Focus

The Power of Pause

The Power of Pause is always present in nature
image courtesy of mindfulnet.org

What did you say again? 

How did I get here?

Why did I do that?

What happened just now?

ADDers are people in perpetual motion – motion of body, motion of thought and motion of e-motion. We are always moving in one form or another.

The fact we’re seldom static makes it difficult to keep track our position in the world. Heck, half the time we don’t even know where we are in the middle of a conversation!

Being frequently distracted means not being here and not getting things done. Which actually means …

we are doing too much of something – and not enough of another.

The fact is, ADD is not so much a disorder of deficit but of management, as Russell Barkley tells us. It is attention mismanagement we struggle with the most.

But here’s a surprise: attention is not a finite commodity. We can have more of it, whenever we want. In fact, we can have as much as we’ll ever need! But first we must learn how to manage the attention span we already have.

Instead of reacting – we can act.

Instead of blurting – we can listen. Then choose our words and the right time to say them.

Instead of being led by whims – we can think things through and make deliberate moves.

But how?

The power of pause is the superpower that puts you in control. (Click to tweet)

Check in with yourself and decide – where is my attention? How is this serving me? Is my attention where I need it to be right now? Is it where I intend it to be? Do I need to shift it?

I know you think I’m crazy for telling you this. You think that having ADD means you don’t have the skills to pause or focus. You don’t believe that you can shift your attention as easily as flicking to another channel on the TV.

I am telling you: YOU MOST CERTAINLY CAN.

Of course, you have to practice. The power of pause can only be realized after much, much practice. But isn’t it something worth practising?

If the management of your attention is central to many of your challenges, how could you not resolve to reign it in and show it who’s the boss?

Yep, you are the boss of your attention. I know it’s a freakishly absurd concept, especially when your paradigm is one of deficit.

But think of it another way. Right now, you don’t speak Italian (as far as I know!). But if you spent an hour every day – reading, writing and conversing in Italian – eventually you would become fluent.

With concerted effort, you can become fluent in attention as well. Yes, there is more to ADD than paying attention. There are other factors to bring into consideration. But the mismanagement of attention is an undisputed underpinning of many of our challenges.

Always late… how’s your attention to time? What’s distracting you from getting out the door on time?

Losing things… where is your attention when you are putting objects down after using them?

Behind in your duties… where is your focus when you are busy but not engaged?

Attention can always be managed better – no matter how short of a span you seem to have. Managing it better will do nothing but help any other challenges you face.

The best part? You can practice anywhere, any time.

Pause – in conversations, when making choices, while going about your day or whenever you have been doing something for a long time. Pause before committing to a request or whenever you are experiencing an unpleasant emotional state.

Pause when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. Practice at key times in the day, set an alarm, put up notes for yourself. Do it whenever you notice emotional shifts.

Just do it. And do it some more. And a little bit more. And a lot more.

Sooner or later you won’t need to practice. You will be fluent in attention. Practice starts now.

With just a little pause.

Focus

Mindfulness: What Is It?

Mindfulness: What Is It?
How to meditate: Mastering your inner maelstrom. Illustration: Cristina Guitian

First of all, I’ll tell you what it isn’t: difficult.

It’s actually pretty simple. So simple, in fact, that I intend to describe it to you in a very short post today. Simple concepts beget simple explanations.

Mindfulness is a way of improving your being. Being, in this context, refers to your entire experience of life. Through mindfulness, you develop greater self-awareness, hone attention span and find more calmness and gratitude in your life.

It helps you find serenity, while also strengthening your ability to make well thought-out decisions and congruent actions. It helps you accept the results of those actions, no matter what they are.

So how do you get more of this mindfulness thing?

It’s true that it is a form of meditation but don’t write it off just yet. Mindfulness is also a way of being. And of doing. And of thinking.
It’s about being here now, present in the moment. Fully aware of your environment, internal and external, but completely non-judgemental about what you see.

