2 trails variation*
humidity: 83% / dew point: 67
*variation = south on paved river road trail/turn around under ford bridge/north on paved trail until I reached the parking lot at 44th and the entrance to the Winchell Trail/up the 38th st steps/north on the river road paved trail/back into the neighborhood at 36th
A run between raindrops. Rain, earlier this morning. Rain expected this afternoon. Everything was green and wet and sticky. By the end of the run, my skin felt like one of those damp pads you use for moistening stamps. Yuck! The dew point didn’t bother too much while I was running because I stopped a few times to speak my thoughts into my phone. Not too many people out on the trails. Quiet, except for the birds, a few kids, an occasional jackhammer.
a noise as a clue
I’ve been thinking a lot about my senses and my brain and how they alert me to what’s around me in the world. Today’s small example: walking up the 38th steps, unable to see what was above me because of all the vegetation. I heard the flash of a distinctive sound: the jingling of a dog collar. The jingling sound was quick, quiet, easy to ignore, but somehow I noticed, and it prepared me for not being surprised when I encountered the dog and their human at the top of the steps.
a new experiment
Still working on my class. Today is about attention, especially passive attention. Before I headed out I listened to a recording of a draft of my lecture so far, then I ran. About 10 minutes in, I started having interesting thoughts about attention and my class and noticing in unexpected and/or passive ways. I decided to stop and record my thoughts. About 4 or 5 minutes later, I stopped again to record more thoughts. Here’s the recording and a transcript:
Wow, I had no idea I said this much!
June 13th, a little over a mile and a half into a run in humid, muggy weather. Between raindrops, I’ve stopped to walk and record this. I’m working this morning on how to describe passive attention or soft attention or being available to seeing or attending to. I was thinking about how moving helps that and that it’s really hard to hold onto a thought. Concentration and will are a difficult thing to do, so it can help train you to do better, to be more effective, in that passive absorption. Because you don’t have a choice, you can’t really pay attention to things.
The other thing I was thinking about, just ’cause this is all jumbled, associated thoughts — I was thinking about how one of the problems with attention is the idea that we have a limited amount, and that we need to use it wisely. It’s a commodity that we spend and that we pay and therefore it’s a limited resource. But, if you think about attention differently, as not paying but giving, and you think about not holding onto or hoarding attention, but growing it or having it epand or letting go or letting it pass through you, it is no longer a commodity or limited resource. It’s something that we can expand and give in more ways than we are.
So, another thing I was thinking about was the connection between passive attention and peripheral sight and how you’re looking to the edges of what you can see. If you’re looking straight ahead, you’re thinking or noticing more what’s happening below you or above you or off to the side, even while you’re looking forward. And I was thinking about how one of the first things the opthalmologist said to me was I’d need to learn to see people by looking at their shoulders [note: to see them through my peripheral vision]. So how does that change what we see and what we can do with that sight?
I stopped recording and started running again.
Okay, I’m about 1/2 a mile, 3/4 of a mile further. I’m by the ravine where the water gushes, or does more than trickle. And that’s because..I think it’s by more houses, and also because it has rained an hour ago. Anyway, I wanted to stop so I wouldn’t forget this. So I was thinking, as I started the Winchell Trail, about how I’m talking a lot about moving and how it can help us tap into that passive attention or these different forms of giving attention, but I’m not talking about being outside, what outside does. I was thinking, if nothing else — and there’s much more — if offers more interruptions, potentially more interesting interruptions, to any focused concentration we might be having. There’s more to be distracted by, or be interrupted by, to listen to….Then I was thinking about how these interruptions and these different modes of paying attention and having all of them, also how it can be beneficial to our work to be outside moving. But it’s also good for our health, and it helps us with our lives, being able to pay attention in different ways. This is not multi-tasking in the way that it’s understood, where we’re expected to do more and more things all at once and be responsible. It’s not multi-tasking, it’s some other way, because we’re not holding onto this attention. I had a word for it when I was running and I’ve forgotten it already.
Okay, I just thought of one more thing: It’s the idea of what I’m doing right now where I’ve kind of in some ways spontaneously deciding I will run and walk then stop and talk and record these thoughts. In some ways, that’s experimenting and spontaneous, but it’s built off of all this training and showing up and building up that endurance and the ability to do that. It makes me think of how in running if you’re wanting to run longer distances, you need to have a base layer. You need to do slow, long, steady miles and build up your body so that it’s able to handle that. But that’s an important part of the process, is building up that base layer, and we can try to translate that into what’s happening with attention and these experiments.
It’s funny how some of what I was saying made much more sense when I was saying it then it does now that I’m listening and transcribing it. Regardless, recording these thoughts was helpful — and thinking about passive attention was too!
Spending time reviewing my thoughts, I’m remembering more. I remember running in a bit of a fog, partly because of the thick air, the gray sky, the deep green, and feeling present on the path, then being interrupted by a kid’s cry, or a bird’s chirp, or the rumble of a jackhammer. I’m also thinking about part of the long poem I wrote this past fall (Haunts) and my description of this space of passive attention:
I go to
to find the
one foot strikes,
When I float.
through time’s tight
Held up by
the air I
spread out, slow.
This space —
no dream, a
was edge is
and what was