Attention Adventure: Achieve Mindfulness and Boost Your Creativity

I suck at meditation. I know it’s the best way to achieve mindfulness and calm my mind, but honestly every time I try it, I just get bored. My thoughts wander and soon I’m thinking about anything but my breathing. Then I stumbled upon Bill Keaggy’s Noticing Workout (he called it Attention Adventure when working with kids, and I like that title better). It’s a method to achieve mindfulness that won’t bore you to pieces. Plus it’s fun.

Actively Ignoring

The simple act of paying attention to one thing means that we actively ignore everything else. Our brains filter so much information, it’s simply ridiculous. Attention is our superpower, keeping us from overdosing on the world. 

The question now is what do we choose to pay attention to and what will we ignore. Most of us (me included) often attend to our phones. Or, barring that, we grasp onto our worries about the future and memories of the past. 

This means we’re ignoring everything going on around us. 

Noticing Workout

If we can have a gym workout to tone our bodies, why not a noticing workout to sharpen our mind. Specifically, our ability to notice things. Keaggy did a TedTalk on this subject and he outlined two different ways to notice our surroundings:

  • Ambient Noticing: This is where you suck in your surrounding, zen-style. It’s the sort of thing I strive for, but can only accomplish in short bursts. 
  • Purposeful Attention: This is where you set a “noticing goal” for yourself. This allows you to focus your mind on one objective.

Capture It with Pictures

The technique that Keaggy espouses is to use your phone to snap photos of things in your environment. You can “hunt” for certain parameters like a certain color or shape. I’ve tried this technique and it works amazingly well. I looked for faces while walking the dogs. 

A funny thing happened. Even though I only snapped three photos of “faces” I noticed so many other things. And this is a walk I’ve done at least a thousand times. It’s as if my mind was supercharges with Sherlock Holmes power. Even when my mind started to wander to other subjects, the goal of finding faces allowed me to snap back in focus. 

Acceptance of What Is

The beauty of this kind of mindfulness is it allows you to accept what you see as it is. No preconceived values. The faces I “found” were not good or bad. They were simply things I noticed. I didn’t worry about whether something was worthy of my attention. I accepted what came. And on some attention adventures, nothing popped up. And that was fine too. It’s the contentment I achieved in the noticing process that was the most important. 

Try it yourself. Take a walk for at least 20 minutes and see what you can notice. Not only will it declutter your mind, you might discover a few things you’d never seen before. 

Tim Kane

Monthly Mental Kitchen

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