This past week, I was looking to recreate the ease I had enjoyed listening to a book on tape while painting (read Know Your Brain here). I wanted to see if something might work similarly for my writing sessions. Difficult to explain, but I have a noisy mind. Focusing on the task at hand has always been a challenge for me.
Daily meditation helps a lot. I have been meditating for thirty years and believe that if I didn’t meditate, I would need to be on medication. In contrast, I watch my husband, who has the laser focus of a robot – nothing distracts him. Everything he does is a meditation. His nervous system is just different from mine. We watched an action movie together recently, and I noticed that the explosions and booming noises did not affect him the way they did me. I was frazzled. He dozed off at one point (which I could never do in a movie theater). If you snuck up on him from behind, he wouldn’t flinch. You could give me a heart attack.
I have observed that my mind operates best when my body is in motion. I paint standing up, pacing around frequently. I take many fresh-air breaks, no matter what the weather is doing. Sit me in a chair, and I get drowsy right away. This was challenging for me throughout school, especially college. An hour-long lecture was like a tranquilizer requiring a steady antidote of caffeine. Of course, if the topic intrigued me, that was enough stimulation, but that was less than half the time. Other times I get instantly drowsy: church (yawn), freeway driving (yikes), opera, ballet…
I love writing, but the sitting it requires is not my best scenario. When it’s going well, I can tolerate the chair for about an hour. Then my head starts to cloud up a bit. After reading an article about treadmill workstations with built-in desks on them, I tried duct-taping my laptop to my treadmill. Laugh all you want – it was great! I found that walking while writing made for a very constructive writing session. It was a similar state to the one I enjoy now while painting – less white noise bothering my mind. I also theorized that I do a lot of my writing while walking in the woods, alone, in silence. That’s when I really solve problems and hatch ideas.
After these experiments, I have come to a few conclusions. There are some things I can do to manage my fractious mind and help myself become more productive. In the end, the critical element is not the scene or the means, but my intention. If my intention is to make excuses for why creating things is difficult for me and my monkey mind, I can come up with a hundred while sitting drowsily on my sofa. But my intention to get the work done is what gets the work done.