“Can we tell ourselves when we need to walk away from chatter, turn it off entirely for half a day, or a full day, or a whole weekend, ease into a realm of something slower, but more tangible?
Can we go outside and listen?"
~ Naomi Shihab Nye
I've shared strategies for using movies to strengthen attention. Just as in ordinary life, what makes tending to the sensory components of a film so challenging is the pull of the narrative. But what would it be like to focus on the changing sights and sounds without having to resist the gravitational pull of story elements?
Starting today, you can find out.
"In some of my research on cochlear implants, I learned that when they are turned on for the first time, patients often say the sound is kind of 'digital' or 'mechanical' sounding, which is entirely normal. I guess the ears and brain eventually normalize the signal and things begin to sound more natural. I thought that was entirely fascinating, so I made it a part of my song."
~ Ryan O'Neal, from "HearingI & How It Was Made"
Any perception you can observe directly in real time can be used to train a variety of attention-related skills.
I like to make a game out of turning ordinary activities into opportunities for practice.
There are a number of exercises I use when watching a film — whether it’s one I enjoy, dislike, or have seen before.
"Bird sounds captured using a digital audio recorder and fed into a computer to activate particle effects."
"Although emotional sensations can arise anywhere in the body, they are much more likely to arise in the belly, chest, throat, or face. These are the emotional hotspots in the body, the regions where emotional sensations can get huge. That means that other areas are much less likely to host gigantic emotional sensations, which turns out to be a useful and convenient thing."
~ Michael Taft
When I first started practicing mindfulness, I saw internal words — aka verbal thoughts — as my opponents. Like most people, I thought the point was to not think. When verbal thoughts were present, I was obviously not. Start over. Try harder.
There's just one problem with this approach. It is normal for the mind to think in words.
"What I find very strange is this. That I think what's magnificent about Bach is that when you listen to this music, and it moves you so much, I mean, it's just a bunch of sound waves crashing into your ear, and you have to contain — you see this emotion bubbling up, you start seeing, like, tearing up, and saying, well, what's going on? These are just sounds crashing into my — what's going on in here?"
~ Bernard Chazelle