Mindfulness is about really, truly, fully living life – as it is happening. Not thinking about the future or ruminating about the past – but being here now.

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

It’s absolutely not. It just takes practice.

Practice, by the way, can happen formally and informally.

Formal practice occurs in the way that we typically thinking about meditation – sitting quietly, with relaxed posture, and clearing our minds of thoughts.

Informal practice happens as you go about your day – brushing your teeth, eating, driving to work … you can practice doing normal, everyday things. Mindfulness means paying attention to what you are doing – observing yourself in action . And when thoughts come up you notice them, label them, and let them go just as quickly as they arrived.

You think that’s the part that sounds impossible? How can you stop thinking with a wildly abundant ADHD mind?

The misconception about mindfulness is that you must wipe your mind clean of all thoughts. Mindfulness is not mindlessness. You allow thoughts to come and go. But you don’t “chase” them. Mindfulness is continually bringing your attention back to the present moment – over and over and over again. And over again if you must.

Let me ask you this:

How much of your life have you missed because you weren’t really there? (Click to tweet)

How much richer, happier and fulfilling could your life be, if you experienced it through the lens of mindful appreciation and acceptance?

If you think having ADHD excludes you from meditating, or from mental clarity and mindful being- think again. Go and read The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD, By Lidia Zylowska, MD. She might change your mind.

One last thing…

If you are taking this journey with me, you must make two promises.

Firstly, that you will not over-complicate it. We ADDers love to create marvellously-designed systems that we never use. Mindfulness is born out of simplicity. You don’t need a system to practice – just do it whenever can.

Secondly, promise you won’t be hard on yourself when your mind continually wanders off. Pinky swear you won’t! Even if you have to bring your attention back a hundred times a minute, it doesn’t mean you are bad at mindfulness. It means you’re normal.

Make no mistake, I am no Zen-Master. I’m learning along side you. While I have been practising mindfulness for some time now, I still have to bring my attention back to the moment frequently x 10. But I have certainly improved from when I started!

See for yourself. For the next week, practice being mindful for one minute a day, maybe while brushing your teeth or eating. We are starting small so we can grow this muscle slowly. One minute a day is a decent goal. If you go longer – wow, you’re awesome!

Tell me how it goes in the comments below.

Namaste!

Productivity

Two Life Changing Tips To Manage Your Time Better

Everybody’s busy. Everyone needs more time. But apart from Dr. Who, none of us can control how fast it passes.

We do control how we spend the time we have. But even when we ADDers have time – we often fail to use it effectively. For several reasons: we don’t have a firm concept of how it passes, we aren’t realistic about what we can do with it, and we struggle to make the most of it.

There are plenty of great Internet resources that will teach you some techniques to manage these challenges. But I am more interested in experience than how-to’s. It makes no difference how well you spend your time if you don’t enjoy it while you are spending it.

Most people have too much on their plate. In yesteryears, families resorted to two incomes as a way to make ends meet. As wealth increased, we used the superfluous earnings we had improving our quality of life. But as a society seduced by consumerism, we’ve lost track of the difference between needs and wants. Often, we work for our things rather than our needs, sacrificing time for money.

No one needs an extra bedroom or a cottage at the lake. Granted, they are nice to have. A room for company to sleep in and a cottage for respite certainly improve quality of life. But only if you’ve made the conscious decision that they are worth the time and money they require. The point isn’t whether or not you should have these things, it is whether or not you value them enough to sacrifice your time.

The challenge for everyday tasks is no different. In order to get a firm grip on how you spend your time, it is important to clarify between your needs and your wants. More importantly, you need to clarify your values. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing, and whether the thing you are doing is something you value, helps you make more conscious choices over how you spend your time.

Which brings me to the next challenge we so often face: competing values. I value being a good mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee, coach, housekeeper, philanthropist… but I can’t be all of those things, all of the time. The sad truth is that when we spend time doing one thing we value, we unavoidably fail to spend time doing something else we value.

In Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar shares an anecdotal study that was done on women and happiness. He explains that women frequently report their least satisfying part of the day was the time that they were spending with their children. Not because they didn’t love their children or enjoy their company, but because the time they spent with them was often punctuated by multitasking and doing other things like chores, emailing, or talking on the phone. Quite simply, they were with their children in body but not in mind. Being with their kids simply highlighted the nagging sense that they weren’t really giving themselves over to their kids, but coping the best they could stretched out on life’s wooden horse.

Multitasking rarely makes life more enjoyable. But we do it, because it seems we have to. When was the last time you ate a meal and did nothing else? I mean – nothing else. No talking, driving, texting, opening emails, watching TV – only eating? Few of us sit down and just eat. Interestingly, unconscious eating is partially responsible for today’s obesity problem.  In his hugely successful series “I Can Make You Thin”, British hypnotist and neurolingistic programmer Paul McKenna advises that slow and deliberate eating, done in isolation of any other activity, is one key way to eat less and lose weight.

We don’t just need more time or less to do. We need to experience the time we have more fully, no matter how we are spending it. Stress doesn’t come from infinite to-do lists so much as it comes from the loss of seconds, minutes, hours or even days of your life. Doing five things at once is not time well spent. It’s the passing of a moment without ever really experiencing it.

This is one of the biggest challenges ADDers have with time. We are never really here, but a millions places at once. It’s hard to feel like you have any time when you’re never fully there to experience it.

If you want to make the most of your precious hours on this earth, you only need to focus on two things.

1. Quality

Increase the quality of the time you are spending (no matter what you are doing) by being as present as possible, whether it is through use of medication, mindfulness, single-tasking, or any other means. It may seem counterintuitive, but most people enjoy things more when they are present.

There is a way to slow time down. It’s called Mindfulness. Mindfulness can be extraordinarily hard to achieve at the best of times, let alone when you have ADD. Yet, it can be very simple at the same time. In the Joy of Living, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche makes it very accessible for amateurs. In its simplest form, it only requires you to notice and observe all that you are experiencing and doing in the present moment. And when you notice your mind slip out the back door and on to other things, you gently bring it back to the moment. You don’t even have to give up daydreaming (which I secretly love, when it is not interfering with other things in my life). You simply notice yourself daydreaming. And by doing so, you are present.

Slowing down and doing one thing at a time is another way to capture the moment, especially if you practice mindfulness at the same time. The idea of it may sound like nails on a chalkboard to us ADDers who thrive on momentum, velocity and multiple sources of stimulation. But a bit of slowing down once in awhile can actually make us more efficient, and even more fulfilled. I feel like a better mother when I am fully present during playtime with the kids, as hard as it is to do when Barbie vs Batman has had its third spontaneous plot change, directed by a 5 year old who demands perfection from the performance.

But feeling like a better mom lets me focus more clearly by removing any source of guilt when I shift my attention to other things later on. Sometimes, you have to pay attention in “installments” by bringing your mind back, over and over and over again.

You won’t be able to slow down and be mindful all of the time, but any time you do will add a great deal of quality to your life.

2. Quantity:

Increase the quantity of time you spend doing things you value by clarifying your values and differentiating your needs from wants. Some things need to be done, but not nearly as many things as we think. Thinking about the “why” behind your activity can make it more rewarding for you, if it is in line with your values. I don’t value cooking and would happily eat out everyday – but I do value providing a nutritious meal for the family and reserving our finances for other things. Being conscious of the “why” can make certain tasks less frustrating, even if they aren’t that enjoyable.

You may be irritated right now that I haven’t highlight ways for you to get more done. But I can almost guarantee that when you spend more time on things you truly value or conversely, find value in the things you are already doing, your time will be better spent. And when you stop and pay attention to those things, the roller coaster slows down.