I recently came across an interesting book entitled The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. Based on some fascinating research on the brain through scanning, Carr suggests rather strongly that there is good reason to believe that our capacity to process and absorb large amounts of information from a wide and diverse array of sources is actually increasing. That means are brains are working better to capture all the various sound bytes we hear and read daily, if not hourly. Now, here’s the bad news to the story. It seems that the mental downside to this capacity is our ability to focus on larger readings and presentations. In fact, just this morning I was talking with a colleague who is a Keynote Speaker for large pharmaceutical conferences and he shared how difficult it is these days to capture and hold onto an audience’s attention for more than even a few minutes. Our capacity to think is broad, according to Carr, but shallow.
This does not bode well for those of us who are interested in and find great value in the spiritual and academic disciplines of reading, meditation, and stillness. It also means the average Church attender in the pew has a challenge in any homily or sermon that goes beyond 5 or 10 minutes. Perhaps we need to think more carefully about these changes and consider how we might bring balance back into our lives. Here are a few suggestions:
Purchase or download a book and try to finish reading it within a one-week period, devoting about an hour daily to the exercise, avoiding the temptation to move onto other literature in the process.
Take 10 minutes a day and practice the art of being still. Close your eyes, relax, breathe deeply and be still.
Try the ancient practice of Lectio Divina. Just locate a single passage from the Scriptures. Read only one verse and concentrate on one or two words or a phrase. Consider what the passage means to you. Meditate on the passage.
Take an inventory of your daily and weekly rituals, looking for the ways in which you focus, concentrate, meditate, and take time to learn and grow.
I hope these ideas are helpful and all of us can grow deeper in our understanding, faith, and relationships.