We hear a lot these days about ‘being present in the moment’, we don’t hear so much about its opposite ‘being somewhere else in the moment’.
It can take many forms. It gets called ‘being distracted’, ‘absent-mindedness’, ‘day-dreaming’, ‘switching off’… We all know how to do it and, left to our own devices, we automatically drift into a short period of ‘being somewhere else’.
We have, designed into us, a mechanism called the Ultradian Rhythm (the Basic Rest and Activity Cycle or BRAC). Every 90-120 minutes we slip from an outwardly focused (activity) state , to a 20 minute phase where we become withdrawn and are more prone to introspection. These two states are governed by the functioning of the central nervous system, and correlate with physiological changes as well as a slightly altered mental state.
Though this is till contested in some quarters, daily experience tells us that it makes sense. We can only hold concentration for a limited period, and we all know times when we lose focus and need to take a break. The break doesn’t have to be a long one, and we return to our task refreshed. It is during this ‘down time’ as I call it, that spontaneous creativity and problem-solving often occur.
We can override it, of course, and that’s where stress and pressure come in. Too much overriding – ignoring our natural need to take a break in line with the demands of our mind/body – costs us dearly. Over extended period it can become illness (when people consult me for stress-related problems the first thing I do is teach them a relaxation process, which is often enough to correct the problem).
We all know how to switch off and go somewhere else. To ‘be present in the moment’, we only need to listen to the basic rhythms of our body, and go with the flow.
Rossi, L., Nimmons, D., (1991), The 20-minute Break: Reduce Stress, Maximize Performance, Improve Health and Emotional Well-being, Zeig,Tucker & Co,USA.