As the saying goes, “God is in the details.” Meditation is the key to unlocking the door to awareness and sustained focus, which are essential to improving attention to detail.
When we’re refreshed, relaxed and enjoying a task, it’s easy to focus on the details. But there are many times when we’re distracted, frustrated, tired and even bored - and the details escape us.
Life is made up of moments; and it is made up of details. So missing the details can mean you miss out on some of the most wonderful aspects of life. And on a purely pragmatic level, missing the details can lead to failure, or even disaster.
You probably remember a few instances where you later wished you had paid attention to the details. As they say in carpentry, “measure twice, cut once.”
Studies done on mindfulness meditation conclude that practitioners exhibit greater focus and longer attention spans than non-meditators. One such study found that meditators are easily able to enter the alpha brainwave state (slower than the typical waking ‘beta’ state), which allows for better concentration and the ability to tune out distractions.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that eight weeks of meditation training produced the ability to adjust their brainwaves in order to screen out distractions. This is a fascinating scientific look at the power of the mind to influence the activity in the brain (the mind being the “driver”, the brain being the ”engine” and the body the “car”).
Sustained focus is essential to detail-oriented tasks. Whether distractions come from external sources or from wandering thoughts, one’s attention must be brought back again and again so that details aren’t missed.
Meditation teaches us to focus on a single entity such as an object, a mantra, a sound, or simply the breath. It’s very tempting to listen to our “inner storyteller” as thoughts pop up about every conceivable subject - and it requires a great deal of awareness to recognize that we are engaging in the thoughts, and a great deal of discipline to return to the subject of our focus.
This skill has far-reaching implications in our lives.
Awareness is another skill honed by meditation. Again, distractions are everywhere, and while it can be relatively easy to tune out external distractions, it can be extremely difficult to tune out the mental chatter. But by becoming aware of the mental chatter, we learn to observe without engagement; or to watch without attachment.
The moment we attach to a passing thought, that’s it, we’ve lost our concentration. So the key is to acknowledge the thoughts when they come, and just as quickly release them and deliberately bring the focus back to the task at hand.
Focusing on the moment is another skill that meditation teaches. There is only the now; there is only the object of our focus; and thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow have no place in meditation.
If you are thinking about some drama from yesterday, or some worry about tomorrow, you are not present, and you are not thinking about the details of what you are doing.
Many intricate, beautiful things have been created by people who paid attention to the details. And many more examples of shoddy workmanship exist to prove that attention to detail is a choice, and a learned skill.
We can choose to be fully present and engaged in our task, or choose to let our thoughts be “long ago and far away.”
Meditation helps develop a laser-focused, “present and aware” state, and strong attention to detail.