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We are in a Crisis of Attention

“Besides the benefits that improved management of attention brings to the individual, several social critics and philosophers argue that our society’s decreasing attention is leading us to a new ‘cultural dark age’ in which individuals no longer have the deep, sustained focus necessary for synthesizing and assessing information or expressing complex thoughts. Instead, we live in a world of ‘Present Shock’ in which everything happens now, information is conveyed via memes and tweets, and we no longer have the skill or wisdom to separate the signal from the noise. One could argue that the crises and general malaise we’ve experienced in the West during the past thirty years is, at its core, a crisis of attention. We’re either paying attention to the wrong problems or too distracted by the next “controversy” to solve the issues at hand.  Bottom line: If you want to improve yourself and the world around you, the first step is to learn how to harness your attention. It’s the locomotive of human progress.” — Art of Manliness


 In the following practices, you will observe and evaluate your own attention patterns to understand where you are putting your attention, both intentionally and unintentionally, throughout your moments, hours, days…well… your life.

By auditing your attention—playing with it and exercising its various forms, deliberately, using the activities below, you will build your attention “muscle” which will help you be a more conscious learner so you can know yourself better.

Sit still for a hot minute.

“Meditate” for 2-4 minutes or as long as you want. Focus your attention (selective attention) on your breath going in through the nose and out through the nose. Notice only that. If your attention shifts elsewhere, perhaps to your chest or to the noises in the room, or your feet, or an itch; if it shifts to thinking, or your mind wanders to the past or the future, just notice. Try to bring your attention back to the breath. (It helps to sit up straight or lie down if you want to– it doesn’t matter so much, especially if this is new to you. When people try to “do it the right way” when it comes to meditation, they usually just focus on outcomes rather than the process itself, just the trying. The trying and failing IS THE THING. If you are trying and failing– you’re doing everything perfectly!


If any of this causes feelings– anxiety, fatigue, hyper-arousal, sadness, muscular tension…whatever, just notice. Stop if you get to a point where you feel overwhelmed. Do what you need to to calm down. Later, when you are in an even space, reflect on the experience and write about it. Each time you attend to your attention, your experience may vary! You are different each time you try. People vary in the ways they react and respond to paying attention to attention— it only matters that you TRY it and later reflect and record what happens. NO RIGHT OR WRONG; NO JUDGMENT. JUST OBSERVATION TO LEARN.

Reflect, in writing, on your experience paying attention to your attention in step one above. Describe, in detail, exactly what happened with your attention. Don’t just reflect— Write about it! Did your attention remain focused on the breath coming in and out of your nose? Did it wander? Where did your attention shift towards? How many times did it shift and change?


NOTICE and write about: Did you judge your “performance?” Did you get frustrated or disappointed when your attention fell away from the breath? Or did you remain neutral when your attention shifted? WHATEVER YOU EXPERIENCED (THOUGHT, FELT, BEHAVED) JUST WRITE IT DOWN. THIS IS THE PROCESS AND YOU MUST TRUST THAT JUST BY DOING THIS, YOU WILL LEARN AND GROW.

Reflect on this process of noticing your own attention. Free write about your attention, judgment, and the difference between the two. Any other thoughts related to this activity are welcome! This is your personal learning, so you can write about whatever you want for as long as you want. Even if you are frustrated, angry, confused, unsure of yourself, or think this self-study is a waste of time, write about it because this will help you understand the nature of your relationship to your attention (which is really just how you relate to yourself and your experiences in the present moment)!

If you made it this far….you’re building courage AND focus!
Good for you!

NO…LITERALLY— These things are good for your body and mind.




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A Video Message from LFL!

LFL’s Simple Practices: Listening

So Simple. So Powerful. So Healthy.

Make time to PRACTICE listening!

