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How to Focus and Write: A Lesson from Meditation Practice by Rochelle Melander

file0002029876287I probably should have guessed that starting an online meditation program during spring break would be challenging. But I’d set aside Monday to finish up work, so I believed I could sneak in the meditation between tasks. I pressed play, and the dogs barked. I couldn’t hear a word, so I stopped until the teenager took the dogs for a walk. I tried again, and the tween walked in and asked for breakfast. I encouraged her to make it herself. I’d just gotten to the part where I was supposed to close my eyes and chant “ohm,” when my son walked into the room. He’s a big guy, and even with my eyes closed, I knew he was in the room.

“Yes, Sam?”

“Mom, can I just sit with you?” he asked.

Sweet, yes—but I was TRYING to meditate. And then I had work to do—a newsletter to write, a chapter to edit, and a bunch of emails to answer. Why did I feel anxious? I thought meditating would calm me down. My husband walked by the office, and seeing that the teen was already in there, he brought me some checks to sign.

I gave up.

On day two, my meditation didn’t go much better. I chose a quieter time but my brain kept jumping in with BIG ideas and tiny worries: book topics, house tasks, and items on my to-do list marched before me as I chanted the word of the day.

I go through the same routine when I write. Jot down a few sentences, worry about the emails and phone calls I haven’t returned, and piece together another sentence. Each time I turn back to the page, I win a small battle. Writers, remember: we gain the ability to focus on writing, just like we gain the ability to meditate by trying repeatedly. Every time we return our focus to the words or the breath, we’re building strength.

Remember Aristotle’s oft-quoted wisdom:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.

So here’s the tip for today: If you want to be something new, then act on it. If you want to meditate, then spend time paying attention to your breath. If you want to be a chef, cook. If you want to be a writer, write.

Don’t worry if it’s hard or if you have trouble paying attention. Just keep doing it.

Your thoughts? Add your comments, questions, and suggestions below!

4 Responses

  1. marie

    Whether writing for fun, social or work, it takes sitting down and being purposeful, for me. By purposeful, I mean undivided attention even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Once I begin to write a few things down, no matter how inadequate they seem at the time, they give me a starting place where I can edit, expand, or completely rewrite. The sitting down and being purposeful provides the commitment I need to believe I have begun. When I’m ready, or have procrastinated long enough, those first thoughts are able to generate a theme or at least a path to begin.

    Time away – whether through sleep, excercise or other activities allows my subconscious to go to work and polish what I’ve started. It is an enthralling process, when you feel you’ve really expressed your point. Good luck!

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