The development of more consciousness, presence, awe and wonder in the world around us can often get lost. Our minds get muddled by the crowded vision of technology, world crisis, recovery issues, and psychological analysis. Even the beloved Twelve Step Recovery program can become over-complicated. The goal appears to be spiritual growth and emotional maturity, but at times, I wonder.
So let us focus on practices that enhance Attention. These are brief exercises that are useful for any client, recovering person, or person on a journey of growth and renewal. We are all on the planet together - no one higher than another in the authority over ones’ soul!
Poetry, literature, music, and dance all inform us of our need to be present in our lives. Even in the depth of some deep and dark wounds we can still be present to those parts of ourselves.
In witnessing over the past three decades how people from all backgrounds heal, I am amazed at the deep and profound nature of presence. Our souls “know” before we do what we need, even in the moment. How that need is addressed is critical to anyone witnessing another’s growth process and helping them to heal.
Below are some simple tools to add to your repertoire. Tool basket ready? Experiment with each of these and throw out the ones that don’t feed your soul, quiet your mind or bring you into the wonder of the present moment.
Morning Attentiveness - Set aside time (10, 20, 30 minutes). During this time pay attention to every detail of what you do from the time you get up. Look at your feet. Which one starts you out? Count the steps from your bed to the bathroom or coffee pot or wherever you go first. Look at the color of the towel you use. Notice the brushing of your teeth (pay attention). When your mind wanders and it will, gently bring it back to the present moment. Try this daily and notice each day what you might have missed the day before. Notice especially when you gently bring your wandering mind back.
As you continue this practice, notice how often you are not in the moment.
Lead with your body – (exercises can be adapted for mobility) Attention drifts often just as the clouds are drifting in the sky. When we drift like the clouds our thoughts can pull us away from the present moment. We also get tied up in feelings, thoughts, sensations, needs, desires, the past, future, our problems, and what we think others should be doing. Activities that involve large muscle movement help shift attention away from ourselves, fast paced movement helps, unpredictable activity helps and any activity involving engagement with others rather than being alone helps with attention.
Our attention shifts from the present moment when we sit too much.
Simplicity above all. This exercise can be used anywhere, anytime, during a hectic day, a calm day, a day at the airport, or during a challenging conversation.
Hand on your forehead: SAY aloud or quietly to yourself “Calm Mind.”
Hand on your heart: Say “Quiet Heart.”
Do this three times, breathing slowly, feeling the touch of your hand on head and heart.
Enjoy your day and every moment you notice you are present in it. And being present also allows you to notice everyone along your path.
Lazy 8’s (Three repetitions) with each hand separately and then with both hands together is recommended. Make an imaginary horizontal 8 (an 8 lying on its side) in the air in front of yourself. Tracing a lazy 8 in front of your eyes with your arms stretched out. Waking up to tactile and kinesthetic awareness. You can do it! Simply trace an 8 on its side. Keep your eye on it as you trace the 8 and its path and breathe. This exercise connects right and left brain hemispheres. (Brain Gym)
You are indeed paying attention!
To quote a familiar AA text:“You will be amazed before you are halfway through.”
A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness – Gregg KrechBrain Gym – Paul Dennison, PhD, and Gail E. Dennison (Lazy 8 exercise)
Simplicity exercise with Head and Heart – Mary Gordon