Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read, it was easy to get bored and turn to something else. They were frustrated by their desire to stare out of the window, or to constantly check on the time (in their case, with the Sun as their clock), or to think about food or sex when they were supposed to be thinking about God. They even worried about getting distracted in their dreams. Sometimes they accused demons of making their minds wander. Sometimes they blamed the body’s base instincts. But the mind was the root problem: it is an inherently jumpy thing. Jamie Krainer

Today, take a break from thinking you are in any way unique. Enjoy this fun and well grounded article on strategies to cultivate attention. The auhtor offers a nice summary of medieval mental training in a secular format that is well aligned to how cognitive psychology would train the attention today. Turns out she is a historian, not a psychologist. Her analysis of ‘tough’ strategies raises the important issue of lifestyle choices and how these can impact the ‘jumpy thing’.


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