If you ask people when they get their best ideas, they say things like in the shower, washing dishes, while running.

These are usually separate activities, although I suppose you could experiment. Honey, I’m in the shower! Please bring me the dishes—also my running shoes.

My point: good ideas often pop up while not thinking.

Except, you can’t really stop thinking—you and I have thousands of thoughts a day. But you can detach from the incessant chatter.

“Lose  your mind,” said psychiatrist Fritz Perls, “and come to your senses.” Put another way, pay attention, even for a minute or so, to here-and-now sensations.

Right now, for example, I’m going for a long walk. Exercise, I used to tell my kids, solves about 20 problems, 10 of which you never knew you had. (One problem they did know about: me, nagging about exercise.)

When you walk, try adding a here-and-now, sensory focus. My usual focus is listening to music, but today, after 10 minutes, my music app, Spotify, dies. It just dies.

Which triggers a few thousand thoughts about Spotify.

I revert to my back-up focus: counting breaths. It’s simple, sort of. You count your exhales and when you get to 10, or if you lose count, return to 1.

I’m still having thoughts: It’s freezing out. And windy too! When will this walk ever end? But counting breaths pushes these thoughts to the side.

At least sometimes.

My route takes me to the high school track. High school! Oh, I remember the first time I ever asked a girl out. There were two problems; first, I called late, it was already Saturday night, 7 pm.

“Who exactly are you?” she asked. That was the other problem.

“I’m in your English class.” Which didn’t really explain who I was, so much as where I was.

“I’d love to go out,” she said. “In fact, my date will be here any second . . .”

See what I mean about thoughts? One minute you’re walking around the track, trying to stay present, then suddenly you’re kidnapped by the past, re-living a bad conversation.

After the track, I walk through a cemetery. Where everyone’s dead! Now I’m off to the future which, in a graveyard, doesn’t look so good.

Maybe I should change my route; this one has me racing through time. But of course, that’s the challenge of being present. Time travel—anywhere but here—beckons.

Let’s return to counting breaths. I’ve lost count, so back to 1.

Almost home.

© Copyright 2022 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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P.P.S. Rather just read a book?  Check out You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World. Selected by a Fortune 50 company for their book club, translated into five languages, available in print, kindle, audio.

It has been a long time since I had so much fun reading a business book, but I chuckled almost as often as I highlighted things I wanted to remember . . . He has some great tips for taking a presentation from ordinary to excellent. That chapter alone made me want to buy a dozen of his books and distribute them.”
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PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful.

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