Have you ever felt that you are in another place, when you are in a meeting, in school, with your family? Do you remember those times when someone seems to be physically there but his/her mind is somewhere else?
We’ve all experience that “shift of consciousness” to name it, we’ve all been pulled to another place due to the wander capacity of the mind, nowadays is more common due to the amount of information and distraction.
However it used to be more productive than it is now because of a very simple reason we used to travel to a place of pleasure, to a joyful memory in the past or to use our imagination to solve something. Recently we are being deprived from all of these options and we get lost in a digital fake world luring us with the dopamine awards and notifications.
Hacking our abilities to be present and/or to even wander in our mind solving something, enjoying the travel or reflecting about some important issue in our lives. Technology can be a dark place if we use it as an addiction to leave our “boring lives” and to be snooping about other lives.
When you experience presence in your life in anything that you are doing (except being in social media) being with your family, chatting in a coffee with friends, strolling in a park, devouring a book, listening to an audiobook or podcast, etc.. You won’t let me lie is an experience where time seems to stop, you suddenly disconnect from that dimension of time and you enter a state of full concentration and joy, called by many a state of “Flow”.
However in this case we are referring more to the experience of dedicating your time to one activity only, to the activity that you were meant to do and to reject the popular concept of multi-tasking, which by the way is being proven to confuse your brain on which is the tase with more “priority” and leads you to lose time, energy and resources which in the end will not be used.
When people engage in "task-switching"- that is, multi- tasking behavior- the flow of blood increases to a region of the frontal cortex called Brodmann area 10. Other studies, such as those performed by psychologist René Marois of Vanderbilt University, have used fMRI to demonstrate the brain's response to handling multiple tasks. Marois found evidence of a "response selection bottleneck" that occurs when the brain is forced to respond to several stimuli at once (1).
If we reflect about it, should be easier to realize that when you try to do more than two activities at the same time you won’t be able to finish them, you will require more energy, and you are demanding more resources of your brain areas which can cause your mind to enter a state of overwhelm and frustration because you were not able to finish neither of them.
We live in a world of high demands, multiple sources of “attraction” of our attention and very few opportunities to develop peace of mind. However as we mentioned before in our articles and research you are the only one that will take those decisions no one can take away your power to decide unless you, by your own will release it to a random distraction.
“To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funnelled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he or she has been born -- the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to he accumulated records of other people's experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it be-devils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things.” (2)
— Aldous Huxley
As Huxley mentioned amazingly accurate in the above paragraph the full dimension of our mind has to be filtered and reduced to be able to process all the information through images into a language which as we mentioned earlier in our article of the Inner Voice “Certain regions of the brain are used when detecting, requesting and using our inner voice point to the fact that we use this powerful tool as a mean to download, interpret, translate abstract concepts or spatial representations of things into an easier form of receiving the message” (3).
Meaning that we interact with other human beings by the extent of our language, by the encounter of our inner voices and interpretations of reality that have already suffer a process of reduction and filtering. This phenomena brings other actors for our movie which are the perception and attention that many of us have given to certain events, interactions that we individually have been exposed. Ironically this puts the ball on our court again to decide which will be the final interpretation of our reality and more importantly .. What are we going to give our attention to?.
This is the dilemma of our everyday life, What kind of experiences are you trying to construct for your life?, What kind of meaning are you choosing to have?, How involved are you with every event, interaction, task, endeavor that you choose to live?
All of this reflection start taking us in the direction of choosing the right activities, the meaningful interactions, the joyous experiences which in the end will construct the blocks of our happiness, purpose and fulfillment in life.
When asked about his particular genius, Isaac Newton responded that if he had made any discoveries, it was "owing more to patient attention than to any other talent." (1)
William James, the great psychologist, wrote at length about the varieties of human attention. In The Principles of Psychology( 1890), he outlined the differences among "sensorial attention," "intellectual attention," "passive attention," and the like, and noted the "gray chaotic indiscriminate- ness" of the minds of people who were incapable of paying attention. James compared our stream of thought to a river, and his observations presaged the cognitive "bottlenecks" described later by neurologists: "On the whole easy simple flowing predominates in it, the drift of things is with the pull of gravity, and effortless attention is the rule," he wrote. "But at intervals an obstruction, a set-back, a log-jam occurs, stops the current, creates an eddy, and makes things temporarily move the other way." (1)
As pointed out above our mind needs our awareness, needs our input, needs our will to have attention/presence to what we’re doing otherwise we will start overflowing the dam with information, shiny stuff, background noise that in the end will lead us to a feeling of emptiness, to a void where we are going to be pulled by the toxic emotions such as anxiety, depression, frustration and the feeling of being lost in a sea where we can’t see any lighthouse that helps us recover our direction.
Therefore the challenge is clear, the risks and consequences are also exposed and the benefits that we obtain by actually reducing the amount of distractions, the amount of inputs are exponential.
When we pick/decide to have meaningful experiences and to engage in them fully present even when the task might seem purposeless or not as attractive as others (talking about work tasks, school subjects or house chores) we enter a realm of possibilities where learning more about ourselves and enjoying the interaction becomes the cornerstone of the experience and we forget about the result, engaging our mind to its fullest potential of distilling a laser beam attention and presence that will expand to others if it is an group activity and therefore the inner voice interaction of all will be more fulfilling than if we are all over the place, if we are constantly getting hack by our devices and any background noise.
