Archive for the ‘Attention’ Category


March 13, 2023

The word of the day is concentration.

When your mind focuses on the task at hand. When your attention is on the activity, not distracted by fleeting thoughts.

I watched Liverpool and Bournemouth in the English Premier League (football/soccer) Saturday. The week before Liverpool completely outplayed its rival Manchester United 7-0. Saturday they lost to lowly Bournemouth 0-1. One of the best wings in the league passed the ball directly to an opponent three times in the first 10 minutes. One of the best goal scorers in the league missed a penalty. As we would say in the US, he didn’t even kick it in the same zip code as the goal.

They played without concentration. We can’t look into other people’s minds, but we can see their actions. They played as if their minds were at the beach.

I began to think on this phenomenon. How often is our attention on the task at hand? When we are engaged with our spiritual practices, where is our concentration? Our attention? Our focus?

How much does my mind drift from the words on the page when I am studying? When I am engaged in a service to someone or even a “random act of kindness”, am I concentrating on the person whom I am serving? When I am at worship, am I thinking about where I’m going afterwards?

Champions bring their concentration to the game every game.

Should we do no less?

Do Things With Intention

January 25, 2023

When I attended a Baptist church, I noticed a favorite metaphor of the preachers was to divide people into the “lost” and the “found”.

I’ve thought about lost. I observed some neighbors. They were lost. What does a person do when lost, say in the woods. Experts say they wind up walking in circles. Without a map and no idea of direction, they drift.

I’ve observed people just drifting through life. No purpose. No courage. Usually too much alcohol. Not enough discipline to maintain good health or a steady job.

The road to hell is not paved with good intentions. It is paved with lack of intention.”
— Dr. Gabor Maté

I heard this idea quoted on a podcast some time ago. I’ve been pondering it.

How does this apply?

I intend to get up from this chair, walk over to the community clubhouse, exercise with some walking and Yoga, sit in the hot water of the spa (we don’t have a sauna). Then I’ll come back home for breakfast followed by study and writing about technology and strategies used in manufacturing.

Perhaps what Maté (and the words of Jesus and the Proverbs) mean about intention are deeper than that. I approach God with intention. Pray with intention. Serve others with intention.

Light and Dark

December 28, 2022

Last night we visited the Morton Arboretum in suburban Chicago for their annual Illumination event. This park celebrates trees and the illuminations centered on groves of trees. Magnificent and creative.

This morning I am remembering the experience. And I thought of John’s Gospel. My favorite in many ways. It’s more philosophical and theological than the others. Mark is packed with action. Matthew and Luke pack in details. John tells the story weaving the theme of light and dark.

Jesus, of course, was the light. He brought the light. He wanted his followers to be light. Be the light in the world.

An iPhone is a poor substitute for a really good camera (which I didn’t want to carry). But this image captures some of the light and the dark.

Our question today is–how will I be The Light today?

You Probably Need Sleep

December 7, 2022

Sleep is one of the five necessary practices for a healthy life.

Are you getting your quota?

“If you can’t tell what you desperately need, it’s probably sleep.”​— Kevin Kelly

Kelly is probably on to something. Lack of sleep leads to a befuddled brain. Poor concentration. Inattention.

Maybe the best thing for the next hour is a nap.

We Forgot To Choose

October 19, 2022

Viktor Frankl writing in Man’s Search for Meaning solidified the idea of our power to choose in my mind. The idea became one of my core beliefs. Ancient people knew that truth, the truth of choosing your attitude, your response, your life.

Seth Godin writes, “We are leaving the age of information and entering the age of choice. Not just choosing what we’ll consume, but who we will become. Who will we connect with, lead, trust, honor, dignify, isolate or believe? And how will we choose to walk through the world and what will we leave behind…”

Long-time technology pundit Steve Gillmor early on predicted companies on the Internet were all about capturing our attention. Now we read about the many psychological tricks companies such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and others use to capture and retain our attention. 

To whom do you choose to give your attention? And all the other choices Seth suggests?

Be Mindful of Your Focus

September 30, 2022

I wrote yesterday of becoming aware of what is surrounding us that we may never notice. These were some thoughts on David Foster Wallace’s commencement address “This Is Water.”

Then I began to think more on this subject.

I once taught people how to become soccer referees. You will begin by focusing on the ball, I’d tell them. You’ll see the player with the ball and the player challenging, but your focus will be on the ball and the feet. Gradually you’ll learn to watch all of both players–elbows, shoulders, hips, feet, ball. Learn, I would say, to broaden your vision. See the play developing. Where players are running from and to. Anticipate the coming collision. Anticipate where the ball will go if the player kicks it.

