I realized tonight that thinking has become a lot like surfing the Internet. I go online, and I can go through a hundred links in an hour, gathering information in little bites. Every page links to another page which links to another page which links to another. It's easy to follow such a long train of links that I can't remember where I started.
It's like when you're thinking about something, and one thought leads to another until you can't figure out how your brain got onto the current subject. I'm usually able to backtrack through the connections my brain has made until I remember what thought I'd originally begun on. And online, I am usually opening new links in new tabs, so it's easier to keep track of. But lately, I've discovered, I can't hold a thought for more than a few seconds.
Being online so much, my brain has become so used to receiving information in small interconnected increments that when I try to actually focus on an idea, I can't do it. My brain wants to follow the next link rather than stay on the current page. The only time I can focus on one thing for more than a minute is if I listen to a song and really concentrate on it; read something I am physically holding in my hands; or watch a movie--and even then, I sometimes find my mind following neurological links to other things based on what I'm watching, reading, or listening to. (I have often discovered I've read three paragraphs and have no idea what I've just read, because I've been thinking about something else from three paragraphs ago.)
It is difficult in this age of fast-moving, constantly changing, easily obtainable information, to just stop and focus, to meditate on one subject, even to pray and not have my mind wander. I was talking tonight with a friend about Paul's exhortation in his second epistle to the Corinthians to "take every thought captive." But lately my thoughts have been like sheep without a shepherd. It's not just a matter of arresting mental intruders. It's a matter of keeping the good ones that I already have from going astray and getting lost in the mountains. It's like I need pack of a mental border collies (and by that I mean collies of the mind, not deranged collies).
Perhaps spending less time on the Internet and more time retraining my thoughts to be able to focus and meditate is in order. But how is one to do it with all this noise?