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ATTENTION

Cindy Maddera

I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book for three months. I finally finished it this week, but it took me forever. It was not a difficult read or a boring read. I just lacked the attention span for reading anything more than a paragraph. I should say ‘lack’. It took me a whole day to read an article on Split-Sex animals in the science section of the New York Times. Sure, there were times I was actually doing my job, but one article should only take a few minutes to get through. I am distracted easily and unable to focus on just one thing. If I’m staring at the blinking cursor for more than a minute while trying to write anything, I’m off scrolling through the list of “people I might know” on Facebook and saying to myself “How do I know that person?” It is a very inefficient use of my time. I even double booked myself for events on Saturday because I can’t pay attention to dates.

I told Dr. Mary all of this last night and she did that thing that therapists do and asked me “why do you think you think that is?” Except when I was unable to answer that question because I was suddenly distracted by the fact that her orchid that sits on the windowsill is still without blooms, she answered it for me. She said “It seems to me like you’ve entered this year differently than most. You usually have an agenda for the year, like your picture a day or a task of some sorts. But you didn’t make a plan for this year.” So…this is what I look like without a plan or an agenda. My whole life has been about plans and agendas. As a child, I knew what I was doing down to the minute of every day. Piano/music lessons on Mondays. 4-H on Tuesdays. Wednesday was church and youth choir. Dance on Thursdays. Fridays were free days until I started marching band. Most Saturdays were planned out as well with contests and 4-H events. My first year of college, I tried to convince my advisor to let me take sixteen hours of classes. I had a plan. He refused to let me take a class at lunch time. He said “You’ll need to eat lunch.” He had a different plan.

Even after college and graduate school, I mapped out my days on a notepad that would eventually get transferred to a lab notebook. I always had a plan. I have always had some sort of agenda. And it feels really odd to be without either of those things. I read something in Yoga Journal once that said “You should practice your least favorite yoga poses regularly.” I am always encouraging students to take their practice off of their mat and apply it to their daily lives. Except I’m thinking about the physical aspects of the practice. How we stand. How we sit. How we tend to cross our arms in front. I forget to consider the mental side of the practice. Maybe being without a plan is the mental yoga pose that is my least favorite pose and since I have never really practiced it at all, it is the hardest pose and I hate it. I don’t really hate it. I am just not comfortable in this pose of no-plan-asana. Two months into it kind of feels like holding forearm plank for three minutes.

This is what I have noticed. When I do my usual Saturday routine of breakfast and writing in the Fortune Cookie journal, I end up writing so much that I fill up the page and the margins. Most of the time I haven’t even gotten to the point of the story before I have run out of room. These are mornings that I don’t get my phone out of my bag or have a computer in front my face. I am without my usual convenient distractions and I end up spinning a yarn with such focus that my mug of coffee goes cold. What if plans and agendas are also convenient distractions that I am just so accustomed to that I don’t see them as distractions? Maybe I am learning something about convenient distractions. Maybe I am learning to settle into something other than the couch. Holding forearm plank for thirty seconds used to be torture. The same was true for holding it for an added thirty seconds. Building up to two minutes was work, but my body got used to it. That’s what I need to do. I need to get used to being without an agenda or a plan.

Then maybe no-plan-asana will get to be a bit more comfortable.