Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paying attention

“Mindfulness has to do above all with attention and awareness, which are universal human qualities. But in our society, we tend to take these capabilities for granted and don’t think to develop them systematically in the service of self-understanding and wisdom. Meditation is the process by which we go about deepening our attention and awareness, refining them, and putting them to greater practical use in our lives.”
-From “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” page 10 in e-edition, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Recently, while in the shower, I’ve been thinking about being aware and what it could do for me.
It’s not that I do all of my deep thinking in the shower. The problem is, I often get lost in thought. The time gets away from me, and I take a long shower and end up running late for work, for church, for everything.
I think that’s part of the cause of my tendency towards procrastination. I don’t stay in the moment enough, but lose myself in thoughts of what I’ve done, what I might have done, what I want to do, what I should do, etc.
I think I’m doing this at least partly to keep at bay anxiety in the present moment, or things I want to avoid in the present moment.
And I have some issues about the shower. I worry that I won’t rinse the soap out of the bottom of the shower and leave it slick, and then my husband might slip and fall. I fill my hands with water and splash it around until it looks OK. And I compulsively push the shut-off handle to make sure it really is off. (I have gotten that down to pushing it two times.)
What I’ve read so far about what Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz advocates is that it can help with OCD if you pay close attention to doing what you know will bring about obsessions and compulsions.
Say I have a problem with making sure lamps are turned off (I do). If I am aware that I am turning off the lamp, I create a mental picture I can later pull up to help me deal with anxiety about it.
In other words, I can tell myself, yes, that’s OCD, because I remember turning off that particular lamp. I don’t want to check the lamp again. I have a compulsive urge to check it.
So back to the shower. I found I got through the process faster if I kept telling myself things like, “I’m in the shower. I’m taking a shower. Now I’m going to wash my hair.”
Sounds kind of crazy, but I think it may be helpful to me, not just in hurrying myself through the shower process, but in learning to pay more attention.
Does anyone else have this problem with keeping the mind in the present? Do you see it as a problem? What do you do about it?


  1. Wow...I totally agree with Dr. Shwartz. That's one of the techniques I used when battling the WORST of my OCD (15 years ago). I still use it sometimes (the other day while processing 40 lbs of raw chicken...yuck!) I think it's a phenomenal idea. What a smart man. :)

    I've been thinking about you all day (since I read your comment on my blog) and wanted to share something with you. Have you ever heard of MTHFR? It's a genetic variant that 70% of the tested population has some degree of. I have it. It can cause depression, anxiety, and OCD (among a whole plethora of other things). Once I started treating it (with a methylated form of Folic Acid) I saw HUGE leaps in my recovery. I thought you might want to read up on it. You can check out this link: . I think it would definitely be worth a look for you.

  2. There are times i wonder if I have a mild form of OCD. Take, for instance, my car keys. I'll check my pocket three times before I lock and close the car door. I mean, I know they are in the pocket when I put them in there, but I still check.
    I do this with locking the house, too. I just wonder if its a mild form of OCD or something else because I don't seem to have issues with other things.

  3. Melanie, Thanks for the comment and the info. I'll check it out. I'm glad you found relief from the worst of your OCD symptoms.

    Elizabeth, It could be OCD symptoms, but I don't know. I think the important thing to consider is whether or not a ritual like that is interfering with the rest of your life. Thank you for commenting!

  4. Hi Tina! Yes, I do have problems with being in the present, though I am getting better at it. Usually it's because I'm worrying about something. So instead, I try to pay attention to what is going on right here, right now - like where am I, is the sun out, can I smell anything, is there any background noise, is it warm or cold, etc.

    Sometimes I'm just deep in thought about "stuff" and then I worry I didn't do something right while I was thinking about something else. That will cause me all kinds of anxiety about things like thinking maybe I forgot to shut off the stove, or something similar. I do tend to really pay attention when I'm doing stuff like that now so I don't have to worry about it later!

  5. Sunny, What you're doing is a good idea--using your different senses to help you stay in the present. I'll have to incorporate that into my "toolbox."

    Sometimes, in meditation, I focus on all the sounds I can hear. I imagine my ears expanding a bit and turning like a cat's to hear all the little sounds that I miss when I'm not paying attention. It helps.

    Thanks, as always, for your understanding!

  6. Geez being mindful takes constant practice for me and I find it easier some days than others. It really does seem to help me though - both with difusing from my thoughts and also realizing when I am doing a mental compulsion. Great work!!!

  7. Thanks, Pure O! It's a day to day struggle, but I'm beginning to think it's worth it.


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