It’s almost a cliche.
You read a paragraph, have no idea what you just read, and go back to the top to try again. The stuff is just not getting into your head.
It can feel like an utter waste of time.
In many ways it is. But often the trouble isn’t that you aren’t smart enough. It’s that you aren’t taking your time.
A wandering mind, in particular, takes time.
Now certainly, there are those moments where you are deep in flow, getting more done in a fifth of the time that anyone else does. But getting there, that warm up phase that you often don’t even realize you’re going through, takes time.
But what would you do during that time?
When reading, any word, any phrase can generate a series of associations. These are thoughts that form based on whatever is front of you.
Sometimes there’s an obvious connection. Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes, you only feel bored and wish to be somewhere else.
But to make it through with a sense of understanding, these associations, these thoughts and feelings that come to mind, need time to form and settle.
Without that time, we instead experience confusion. The ideas bouncing and melding into one another as our eyes continue to move across yet more unknown ideas and concepts, only fuel the confusion, until we fall into some dissociated fantasy of just about anything else.
The odd matter is that our reflex is to do exactly what works against us, namely speed up.
Maybe it’s because of the years of schooling, a place where time is quite regimented. Maybe everyone else seemed to “get it” while you didn’t, so you had to speed up just to keep up with whatever the day’s agenda was.
As a result, you might even have concluded that you’re “dumb”, “slow”, “scattered”, “lazy”, among any number of other negative reproaches. So the fight against the “dumbness” by speeding up or re-reading the paragraph continues into adulthood.
But what if it was the lack of connection with the material that lead to further wanderings? What if the mind was only asking for a sense of realstimulation?
Instead, what if we give ourselves time, time to reflect on the thoughts and feelings that come to mind, considering how they might connect or not with what’s in front of us? At the moment confusion hits, what if we asked the simple, “What does this mean?” or “How does this connect with that?”
Whatever the result, we’d be more grounded in ourselves. We’d have a better sense of what we knew and didn’t know, and where we might go next.
The reality of the situation would come closer to our experience.
Maybe we weren’t dumb. We just needed time, from others and now ourselves, to connect to what feels meaningful.