How To Focus In Times Of Distraction – Suzanne Boccalatte
Distraction can be deadly, but attention is a resource, and a person only has so much of it.” – Suzanne Boccalatte
Suzanne Boccalatte is a designer, artist, educator, writer and professor. In her presentation Press pause to play: Learning to focus in times of distraction, part of Florence Guild’s speaker series, ’The Art of Focus’, she discussed the value of taking time out to reflect and refocus.
Boccalatte pointed out that we now have so much information coming at us from every direction that we haven’t evolved enough to deal with it yet. She stated that we receive the same amount of information in a day then our parents did in a month while, in the Middle Ages, a whole lifetime of learning would have been the equivalent of reading the New York Times weekend edition.
As Boccalatte asks:
“How do we manage ourselves in these times of extreme distraction? How can we find pause and concentrate – an essential ingredient of being creative and successful?”
We can’t stop the pace of technology, but we can change how we respond to it. The best coping strategy we can use is to take regular time out.
- Attention is a resource, and we only have so much of it. We’ve become suspicious of the pause instead of embracing it.
- The technological revolution has promised us more time, but now we’re busier than ever.
- We feel that we’re in a constant state of restlessness, in a world with a deep sense of fragmentation and isolation.
- We need to learn to be alone, without feeling like we’re lonely.
- Our best ideas and thoughts come from our own company, when we’re in deep consciousness.
The benefits of pausing for rest
We know that taking annual leave or even a weekend away can be a great way to get away from it all for a while, but we can also learn how to take short breaks throughout the day.
“For us to be truly successful and be amongst ourselves, we need to take more pause. We need to pay attention to our experiences and our senses.” – Suzanne Boccalatte
In many forms of sport and exercise, we are taught that rest periods are just as important for our health as active periods. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) also follows that principle. Participants do a short burst of intense exercise alternated with a slightly longer rest period. Marnie Soman Schwartz explained the reasoning behind this in the Shape article Maximize the Rest Periods of Interval Training to Get Fit Faster.
“During the rest period? Your body works to restore itself to a neutral state, replenishing everything you’ve utilized. Your (body fuel) stores get topped off, you can catch your breath, and your aerobic metabolism takes over, also building your endurance … Basically, your body works really hard to get itself back to normal.”
In yoga, participants are taught to pause for a moment in between postures and again at the end of the session. Often, this is done while lying on your back in a pose called Savasana or ‘Corpse Pose’ while listening to an instructor guide you through a gentle relaxation process. While it looks like it you are not doing anything, Savasana is actually an excellent way to calm and reset the mind and body.
In the Yoga Journal article Heavenly Rest: Why Corpse Pose Is So Key, John Hanc examined the many benefits of Savasana with a variety of experts. A common theme in their responses was that the pose reduces muscle tension throughout the body, allows participants to let go of their concerns of the day and allows the body to store energy and recuperate.
Take opportunities to deliberately zone out
There are many other ways you can create a few moments of time out in your day.
- Try a guided body scan or meditation. (A body scan is simply a process of thinking about the parts of your body from head to toe and observing how each part feels.) You’ll find plenty of these online through sites such as Meditainment or by searching through various apps, podcasts and YouTube videos.
- When you are commuting on public transport, sitting in a waiting room for long periods or on your lunch break, use the time to notice the things around you. Notice sounds, sights and smells. How many can you identify?
- Notice your thoughts while your body is still, such as when you are in bed before sleeping or just after waking. Give them some sort of colour or shape and see them drifting by, but don’t respond to them.
In Boccalatte’s presentation, you’ll learn many other techniques to help you pause and reflect for small moments during the day. If you are not used to it, start with a few minutes here and there as it is a skill that takes practice. Above all, don’t be scared of being alone with your mind — it’s amazing.
This episode forms part of our 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ which is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, increase our self-awareness and improve how we interact with those around us.
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