"Mind, get back here this minute, or you'll get a time out. I'm not playing around."[Yes, I'm arguing with myself again, and I really hope I win this time.]
Focusing the mind is the root to being present. Being present translates to enjoying or experiencing the moment. When those moments are added up, the result translates directly to living. Specifically, it's being alive and being aware of it. My friend, Beatrice Pouligny, a Georgetown University academic and a shamanic healer, sent me this article today about research on the unfocused mind, which I am reposting.
From Live Science
For the sake of your own happiness, don't let your mind wander while reading this article. Setting the mind adrift from the here and now may lead to a worse mood regardless of whether the daydreams or thoughts are pleasant ones, researchers say.
In fact, a wandering mind had a bigger influence on happiness than any other activity a person happened to be doing, according to their new study. Such findings confirm many philosophical and religious traditions, which teach about finding happiness by living in the moment, and train practitioners to resist mind wandering.
Humans have made good use of mind wandering to reflect upon the past or plan for the future, as well as to learn and to reason. But the study also showed that it comes with a powerful emotional cost, despite mind wandering appearing to be the brain's default mode of operation.
"We do hypothesize that it's a cause [for unhappiness]," said Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard University and lead author on the study detailed in the Nov. 11 issue of the journal Science.
Killingsworth and Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert tracked the happiness levels of iPhone users by asking participants about their happiness at random times. Participants rated their happiness on a scale of 0 to 100 and included what they were doing, and whether their mind was wandering beyond the task at hand. (Yes, there is an app for that experiment.)
People's minds wandered almost 47 percent of the time, and were more likely to think about pleasant topics than unpleasant or neutral ones. Yet thinking pleasant thoughts made people no happier than focusing on what they were doing – and unhappiness spiked when thinking neutral or unpleasant thoughts.
Such mind wandering appeared to cause unhappiness even when people were doing the least enjoyable activities, such as daily work. A time-lag analysis suggested that mind wandering caused foul moods rather than the other way around.
Another surprise: Whatever people were doing had only a mild impact on whether their minds wandered, and almost no impact on the pleasantness of the topics they chose to think about. Mind wandering took up at least 30 percent of the time during almost every activity, including playing, exercising, praying and taking care of the kids.
So what was the only exception? Apparently people focus most intensely on making love.
"[Making love] was 10 percent [for mind wandering], which was the lowest," Killingsworth said in an e-mail. "The highest was 'grooming, self care' at 65 percent."