So how do you get better focus and concentration?
Long ago, in India, the ancient Rishis and Yogis worked out their way to ‘enlightenment’. And along the way they found something important. It was the ability to focus on an object of their choice.
They were able to develop their focus and concentration to such an extent that if a hundred trumpets were blowing in their ears, they wouldn’t notice it—unless they wanted to.
Now, we’re not all after enlightenment. At least, not yet! But what the yogis learnt about how to focus our minds can be extremely useful.
Know your mind
It all starts with the first step: You have to know your mind. The mind is your organ of awareness just as the eye is the organ of vison, and the ear of hearing.
Sometimes, we’re sitting in a car, or even driving, and before we know it, we’re at our destination. We don’t remember any part of the journey at all – we didn’t see or hear it, because our mind wasn’t attending, our awareness was elsewhere.
It’s our awareness that allows the eye to see, the ear to hear, the tongue to taste, and all the other senses to work as they do.
The States of your Mind
So that’s the first thing, the mind is the organ of awareness.
But the mind can be in any of a number of states of awareness:
- Sometimes, it’s overexcited, just won’t settle down. It might be in a panic, or in a state of high expectation. It races around at a million miles an hour. You could call that the Hyper Mind.
- The mind could be in a state where it’s not noticing much, kind of like in a stupor. This often happens on a drowsy afternoon when we’re desperately trying to keep up with the conversation but failing miserably. That’s the Dull Mind.
- In our normal state of mind, the mind is awake and alert. But it jumps around from topic to topic, not staying very long on any one thing. It can focus, but for short spells. This short spell is what we call the “attention span.” And the state of mind is what the yogis call the Monkey Mind.
- The next state of mind can be called the Focussed Mind. The attention is truly aligned with the chosen object. Other things are noticed, but not allowed not within the circle of concentrated attention. This state of mind can be sustained for long periods of time
- The last and truly centred state of mind is the Concentrated Mind. Only the chosen object is maintained in the attention, and other things are as if non-existent. This is the condition in which the mind has truly been mastered and will do as we bid.
Nowadays, with all the distractions our mobile phones and social media offer, our monkey minds are delighted. They are in their element.
Unfortunately, to do any serious work, we need more than the brief periods of attention that this state of mind can give us. And that’s what the last two states of mind offer.