Personally engaging behaviors involve the channeling of personal energies into physical, cognitive, and emotional labors. People become physically involved in tasks, whether alone or with others, cognitively vigilant, and emphatically connected to others in the service of the work they are doing in ways that display what they think and feel, their creativity their beliefs and values, their personal connections to others (4).
Taking the paragraph above to go deeper into the presence that you have in your activities, such as your job, represents the whole meaning of the concept of “presence” , if more people were present in their everyday activities not only in their job ..can you even imagine the quality of the experiences that we would have? The level of motivation and satisfaction for our lives radically falls into the meaning we extract from each experience, the engagement that we have and the fidelity of the voice that we can share with others in the interaction. This self-explaining equation can be expanded each time we honor what we are doing, what we are deciding to participate in, what we are willing to commit with. The more we align to our own sense of responsibility to choose to be committed in what we do and perform a high quality endeavor, task or interaction with everyone that surrounds us, the higher frequency of positive engagement we will have with each other, which in the end will ignite the amount of collective consciousness that we will have as a society.
We have all seen this kind of group interactions thrive when we see a sports team displaying a level of compromise out of the standards, that began with one of the members of the team that decide to be fully committed to one purpose..giving his/her best attention, effort and presence to the event, to the task, to the game, and by doing so ..we propelled that behaviour to the other team members creating a bubble of collective effort that gave as a result an outstanding performance and most likely it made them win the highest award given.
Our individual presence is so amazingly important for every member of the family, community, society, country and of the world because we are contributing with a pretty significant amount of frequency that will be released to the environment where we are performing the activity or participating in any experience. This frequency in turn will elevate the frequency of the surrounding people near my vicinity asking them to engage, to embark in the same journey and eventually spreading the “positive vibe” to demand a higher quality of the experience, to perform an exceptional job which will expand throughout the company, the school, the family, the event.
There are two ways to extend the awareness we experience in Zen meditation, or zazen, into our daily lives. The first is to reconnect with our personal vow or intention. The second is nurturing mindfulness or presence—being present, alive, and connected with this moment of life. Mindfulness is often translated into our activity as doing things carefully or with attention. In Zen practice, we bring consciousness to what we are doing—not self- consciousness, but our presence with the intention of becoming one with our activity, so that the gaps between body and mind, between our attention and our activity, close.
When we do one thing at a time, we bring our mind and body to our present experience which is how we make whatever we are doing come alive. (5)
And here we go with the tools that might seem repetitive but they are explained in a different setting and for different purposes, mindfulness meditation is an ancient technique as mentioned before and it is extremely useful when directing your attention to the task you are performing or to the experience you are living.
In this paragraph above it brings two key concepts which are the intention and your presence, it is pretty clear that our intention is given by our awareness and capacity to maintain our free will, that is why is extremely important that you invest your time in knowing more of yourself, more your “simple reactions”, likes and dislikes in order to harvest and protect your free will that will be origin of your intention to nurture your presence.
When we really commit to doing something with a real intention, with the purpose of enjoying it too, then we are connecting (unconsciously) our body and our mind, generating a more fulfilling sense of becoming alive.
Inside our body we are also contributing with a cocktail of neurotransmitters, pleasure hormones and even immune boosting chemicals that will turn on our body sensations, that will enlighten our senses, will give us more sensibility to feel, to connect and to share the experience. That is the “sensation/feeling” that we want to expand, that we want to spread among others in order to achieve a more satisfactory experience that will also in turn make us want to give more and to engage more for the next encounter.
This kind of chain reaction is only achieved when you are truly present, when you align your intention with your consciousness and as a result you become alive, joyful, happy and more importantly you develop a selfless spark of compassion that could become a flame if you just commit to living at your fullest level of presence every experience, encounter or task that you have decided and that you have consciously given your intention to do it !!
In our daily life, we are usually encouraged to multi-task, to see how much we can do as fast as we can do it. However, doing one thing at a time and using both hands to do it, creates a kind of power, because it brings the focus of our full being to the thing at hand. This is counterintuitive at this time in our society. In Zen practice, we try to let go of our mental activity that leads us away from the present and instead trust our body (5).
Even when you get seduced by the multi-tasking environment, by the multi-shiny distraction world that we live in nowadays, you are still in charge of your intention to protect your time, to protect your attention, to protect your presence and the emotions that you want to generate by the experiences that you might be able to choose as the most fulfilling of your life. And when you encounter the deviation, the detour to commit to an activity that you might not “enjoy” or be able to decide for yourself to do it or not, such as driving in the traffic or standing another meeting, just go back to the concept of “positive vibe” of “higher frequency” which will allow you to protect yourself from falling into frustration, anger or anxiety and will lead you to distill the best flavor of the experience…who knows you might end spreading that vibe into the surroundings and stepping into a realm of positive possibilities connected to a higher source !!
Rosen, C. (2008). The Myth of Multitasking. The New Atlantis, (20), 105-110.
Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963. (1963). The doors of perception : and Heaven and hell. New York :Harper & Row,
Ortega D. “Do You Listen to Your Inner Voice?”. https://www.gen-es.mx/bloggenesmx. June 25th, 2019.
Kahn, W. A. (1992). To Be Fully There: Psychological Presence at Work. Human Relations, 45(4), 321–349.
Phelan, J. P. (2010). Mindfulness as Presence. Mindfulness, 1(2), 131–134. doi:10.1007/s12671-010-0015-4