>Anaerobic v. aerobic focus

>Good article on driving and distractions.

4 types of distractions:
* Visual distractions (e.g., focusing on something other than the road)
* Audible distractions (e.g., someone talking)
* Physical distractions (e.g., eating)
* Cognitive distractions (e.g., something that requires you to think about something other than driving)

This applies well to lectio. In fact anything that requires attention will be vulnerable to all of the above. But specifically in prayer and lectio we can see the following:

1) Visual
Not only the obvious visual distractions of the location where we do lectio, but also the internal visual distractions too – where we follow images to a different place than where the text is. While thinking of the Transfiguration, if I close my eyes I might end up thinking of my car, simply because I see a car image.

2) Audible
Again location, location, location. If I am not able to find a quiet spot…But again, how about internal dialog? That is even more distracting.

3) Physical
This should be easy to minimize – don’t eat-n-lectio! : ) But also don’t drive-n-lectio either LOL. More importantly, try to keep focused on the text. But how about those people who can meditate while doing yoga? Or even, God bless you if you can, lectio while jogging?! The point is that some physical activity (and sitting is a physical activity!) can actually help focus, while others cannot, and we just have to experiment.

4) Cognitive
Yep and here’s the “big one”. But I wonder? Are not the three distractions above really forms of cognitive distraction? I close my eyes and see something other than Christ and I am off chasing images. I may look out of the window and see my neighbor mowing the lawn and off I go. If by cognitive distractions we mean the narrow set of “other thoughts” than this is important too – after all the stopping errant thoughts is 75% of the work of lectio and meditation. How long can I go without losing focus? 5 seconds? But it is more than that – how often and how quickly can I bring myself back into focus when I do get distracted.

The first type of focus I call anaerobic – anaerobic exercise is something that requires strength. The will power is what keeps me focused. Just like muscle raw power this has limited endurance – think of 100 meters dash – lots of power for 10 seconds. The other type of focus is aerobic – this is the endurance type of thing, where you can hold your intent to focus for 30, 40, 60 minutes. The intention becomes much more important than the performance.

Finally we develop a knack for returning over and over 24/7 – ceaseless prayer. Constant breathing in breathing out. The day goes like this: prayer action conversation breath prayer driving breath eating TV breath prayer prayer sleep breath dream prayer awake breakfast and so on.


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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