Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Zen And Attention Deficit Disorder

Recently I was having a discussion about Attention Deficit Disorder with some of my family. I have no data to support this but I think ADD may be one of the most undiagnosed conditions in our society. We live in a culture where we are bombarded with sounds and images. To complicate the matter most of us have jobs that demand multi tasking all day long. With all of this together how can we possibly focus on anything for very long? In my work I am constantly distracted or pulled away from whatever I am trying to focus on. For me, Zen and Mindfulness are not only good spiritual practices, they are an antidote to modern life. Zen is being where you are and doing what you are doing. Mindfulness is another name for this. It is being present to the moment. Being where you are, doing what you are doing, and being present to the moment are very challenging. It is not easy for me to do and I often fail at it. However, like meditation, once you realize that you aren't in the moment, you can return to it. Much of my day I am returning to the moment from wherever I have drifted. My body is always in the moment but my mind likes to wander off. Sometimes I am reliving a pleasant memory. Other times I am day dreaming about an imaginary experience. Neither of these activities are bad in themselves. We all do them. They're only a problem when we are doing them all the time and we are never present to the present. In Buddhist Zazen or various kinds of Christian meditation, we sit and try to calm our minds. Our minds are restless and difficult to tame. We can't sit all day and focus on this calming of our minds. Most of us are people in the world who must be about their daily duties. Some of life's demands require an active mind. An active mind that is focused is a mind that is present to the moment and the demands of the moment. It is a Zen mind. Perhaps the prescription for ADD is Zen practice. Better yet, perhaps Zen practice is preventative medicine for ADD.

Here's a few notes from a short article in yesterday's newspaper.Money magazine states that Americans average the fewest days off and leave the greatest percentage of their vacation time unused. (I am not part of this statistic!) Here's how different countries fare based on the average vacation time in each country.

Americans use 11 of the 14 days they receive.
Germans use 25 of the 26 days they receive.
The British use 21 of the 24 days they receive.
The French use 33 of the 36 days they receive. (I have been to France. Now I want to move there!)

All this leads the magazine to conclude that America is "the land of the free and the home of the Type A personality". (I am the direct opposite of a Type A. I consider myself a crock pot in a country of pressure cookers)

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