I've been noticing lately that my attention span has been getting shorter―surprising considering how much I practice and teach yoga. I thought at first that it might be a by-product of aging, but I think the culprit is more likely to be how much I'm on my iPhone or computer. I asked my 15-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son (avid phone/computer users) if they'd noticed the same thing, and they both admitted they had (which is especially worrisome as school starts.) It's hard to pay attention to what's at hand when, as law professor and author James Kwak says, "the accumulated knowledge of the world is three seconds away all the time."
The more we pay attention to something, the more it grows, whether it's our yoga practice, our schoolwork, our garden, or our relationships. And the more attention we truly pay to something, the more easeful it becomes. My husband, Burke, was telling me about his tennis game yesterday. He said that for the first hour or so, he was really able to focus. He could see the whole court, he could see his racquet hitting the ball, he rarely missed; he was in the zone. As he grew tired, he was unable to sustain his attention and the game became much harder.
Humanities professor and author Alan Jacobs wrote:
Everything begins with attention.
What must you pay attention to?
What may you pay attention to?
What must you refuse attention to?
The answers might or might not be easy but the practice is surely difficult. A good beginning might just be to practice paying attention to what you're paying attention to.