Dealing with Distraction...

Focus in the midst of distraction

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:40

Researchers have now identified some of the common mental processes that mark out elite athletes. And one of the most intriguing aspects appears to be a phenomenon known as the "quiet eye." It is a kind of enhanced visual perception that allows the athlete to eliminate any distractions as they plan their next move.

Intriguingly, “quiet eye” appears to be particularly important at times of stress, preventing the athlete from “choking” at moments of high pressure. It may even lead to the mysterious “flow state.” The same laser-sharp focus can help doctors maintain their focus as they perform surgery, and it is of increasing interest to the military.

Kinesiologist Dr. Joan Vickers began to suspect the secret of extraordinary performance lay in the way that elite athletes see the world. She hooked a group of professional golfers up to a device that precisely monitored their eye movements as they putted. She found an intriguing correlation: the better the player, the longer and steadier their gaze on the ball just before, and then during, their strikes. Novices, by contrast, tended to shift their focus between different areas of the scene for shorter periods of time.

The general idea that you should “keep your eye on the ball” is well-known, of course. But this suggested something more intricate, with the precise duration of the gaze correlating with an objective measure of sporting success. **

What distracts you during prayer or quiet time? Where does your mind flit when the intent is to focus on Jesus, his heart and words? Apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth that "I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ."

Like Martha or Corinthian Christ-followers, we all deal with distractions. In Luke's story, Mary is our example: sitting quietly at Jesus' feet, soaking in his presence, listening intently. Whatever tends to lead your thoughts astray from pure devotion to Christ must be dealt with. Refocus, come back to Him, make a list of things to do later, and set it aside to resume the "Mary position." It's not about golf, but about hearing our Lord's voice and resting in his presence.

** David Finch, Oakland, Oregon; source: David Robson, “Why Athletes Need a ‘Quiet Eye,’” (6-29-18)

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