Day 242 – Today, we are faced with a somewhat rhetorical question: “Why this emphasis on sustained attention?” Why, indeed? Who really cares? Is it worth the effort? What is the point? Nevertheless, sustained attention in my classroom looks like engagement, like curiosity and a billion questions (because, you know, I’m teaching third grade this summer), like a dimmed overhead light that suddenly bursts into a million lumens. It is never a sigh, whisper, eye roll, or bathroom break. It wasn’t a fidget spinner in middle school this year, although I have to stay some of my “boys” did make good use of them in curious and engaged ways. In short, sustained attention is presence and “time-on-task” in educational language. The reasoning with which Rolf answers the question is yoga, of course, but is applicable to just about any venture, the classroom no less.
Rolf discusses the ongoing problems of pondering both the past and the future, pointing out: “No doubt your emotions will follow the ebb and flow of your thoughts with happy memories producing good feelings and unhappy ones giving rise to bad feelings. The emotions are authentic, but the circumstances contrived.” In this way, always thinking about the past and future in absolutely everything we do (or escaping it through television, Internet, perhaps even books) constantly leads our emotional lives to be “held captive to the endless soap operas produced by our vivid imaginations,” or escape mechanism. Yoga anchors us to the real. Rolf recommends that we “spend a little time being really connected to something you love,” such as family, work, or “your body floating in asana.” He asks us: “Grounded in the real, how do you feel?”
The process to sustained attention takes a concerted effort to make time. No matter what kind of day I have, if I go into crossfit, I feel better and all those past and future thoughts, disappear and the emotional rollercoaster that goes with that parks. I have noticed this with running, hiking, communing, and yoga, as well. And, now meditation is one of these tools. Rolf writes: “Anchored in the real, we can evolve and grow.” We must practice! Boredom is easy; engagement is not. There are certainly days when yoga or meditation are much harder to do and days when I miss a lot of lifts because my mind is elsewhere. And yet, I am better for all of this. Anchored in the real, we evolve and grow.
Might be my teaching mantra next year.