I am a big fan of the author Steve Taylor. He is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University in London. I first read his book Waking From Sleep a few years ago then Out Of The Darkness. Great books that I enjoyed very much and learned a lot from. His most recent book Back To Sanity looks at the psychological disorder of the human existence. It's a very interesting read on the madness that we call normal life. I recently had the pleasure of taking an online course with Steve based on the book Back To Sanity. The reason I am writing this is just to pick one small point that sticks out to me from the coarse. The Three A's.
The Three A's are Absorbtion,Abstraction,and Awareness. This is what Steve categorizes as the three states of being.
-Absorption=In an activity or in a distraction
-Abstraction=Immersion in thoughts inside your head
-Awareness=PRESENCE=Being aware of your experience in the present moment
I bring this up because I am amazed at the fact that most of us spend upwards of 95% of our day in either Absorption or Abstraction and only roughly 5% in a state of Awareness. Think about it. We are absorbed in our work or some activity like talking on phone,texting,watching TV,web browsing,or Facebook. Or we are in a state of Abstraction which is the constant stream of thought chatter that relates to past or future. The aggravation of what happened yesterday or last year and the anxiety that comes from the thoughts of what needs to be done tomorrow,next week and so on. It's just worry about some fictional mind made tomorrow. How often are we totally in the moment? Ask yourself what percentage of the day is spent in each of these states. When was the last time you really tasted a meal? Taking time to chew and enjoy every bite. Paying attention to the aroma and the texture. Do you feel the water running down your body in the shower and really smell the soap and feel the changes in temperature while enjoying the sound of running water? The fact is that we are present in emergency situations,danger or doing something dangerous and of coarse sex. This is why many off us including myself are drawn to dangerous things like riding a sportbike at 150 mph. Our thought chatter stops and we are present because we might die if we aren't. We spend most of our time in a state of 'Elsewhereness'. This is the term Steve uses in the book. Take a moment and think about what percentage of your day is spent in each state.
Being in a fitness and health & wellness field,this really stuck out to me as a serious problem and a huge hurdle for people striving to live a healthy life. That's why I have implemented exercises and small reminders to clients and to myself to help build healthy habits for becoming more aware. Steve explains that we need to swap Absorption and Abstraction for AWARENESS and swap Elsewhereness for PRESENCE! I know it's much easier said than done,but this is a practice and physical/mental training that takes time and daily practice for your brain to build these new habits. Although it takes time to build this way of looking at things and experiencing life this way,to become present has nothing to do with time. You can become present right now! Once you start having these little glimpses and see how much more colorful life is,the gaps ofpresence will get longer and longer. The first big step is acknowledging the issue and accepting that it exists in most of us. Then we can make a conscious effort to change our way of thinking.
That all being said,what activities bring you into a state of presence? Write them down and try to enjoy those activities more. An almost unanimous consensus with the people taking the coarse was how helpful outdoor activities in nature are. That is exactly the reason I do so much of my training outdoors in a green environment. For me it brings me into a state of presence and a clarity of mind that helps me focus on what I am doing instead of my mind constantly wandering. Next thing in controlling absorption would be to cut back on activities we have no true need for.
"Do nothing witch is of no use"
Sitting in front of a TV for hours on end or screwing around on social media all night is a waste of life. I know in this day and age we need to do a lot of these things which I am learning the hard way for business and so on. It's much more productive to do your work and then leave it behind.
Then we have abstraction which is a constant flow of thoughts that drives us all crazy. A helpful tool that Steve gave me in class was what he calls the 'gentle mental nudge'. It's a tool to help you back to presence when you sense yourself getting lost in thought chatter.
In conclusion we can all use a little more peace in our lives and a little more nature and less technology. Life is meant to be experienced not lived through our iPhones and our Facebook life. We have forgotten how to really live. The simplicity of a nature walk without our cell phones in our faces is a lost art. Next time you are outdoors in a park leave your phone in the car. No music or texting. Just enjoy your surroundings and put all your attention into your sense perceptions. What you see,hear,smell,touch,etc. Don't label anything just take it all in. Feel your breath every step and let everything else go. You will be amazed at the peace and tranquility you feel. The health benefits alone are too numerous to list.
I highly recommend checking out Steve Taylor's books. They are a very eye opening read and very helpful in giving us some great tools for a more enjoyable life experience,psychologically and spiritually. You can find all his books and information on Steve's web site-stevenmtaylor.com.