Sensory Focus Challenge
One of my biggest sticking points in my daily life is that I happen to get stuck in cycles of thought and procrastination that pull me out of the present moment. When I do that, I essentially deny reality: the physical world becomes subjected to the sterilizing nature of my mind, with its words and labels. The physical reality perceived by my senses takes a backseat to the whims of my mind, and, as such, I waste time staying in my head and am not present, leading to bouts of anxiety, lowered energy levels, and, most of all, a feeling of neutrality in my body. The last symptom is the worst, as my goal is to be flying high and feeling good all the time, and being stuck in my headspace instead of absorbing reality and expressing without thought hampers me incredibly. This is such a huge problem for me, I think; I can say all I want about my lack of discipline, but that’s improving and only hurts me minimally. My biggest problem (though it has improved significantly over the past couple of months) is my lack of presence during my everyday life. It’s relatively easy to get in the present during meditation, for example, but during my everyday life I notice my constant thinking and I realize how useless most of it is.
This is why I created this challenge – the Sensory Focus Challenge. This challenge will force me to be live in the present and drink up reality. This will potentially create a bevy of benefits for me, including:
- More consistent good feelings
- Increased expression (being outside my head leads to free-flowing expression)
- Increased productivity due to increased focus on task at hand rather than externalities and decreased procrastination
- More decisiveness and conviction in speech and action (less thinking before action)
- Better memory and quality of work due to focus
The two rules are pretty simple:
1) My focus must be on something my senses can perceive at all times.
Reality is defined by its ability to be perceived by my senses. That is, the physical reality that I deny throughout my life through excessive thought is the “reality” I want to be present in all the time. The needless thoughts in my mind do not constitute reality and thus can be ignored. The sensory perception rule is, at its core, another way to say “be present” – though it is easier to define when I am or am not only focusing on my senses rather than define when I am or am not being present. Before, I could ask myself, “Am I being present?” and my mind could make up a million rationalizations to support that I was being present – even if I wasn’t present at all. This time, I can ask myself, “Am I focusing on what my senses are perceiving?” and I’ll get a clear-cut answer whether I’m being present or not. This will totally eliminate distractions and keep me focused in the present, leading to full-on expression, more decisiveness, better focus, and overall warm, fuzzy good feelings. It’s like getting in touch with your core self. That’s presence.
2) I can only think the thoughts I want to think.
Obviously, I’m going to have to think plenty of times throughout the day – it’s not like presence negates the use of our mind. Rather, it negates the overuse of the mind. I like to think of it this way: when I’m just drinking up my surroundings and my senses, my mind is in standby mode, waiting to be put into action. When I need my mind – to do some math, to do homework, or to write my blog post – it kicks into action, but I can be present and think at the same time. How? I still maintain some concentration on my senses while I’m thinking and devote my FULL attention to whatever the thought is, but let go when I no longer need to think. That way, I stay present with my thought process, but let go as soon as it’s over. While writing this post, I’m trying as hard as I can to concentrate on the feeling of warmth that is my own body and my breathing while also devoting my full intellectual capacity to the post I’m writing here. There is literally nothing else going on in my head right now – just focus on this post and the feeling in my body. Nothing about school, chemistry, or my future plans for this blog. When involuntary thought starts to creep in, I just pull the plug completely on my mind and start again. But with full focus on necessary thoughts, there is literally no space where these involuntary, recursive thoughts can invade. They have no room in my currently full headspace.
The challenge is, of course, living by these things for all my waking hours. I’m shooting for this challenge to last 11 days. Why 11? I don’t know. It seems like a good, unique number to me, and is neither too long nor too short. That puts the final report for the challenge at Tuesday, November 17. Stay tuned, guys, and wish me luck.