The Unfocused Mind @ Work: Mind Wondering Around While Reading

As part of The Study Game, I was reading Judith Butler’s work entitled Bodies That Matter this morning. The Study Game refers to the exercise I perform where I retrace and relive the years I have spent in graduate school by studying the texts I have read one course at a time.

Like Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity, Butlers work on Bodies That Matter is very difficult to understand. I did not fully grasp the ideas conveyed in these text when I have first read them while still in graduate school and little has changed since then. As I revisit these texts, I still do not understand them.

As I have said, I was reading Bodies That Matter this morning and to put it via Candidly, I do not have any clue what Butler was talking about or at least I find it difficult to discern the connections of the different ideas being addressed in her work. I can sense a barrier almost so palpable between myself and the text. It is like hearing a conversation in a different language. When we do not understand the language being spoken, we hear a nose instead of a conversation.


Even though I do not fully grasp the idea imbricated within the text I was reading, I kept reading anyway. I set my Pomodoro app to 25 minuities per session and whether I understood or not, I designated two sessions reading this particular text.

While I was reading the text, my mind was somewhere else, which defeats the purpose of the Pomodoro technique. The point of the Pomodoro is to help the user focus on the designated task within a designated time. Clearly the text do not have my undivided attention. Am I not doing the Pomodoro correctly? Am I just wasting my time? I think not.

As I try my focus to the text in front of my, the back of my mind and my peripheral vision – as it were – are at work and they work beyond my control. It was not about reading the text – at least not only the text alone – but also what happens aside from reading the text. I was day dreaming. But it was not just an idle fantasy. Rather, the back of my mind was mapping-out the article I am hoping to write this year based on the research project I have conducted while in the graduate school.

All of a sudden, the article is starting to take form. New case studies and approaches come into mind. Different pathways which have been closed before begun to open up. In other words, while reading a text I do not understand, my mind has already commenced writing even before my hand grabbed the pen.

Reading and continue reading text we do not understand is not always a waste of time. It can also be meditative which allows our subconscious performs its magic. It is not always about the object of our focus but the object of our focus can trigger so that what is in the background can come to the fore. This also happens while I walk or bike. Sometimes, ideas emerge and take their form when they are not the focus of my attention, say while doing chores with my hand such as cleaning the house, washing dishes, or gardening.

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