NEW FEATURE: Simple Practices on the Landscape for Learning for Wisdom & Wellness


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Another SIMPLE PRACTICE for Wisdom & Wellness


Practice listening to yourself today. (You decide for how long or how often, when, where etc…)

What did you learn from listening AND the act of trying to listen to yourself? (No right/wrong answers here– only your experience of your own life. Stop judging!)

Write about the experience. (No wrong way to do this; writing might help you discover what you learned, thus more about who you are!)

*Be honest. Be compassionate.

And remember, it’s okay. Repeated failure is learning!

When you practice listening deeply, compassionately and honestly to yourself, you commune and connect with your whole person and then you can better listen commune and connect with others.

Try Another Simple Practice for Wisdom & Wellness Here!

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NEW FEATURE: Simple Practices on the Landscape for Learning for Wisdom & Wellness


Simple Practices on the Landscapes for Learning are simple, self-study practices that you can implement for wisdom and wellness. One, simple step at a time in your day-to-day life can transform the world! Subscribe to Receive Simple Practices in your Inbox!



To listen (and to be heard) is therapeutic for both the giver and receiver. It’s connection and communion and it appears to be in short supply these days, despite our technological interconnectedness. Reports of loneliness have skyrocketed, so what can one person do, in their own local sphere of influence, in their day-to-day lives to help others feel less lonely?

Practice listening to another person today, giving this person your full, undivided, quality attention which is an act of love. (You decide who, for how long or how often, when, where etc…).

Try listening without thinking about what you are going to say next; if you get distracted by your own thoughts while the person is talking to you, just notice and refocus on giving the person your full attention again. (This may happen repeatedly and it’s ok.)

Try listening NOT to get information from the other person to do anything with it, but simply BE present in the activity of listening. You can enjoy the practice of listening (not striving to be perfect at listening) in a nice, relaxed way. Enjoy the trial and error of your practice; enjoy gift-giving, even if your gift is poorly constructed or irregular, imperfect. Imagine a child tries to show you how much he loves you by making a “gift” for you in his childish, imperfect way. Those gifts are among the most meaningful and most fulfilling!

Simple practice, potentially HUGE impact!

You are giving this person who you commit to listening to a tremendous gift– your attention. Your attention is precious! Your attention is your life! By choosing to direct it and sustain it on another person shows that you value this person, and if you listen without expectations or conditions– well that’s even more powerful. Believe it or not, many people don’t value themselves enough, never mind value themselves unconditionally. They don’t think they “mean” very much. Or they believe that they have to do something or be a certain way to have value. Some don’t believe they are “worth it.” Even the people who appear confident and successful on the outside may not feel that way on the inside. Showing them some quality attention may have deep and lasting impact and matter more than you might guess.

It is an act of unconditional love to give your attention to another person. Cultivating that intentional practice for you will be healthy and provide others with opportunities to accept love (many have trouble receiving).

If the person you choose can fully and consciously accept your attention, great! If not, that’s okay too. If a person is unaware or unconscious of the gift they are being given, try not to be disappointed. We aren’t focused on results. We control what we can– which is our intentional choice to give, to offer another our attention, and we let go of what we cannot control, which is the other person and their choices and behavior etc…

In this modern world, people are very distracted and busy– so much so that they remain unaware of the rich and quality attention that someone may be offering them. If we give them enough opportunities, that will increase the likelihood that they will realize or awaken to the love that’s surrounding them.

Give people (and yourself) as many opportunities to learn as possible.

Rather than focusing on outcomes (putting all our hope and expectations into what will “come of this” act of listening), just focus on and be with the process— the listening. Just listen and enjoy your efforts to listen with your ears, your eyes, your heart, and your whole self.

At the end of your day, write about your experiences with listening. Write about what you learned from your act and efforts to listen deeply to another person, (write about yourself, about the other person, the experience– the connection). Written reflection about your experiences will reinforce your commitment to and appreciation of the moments of your life and help you develop good, life-enhancing habits that help you and others continue to learn and grow more wise and well.

*Be honest & compassionate with yourself as you write.