What Chinese calligraphy can teach us about how to be mindful and deliberate

I’m trying to concentrate more and multitask less, because when I focus, I’m more productive and the quality of my work is better.

When searching for new ways to become more mindful, I stumbled upon this text by Chiang Yee, a Chinese artist, poet and calligrapher. It’s about the role your body posture plays in being deliberate and focused:

“When an archer has thoroughly sighted his target, poised his body, grasped his bow firmly, and aimed accurately, the arrow will almost certainly hit the mark. So with the calligrapher: with the mind concentrated, the body upright and balanced, the brush vertical, the dot or stroke should fall exactly on the appointed place” (Chiang Yee, “Chinese Calligraphy” Harvard University Press.)

This quote made me understand that concentration on every task has to be both mental and physical. This is true even for activities that seem not to engage your body as much, like thinking or typing on your computer. From now on, when I do research, sketch, write, drive, cook and garden, I will think about my body posture and make sure it’s right for the task. This will help me stay concentrated and be more productive.

Here are some other tricks that help me stay more focused and mindful:

1) I put my phone on “do not disturb” most of the day. My phone should not be in charge of me, I should be in charge of my phone.

2) Each time I get an urge to get distracted from a task at hand and do something else, I don’t act on it. Instead, I visualize that this distracting thought enters my head through my forehead and then exits through the back of my head and disappears. This trick works 70% of the time, which is pretty damn good.