Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Dear Fonzie,

I just posted this on the Bap site. Sorry I don't have a systematic approach, either always double posting or cross posting or whatever. Just felt like putting this here too.

Stay cool,


Concentrate [by Jennifer Michael Hecht]

IMG_9466 Dear Bleaders,

I got the idea for this post while playing Bejeweled Blitz.

Have you ever tried meditation? Of course you have, right, if you’re sufficiently inclined towards transcendence as to read a poetry blog, you have in your life, sat quite still and tried not to think.

There is a great Eastern description of meditation, and here I liberally paraphrase, that says asking the mind to stay focused on one thing is like asking a monkey to stay perfectly still, if the monkey has been given coffee and vodka, is being menaced by a bee, is surrounded by good-looking jumping monkeys, while AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” is being blasted at the monkey enclosure.

It is downright hilarious how hard it is to get the mind to settle down. Give it one minute, right now (at the end of this paragraph). Think only of your breath and count, with each exhale, one number. Count from one to ten and back again. As soon as you notice you are not thinking about your breath and one to ten, go back to one. Look at the clock where you are sitting, add two minutes to the time, whatever it is, then close your eyes and start counting breaths and thinking of nothing else. If you think it’s been about two minutes open your eyes and check – go back in if it’s not time yet. This way we’ll get you to stay in for at least a minute. Go. Okay, we’re back. Hard wasn’t it?

It is equally hard to remember, for a full minute, that you are playing Bejeweled Blitz. Matching the shapes is easy. There’s always a match on the board to be made and usually two or more. They are easy to see. The only difficulty is remembering to keep doing it, as fast as you can. A few matches in, you fall into a rhythm and the rhythm generally runs down. Every once in a while an accidental cascade puts a very fast rhythm in your head and you are able to match shapes fast for a good few seconds before again a part of your mind simply gets up to go check the fridge.

If you could remember you are playing, you’d win. If you could keep thinking of only the game.

At the end of each game, whatever your game may be, when your game ends, ask yourself immediately: What am I thinking about?

It will be something other than the game.

Ask yourself to put your whole attention on the game. If your lucky you’ll do it for the first three shape matches, then off most of your brain will go. There’s you landing wet at the end of a minute, laughing, having been treated by your brain to a short conference on what to bring to the PTA pot luck or the derivations of Pi.

We have developed in such a way that our brain’s default setting is multitasking. If you would like to do something well, all you have to do is learn to focus on that one thing. Stop thinking of other things while you are doing it. I showed a few lines of this post to my husband John Chaneski while I was just hashing this up and he said, “It’s like acting.” And I was like, wow yeah, it’s true. Good actors are just people who can remember, for a sustained period, that they are supposed to be being someone else.

Well, go concentrate on something. Let me know how it goes.

How do I love thee? I love the to the breadth and depth and height my soul can reach when feeling out of sorts with the ends of being and ideal grace and posting out of turn, on a Tuesday.



ps. Perhaps you'd like to read a book? The Happiness Myth.

pps Stacey I love when you talk to me in the comments! I'm not sure why I don't always manage to respond, but I just wanted to say I like it and am mulling over any questions you put to me there.

ppps I'm doing this this week. It is going to be fun. If you are in Omaha, come talk with me about the meaning of life, k? And come up and say hi.

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