A careless brain

Jim Kendall was a cruel practical Joker. When Jim was alive, him and Hod Meyers would have the whole town in uproar.

When I first read Ring Lardner’s short story, Haircut, the character of Jim Kendall and his cruelty never registered in my brain. I barely grasped the story, hence did not think much of it. A waste of time, I thought.

However, since I’m now reading short stories with a student’s mindset, I looked for an analysis of the story as a follow-up to the reading. I found one which seemed a whole lot different from what I could recollect. So I went back to the story again and this time, I paid attention.

What a difference focus makes. Haircut is a marvelous story. It would have been a loss for me to have just dismissed it simply because I did not care enough to pay attention.

Attention span of a gold fish

Our constant trash-feeding of content has turned us into mindless zombies. Who ate our brains?

I recently deleted my Twitter account — ran away from its infinite scrolling maws. Perhaps it helped that mine was not an active account, but after barely a day of itching fingers, I felt perfectly fine.

After the Haircut fiasco, I have been wondering how many such gems I am throwing away from right under my nose simply because I do not have the ability to give my attention completely to something.

Building focus

I started meditating seriously about a year ago. For the first few months I followed the lessons with care. Anapanasati is an extremely pleasant experience and my (virtual) teacher, Andrew Quernmore, had a way of teaching it precisely, stripping away all the mystique and showing it for what it really is – a way of developing concentration and focus.

Meditation is an active practice. There is no room for rumination and getting lost in the spiral of thoughts. You do a lot of work on the cushion, you don’t just sit idly.

I need to get back to Ananpanasati practice again to train my mind to stay. Stay! Wandering? OK, now come back. Stay! This is hard, but feels oh so wonderful when you get glimpses of what focus feels like.

Research is divided on the benefits of meditation. But for me, it works. I feel like Anapanasati is like lifting weights at the gym, only here it’s for the mind rather than the body.

With some more Anapanasati under my belt, perhaps I will open myself up to more opportunities to experience the beauty and joy that are right under my nose.

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