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Does focus distort perception?

October 4, 2018

66 Days of Meditation – Day 4

It strikes me that the more you focus on something the more it distorts. Over the last four days, I’ve had a laser focus on my memory and I fear I may have burned a hole in it. I started this meditation project in an effort to improve many things including mental clarity, mood, patience and memory.

Now, 4 days in, I’m ready to get myself tested for early-onset Altzeimer’s (admittedly , my crappy memory has been a concern for a while).

Yesterday I reached over to get my laptop out of my bag and panicked when I realised it wasn’t there. I was typing on it at the time. That was just one example. There were dozens. I repeatedly lost my train of thought mid-sentence, found myself unable to respond to people because after they’d finished speaking, I couldn’t remember what they’d said and I lost count of the number of items I misplaced. I forgot to do things I was asked to do by the organisers of the training I was running. I even forgot the name of a VERY senior member of the organisation – as I delivered his introduction to 500 people.

The more these things happened, the more anxious I became and the more I worried. Now I’m wondering whether or not I made these ‘symptoms’ worse by focusing on them so intently. The more worried I became, the more the gremlin in my head gnarled and crunched and clawed at me. Instead of being able to listen to someone talking to me, I’d hear the gremlin’s voice in my head. “Your memory stinks right now and it’s not even anything you can fix. Forget meditation. You have a disease. It’s probably from all that wine you drank. Idiot. You should have taken better care of yourself. See? Hell, this guy’s still talking! How are you going to remember it all? Are you even listening? What was the first thing he said?” No wonder my attention was divided! I was using half of it to freak myself out!

Here’s the thing though. There are plenty of possible reasons for the severe decline in memory and none of them have anything to do with my new daily habit of meditation. I did my first meditation the day I arrived at the hotel – where I spent 3 days delivering training. I spent those days in windowless rooms, drinking too much coffee and eating too much junk food. Each night I slept badly and woke every morning before 4 am. On top of that, I was doing things I hardly ever do anymore. I’m a stay at home mum most of the time while these 3 days had nothing to do with parenting, playing, meal preparation or homework. There was no routine, no familiarity.

Had I relaxed and cut myself a little slack, realising how much I was asking of myself, I might have performed better. Instead, I chose to place my cognitive functioning under a microscope during the busiest 3 days I’ve had all year. I came home feeling anxious, stressed and more than a little disappointed with myself.

There are no signs yet that the meditation is having any effect but one thing I’ve learned is that, rather than monitoring every thought I have and every mistake I make, this 66 day experiment will prove more productive if I stop analysing and let things happen as they will.

Sadly, I’m not sure how to do that. I need meditation to calm my mind.

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