Perhaps we do this when studying scriptural or spiritual writing. We focus on individual words or phrases. We lift a phrase and make it a rule of life. We should, as we grow in experience and maturity, learn to see vast sweeps of the writing. That sentence in context of the audience the writer was reaching. The letter in context of what had been written before and in context of the lives of those referred to. See the “water.”

We can become trapped with people. We see one act in a narrow context. But we broaden our vision. We see what kind of day it’s been. We see the forces of family or job working on the person putting them in a certain frame of mind. We broaden our view. We see their long-term frustrations and struggles. Eventually we see the “water.”

Some may call this gaining perspective. Or it may be wisdom. Perhaps compassion.

Whatever you call it–work to acquire it.

Attention Economy

March 16, 2022

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Herbert Simon

I’m sure it was more than 15 years ago when I first heard technology pundit Steve Gillmor talk about the attention economy. He was prescient. Everyone scrambles to grab some of your attention. Including me.

But worse are the platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like who hire hundreds of engineers to design algorithms and graphics designed to keep your attention on their sites.

Me, I wish to provoke a little thinking and then let you go in order to have a life.

Herbert Simon nailed it in more ways than probably even he imagined. He wrote pre-Internet. We have so much information presented on apps and web sites and newsletters and, yes, even books. We can even bury ourselves with information trying to comprehend the entire Bible.

And where does our attention stray?

We must be aware of where we’ve invested our attention. If the entire Bible as given to many of us as youth is too large for our attention, perhaps the Christian part (New Testament). Or perhaps just the words of Jesus. Maybe even that is too much information.

If we focus our attention just on the Sermon on the Mount, we shall be richer for it. We can perhaps come to comprehend enough to live it.

Being Present

January 13, 2022

A comment appeared on yesterday’s post about slowing down, where the writer talked about being present. I love that concept.

There is a phrase I was taught many years ago, “Wherever I go, there I am.”

How many times is our body someplace, but our attention and awareness are a million miles distant?

What about when we are with someone? Are we present with that person? Or is our body there, but we are not? Do you think they can tell? Can you tell when that story is reversed?

I’ve seen people who have paid an amount of money to attend a class, clinic, or conference. They show up, but they left their mind at home. Or somewhere.

I think about that when I am walking around the ponds where I live. Being present with the wildlife and flowers and plants. Even the occasional human.

Yes, I think being present is a gift we can give ourselves and also give to those around us.

The Discipline of Focus

August 25, 2021

“Keep your eye on the ball,” yells the baseball coach to his player.

You cannot hit the ball if you are not focused on it.

Same with golf. Practice the swing enough such that you can just swing naturally. Then put all focus on the ball.

A race car driver once told me that you always focus on the cars in front. Never look at the wall, he said, because you’ll steer right at it.

Take the Hebrew story of Joseph. Yes, the guy with the “multi-colored dream coat”. He landed in Egypt. The king put him in charge of a most important project. Joseph had interpreted a dream that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph’s job was to focus in the good years on storing lots of grain. I’m sure that given many pressures keeping his eye on the ball was difficult. Then during the seven years of famine, he reaped the benefits of the seven years of discipline.

Pay attention to the words of Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, John and the rest. Stated sometimes and always understood beneath the story lies the foundational teaching of keeping your eye (focus) on God.

I Choose Where My Thoughts Dwell

March 19, 2021

Many people are reflecting upon a year ago. Of course, I am one.

A year ago, we signed the papers and I transferred a bunch of money and we became property owners in a different state. While in Illinois signing papers, my hair stylist called from Ohio. The governor was shutting down businesses like hers and she had a spot open. My usual appointment was three days after the shutdown. I told her I was a six-hour drive away and couldn’t make it. I didn’t get a hair cut for fourteen more weeks. Even a former hippie needed a trim by that time.

We had two major changes–facing life in the pandemic and adjusting to the new reality of living in a community where we knew no one with only a superficial knowledge of the area.

I made it a priority to establish a daily discipline much like I had the past 20 years. Just a few adjustments. No gym. No Yoga classes. No soccer. The only thing that slipped for a while was strength training. Eventually I took care of that and the body is getting back into shape.

Had we not moved, two things are likely. We would have caught the virus (I estimate that 90% of the people we knew from where we’re from have had Covid), and we would not have seen our family.

When other thoughts pop into my head–nostalgia, missing something, adjusting to new surroundings, what if this or that–I choose to focus on what matters. I choose not to dwell on any “what might have been” random thoughts.

This advice from the Apostle Paul to the gathering called Philippians applies, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”