My muscles were resistant and unwilling to fold and stretch themselves into the new positions. I found myself really listening to my body and trying to do better. Yoga for me was, surprisingly, incredibly engaging.
Yoga helped me live in the moment. In those 20 minutes I did not worry about what I was going to do next; my brain was not bombarded by any recurring preoccupations; I just focused on exactly what I was doing—yoga. I have heard people claim that yoga has “changed my life.” I can’t say that I felt this way during the 20-min video, but I am open to allowing yoga to bring more engagement in my life.
I had a similar experience today while jogging outside. In this setting, I was virtually prohibited from checking my phone every few minutes, lest I risk swiftly connecting my face with the uneven concrete. When I jog, I do have my headphones in, but I remain focused on my speed, the path, and on how I am feeling in the moment. It is almost as if the physical nature of this exercise overpowers my ability to preoccupy myself with anything unrelated to jogging.
For me, yoga and jogging give me a sense of “presence.” These activities make me feel as if I am here and that that is all that matters. My mind, in a way, feels “cleaner” after these activities. It’s like my mind is a house that is fumigated, and all anxiety, preoccupations, and unhappy thoughts disappear (more on that here). It is as if physical activity triggers some sort of mental “reset” within me.
I hope 2020 is the year of “feeling good,” Dear Reader. Whether it’s reading, writing, running, cooking, dancing, or whatever, I hope you get to do more of the activity that brings you happiness and engagement this year.