Projects and Plans
Good plans are like playgrounds. They include both structure and the ability to explore:
- Structure includes a set of tasks that hopefully lead towards a goal of completing a project.
- Exploration includes a reactivity to the environment and the very vital capacity to play.
Too much of one or the other throws off a balance. Too much structure and the project is dry and devoid of life. Not only is it unenjoyable, the results themselves often seem to reflect this lack of life. A lack of structure, or perhaps better said, the lack of being able to harvest some parts of the play and exploration into the project, can result in a stalled project. We feel our wheels spin without going anywhere.In an impaired state, one cannot hold anything in mind for long without several other things external and internal jostling for their own attention on the stage. It is in these cases that attention becomes difficult to maintain, regardless of the task or project. The boundaries of the originally defined playground lose coherency.
We must recognize attention as a natural part of the body similar to a muscle or tendon. In the scattered state, it is injured. When walking through rocky terrain, our feet and ankles need to adjust to the environment. To move through, the ankle needs to settle this way and that. However, repeated and unexpected shifts can readily lead to a sprained ankle.
Similar to a sprained ankle, attention becomes easier to sprain again once already injured. Note, it is often easier to do something towards the beginning of the day, before too many things have been taken on at once.
Similar to a muscle, attention is something that can be exercised. For example, some do much better after a warm up, having hit a groove and been able to focus deeply enough. When studying for an exam, it is sometimes not until perhaps an hour or so, until information really starts getting absorbed and even enjoyably so. Those who can readily do well with academics have likely exercised their ability to focus even if they have not consciously done so.
While a method for addressing these for every individual’s situation cannot be done in a blog post, there are some general principles we can consider.
If we are to summarize the problem, it is that our attention and intention are no longer in line. Where we have our minds and where we would like our minds to be are not in sync. The goal then is to reconnect attention with intention.
In Part III, we’ll go over 5 steps to do so.
… it is sometimes not until perhaps an hour or so, until information really starts getting absorbed and even enjoyably so….
How apropos to my experience of improvising music for silent films and feeling that it’s only after 20-30 minutes that things settle in, sometimes. But I also attribute that to the scattered attention of the audience, and the time that it takes for the group as a whole to become attentive to what they are seeing and hearing, so the whole system starts to settle down after a while and focus. If I am quiet and settled when I begin, my hope is that the music will accelerate that process. The quality of the consciousness of the audience is another factor. When playing for groups of meditators, for example, there seems to be much less friction in my thought process; the collective consciousness is so much more coherent that I am able to function more smoothly, and that has a consequent effect on what the audience gets back in return. Ravi Shankar once said, when asked why he spent a long time tuning before a concert, “I am not tuning my instrument, I am tuning the audience.”