A desire to improve mental focus is one of the most common reasons people want to learn meditation. In fact, improving concentration and focus may be more relevant to your everyday life than you think!
There are two ingredients in a strong ability to focus: being able to direct your attention where you want it to be and keeping it there for a sustained period of time, regardless of anything else that might want to grab your attention.
So, you need a stable, calm focus for things like:
In all of these everyday situations, you just can’t be at your best when your mind is scattered:
You can improve focus at work with meditative techniques
Luckily, focus is one of the core skills you learn through meditation. Each time you sit, you practise both parts of focus: putting your attention where you want it and keeping it there, in spite of any distractions.
When you practise meditation for focus, especially if you’re a beginner, you start to recognize what focus feels like and what lack of focus feels like, too! You learn what your unique distractions are: it could be anxiety, boredom, food, worry, or something else. You’ll learn, each time you sit to meditate, what keeps you from being present and focused.
That’s because meditation is a mirror, and it will show you how your mind operates, but usually outside of your conscious awareness. Once you are aware of it, you can begin to investigate, to understand and, if you want, to change or to heal.
I don’t want you to think that your imperfect ability to focus is a personal failing. There are many pressures in the modern world that make it extra hard for us to see focus as something worthwhile, never mind being able to improve our focus.
First of all, multitasking is very much the norm these days. Add in anxiety and stress, which are increasing in all age groups, even including children, sadly, and the ability to focus becomes harder still.
“Focus is one of the core skills you learn through meditation. Each time you sit, you practise both parts of focus: putting your attention where you want it and keeping it there, in spite of any distractions.”
Furthermore, thanks to the overabundance of information and entertainment channels available to us, we have all become conditioned to high levels of stimulation and information input. Experts say this information onslaught just isn’t healthy for our nervous system: it radically shortens our attention span and although we often turn to these outlets to relax, in fact, they increase anxiety levels. You can see how all these factors could work against your desire to strengthen your focus!
The great news is there are many meditations to strengthen your focus, and help calm your overstimulated brain. Practising meditation for focus also increases your confidence and self-esteem. When you’re able to stay with the task in front of you and bring more of your skills and resources to it, you’re not only more productive, but more satisfied with the process. The journey is as enjoyable as the destination.
You can use just about anything as an object of focus in meditation, but I’ll describe two proven practices you can try. There are many more, but you can do these practices anywhere and anytime you have a few minutes – even when you’re sitting in traffic or waiting at the doctor’s.
So Hum meditation for focus YouTube/Chopra
Meditation for focus through breathing YouTube/MyLife
For both practices, the instructions are the same.
That’s it! This practice is harder than it sounds, however. One reason is the overstimulation I mentioned that makes it quite difficult to focus on one thing for long. Another reason is almost everyone who tries this practice will think they’ve done something wrong when their mind wanders. They criticize themselves and feel reassured of their inability to focus.
“When you practise meditation for focus, especially if you’re a beginner, you start to recognize what focus feels like and what lack of focus feels like, too!”
So, there are two keys to this practice:
Modern culture really doesn’t value being focused on one thing very much. Many of us have learned that more is better and multitasking is best.
If you find that meditation for focus is hard, remember that “it’s not just you.” Give yourself a chance to relearn the benefits of an uncluttered, focused mind for your productivity, well-being, creativity and connections with people that are important to you. •
Main image: shutterstock/WAYHOME Studio
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Ann Vrlak is Founder of OneSelf Meditation and a meditation practitioner for over 25 years. She’s a Certified Meditation Teacher for adults and for children (the best job ever!). She loves to share how the perspective and practice of meditation can support people with their everyday stresses and on their journey of self-discovery.
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