Here is a simple way to build your attention focusing skills . . . and all it requires is a television and a few minutes of undisturbed time. This is all you need to do:
- Find a television program where the speaker talks for several minutes at a time without interruption. Political speeches are generally easy to find and can be particularly challenging to listen to.
- Pay attention to both words and body language. Give the speaker your full attention. Each time your attention drifts, refocus on the speaker. Don’t get discouraged if at first you can only stay focused for 15 or 20 seconds at a time. It will get easier with practice.
- The goal is to continue regular practice sessions until you get to the point where you are able to stay focused for ten minutes or longer. (It is important that you actually time yourself. It is easy to over estimate time when you are trying to listen.)
Those members with experience in meditation or the martial arts will recognize this type of practice. Attention focusing is a mental discipline and requires practice – regardless of the context.
Most of us are far better at talking than we are at listening; however, listening is a skill we can all learn. All it takes is a desire to be a better listener and practice, practice, and more practice. To learn to focus attention on a speaker without judgment or internally generated thoughts will for many be the hardest part of the Common Tables experience, and yet it is perhaps the most important skill you can bring to your table.