How can you stay grounded, fully present and aware of all that is going on around you in this hyper-scattered, ultra-distracted world? A simple focusing exercise will revolutionize your presence, productivity and performance.
Everywhere you turn you find distraction. You will lose people’s attention if your message is longer than a tweet. The time people pay attention to a task without being distracted by their cell phones is more often measured in seconds than in minutes, and certainly not in hours.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that multitasking doesn’t work and undermines our attention and productivity, unsuccessfully struggling to pay attention to multiple items at once is the new normal.
How do you navigate a world, much less thrive in one, that increasingly pulls you in too many directions to count?
The answer is surprisingly simple, and surprisingly easy. You don’t need to meditate for an hour every day (although that would certainly help!). By making just a few small changes in how you focus on your inner and outer worlds – changes you can carry with you throughout your day – you can stay unshakably grounded and present even as the world darts distractedly around you.
Focusing better in any situation will only increase your output and ability. But in our distracted world, honing your approach to focus puts you at an even greater advantage as the gap between what you can do while focused and what others cannot do while distracted becomes even greater. As the saying goes, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed person is king.
The Bubble Method to Becoming a Focusing Superstar
It comes down to one word – space.
Developing a keen sense of spatial awareness is the key to developing a relaxed, grounded and unwavering focus. As I learned when I studied Dr. Les Fehmi’s method with him at the Princeton Biofeedback Centre, and as I’ve put into practice with my clients for years, by becoming aware both of the space within various areas of your body, and the space outside your body, you can cut the chatter swirling in your head in seconds and become keenly aware of whatever you wish to focus on.
If you want to try a basic exercise for experiencing the grounded concentration that comes with focusing on space, you can find one here that involves becoming aware of the space within and around your feet. Or you can use the exercise described in last week’s article that moves your awareness from a small space to a large space and back again. As strange as this might sound for those who haven’t tried it, if you try it, you’ll quickly see how effective it is.
Or you can skip the two exercises linked in the last paragraph and forge ahead with this even more comprehensive exercise. It involves focusing on the six directions surrounding you, creating a “bubble” of awareness of the space around you. Versions of this approach are found in several ancient spiritual traditions. The version outlined here can be used with any spiritual tradition or with none.
1. Notice the space that your body occupies. This really is as simple as it sounds. Simply notice the space that your body takes up from the bottoms of your feet to the top of your head, from side to side and front to back. If you find this challenging, imagine your body as a balloon. The borders of your body in all directions are like the skin of the balloon. You can then imagine the inside of your body simply filling up with air (or empty space) as a balloon does when filled.
2. Once you have noticed the space your body occupies, imagine that space expanding just beyond the borders of your body. Try to feel the space expanding, as if your body were porous or there really were no borders.
3. While feeling the space your body occupies, and a little beyond, begin to notice the space in each direction continuing outside your body, adding one direction at a time until you are aware of the space on all six sides of your body. I like to start with noticing the space behind me, then to the right and to the left, next the space below me, then above me, and finally the space in front of me. I start with the space behind me because we are used to noticing the space in front of us, but have less familiarity with the space behind us. However, there isn't any one correct order, and some feel more comfortable starting with the space in front of them, or any other direction.
4. Once you are simultaneously aware of the space that exists in each direction beyond your body, stay with that awareness for a couple of minutes. It is virtually impossible to maintain this awareness without feeling completely grounded, fully present and keenly aware of all that is in your environment around you.
In my experience, some are able to notice and feel the space within and around them right away, while for others, it can take a bit of practice. If you find this challenging on your first try, it’s worth sticking with it.
You only need to practice a few minutes at a time. And once you can do it, you can get into this feeling of space almost instantaneously and can use it to your benefit anywhere. If you need to be fully present in a conversation, need to project a sense of presence while giving a presentation, or just need to shore up your flagging attention and energy at any point during the day, all you need to do is get into “the bubble.”