Overload in the Information Age…
These days, every day starts like Christmas morning, with a stack of presents to unwrap. It’s just that they are in my email inbox, not under an aromatic but rapidly wilting tree. The thing is, the real gifts are hidden among garlands of promotional emails from marketing lists I have wandered into, and bling of newsletters that sounded worthwhile. Not to mention social posts, and every other kind of personal and corporate communication. And if it weren’t for the diligence of my spam filter, I may even have won a lottery that I never entered, or inherited one million dollars from a unknown relative on a far away continent…
And that’s just the virtual world.
Our lives today are fast paced, and overloaded with information. Or at least access to it.
Oh, for the days when we waited for a letter to arrive by mail. Maybe today!
Not that the past was perfect. Just a little less insane.
How much energy do you spend filtering through the noise to find the messages you really want and need?
Focus and Memory
Focus comes first. We’ll get to memory in a bit.
If not, remind me.
Focus is the gatekeeper of our attention in a way like memory is a gatekeeper for our intention, our will.
In the West, we tend to think of these functions separately, as things. It’s like they are just pieces of our brain. We have been trained to think materially as if consciousness itself is no more than a trick played on us by the material world sequestered inside the cranial vault. It’s all in our heads, right?
The Eastern view developed differently. That’s probably how Steve Jobs started to “Think Different.” So, maybe we can learn something from the creator of the most valuable brand on the planet.
Beyond the duality of the Taoist Yin/Yang cosmology, the slightly less ancient 5 Element Theory began to unravel the secrets of the development of consciousness. The observations and conclusions offer a precise, and accurate, model from which to ‘think different’ about focus (and memory – I haven’t forgotten).
Remember, this different thinking comes from the same people that figured out acupuncture by meticulously observing the non-local effects of war injuries. You really have to give them credit. We now know that the acupuncture points are locations of neurovascular bundles that create little holographic windows to the interior of the body. The body’s direct current in the extracellular actually flows in exactly the patterns they documented thousands of years ago. But I digress…
Focus, it turns out, at least in my Clinical Theory of Everything, is in the second stage of consciousness. So to fix it right, we should really take a step back, before we take two steps forward into the deepest cognitive recesses of the mind. The first step, underlying focus, is simple awareness. I like the word sensorium. It is really where you, as a sentient being, live. Everything you see, hear, feel, taste and smell lives there with you.
The thing is, when we get stressed by anything, including an overload of bling or information in our sensorium, our sensory fields start to contract. As psychologist V.I. Shipman famously put it, “a person under stress observes less, sees less, learns less, remembers less and becomes generally less efficient.”
Already, you can see the downstream effects of stress or information overload on memory. Another way to put it is “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Try retrieving files (like memories) if they were not originally stored in a meaningful spatial context.
[box type=”success” align=”aligncenter” ]To regain our lost contextual data input, it is essential to breathe. Seriously. When you relax a bit (read: stop multitasking and notice that you still have a biological body attached to your mental software), the body automatically seeks a state of coherence in the breath at a frequency of 0.1 Hz. That’s a full breath cycle every 10 seconds.[/box]
This entrains a harmonic, balanced state in the autonomic nervous system, and the heart chimes in with coherence including a 1 Hz heartbeat. This decimal relationship between the lungs and heart is a state of biological coherence. You are certainly familiar with the power of light in the form of a laser. Well, laser light is coherent light. Talk about focused…
So, that covers the first two steps in the cycle of consciousness according the the 5 Element model. The first is the Metal Element, which is the breath and the sensorium that take in the matter and energies of our environment. The second is the Fire Element, which is where we focus our attention within that field of possibilities. And the flip side of focus, which is just as essential, is the ability to let go, to release our focus. We put our own spin of meaning on our experiences, and we align ourselves with or against those conceptually encapsulated qualia.
Huh? The kinesthetic way of saying that is that you need to stay heart centered so you can identify and focus on the meaningful opportunities for engagement that give you joy, and result in that precious state: a sustainable attitude of gratitude. From the bottom of your heart.
In such a state, the mind is freed to choose with spaciousness and clarity. Or as Thomas Aquinas put it better than I could, “The power of nutrition enables one to exercise the senses and from sensory experience, the intellect gains concepts and so the will is freed to choose.” (~1273 A.D.)
To Be Continued (we haven’t forgotten about the Memory part…)