‘Concentrate!’ we’re told. But is this always wise?

Concentration was always celebrated at school…and encouraged.

‘Concentrate, Parke!’

And concentration, or focus, is good for getting things done.

As Alexandra Horowitz writes: ‘It eases our cognitive overload by allowing us to conserve our precious mental resources only for the stimuli of immediate and vital importance, and to dismiss or entirely miss all else.’

Concentration gears us to notice only what is relevant now, which can be helpful and necessary.

But while this might make us more efficient in our goal-oriented day-to-day, it also leads us into a life of ever-narrowing awareness.

We don’t notice so much – whether it’s the sky line, our feelings about last night, the sadness of our colleague, the architecture in our road, the tension in our shoulders, the child at the bus stop, the door in the wall, the hum of the lawnmower or the bird on the park bench.

Often in the day, we’re asked to close down on everything but the task.

But sometimes, quite deliberately, it’s good to open up to everything, whether in the office or on the way to Tescos… to listen to the many languages of the world around us.

We don’t focus on what’s relevant; instead, we simply notice what is, in all its rich variety.

Sadly, no teacher ever shouted at me, ‘Notice what is, Parke!’

But it can be so refreshing, just for a moment, to step out of my cramped task-centred world…and notice.

It’s like a holiday for the spirit.