Focus is a Practice

Apr 21

Our attention is the most valuable thing we have. Don’t you think?

As a predominantly visual creature, the current state of the world has brought home to me just how distracting this visible world is. The news and social media are shining examples of this right now. All-in-all a rather addictive, overstimulating & spiritually depleting place to rest ones focus.

Whatever we choose to call it, the world is in a process of transformation – of recalibrating itself. What a time to be alive! I recall one of my yoga teachers saying to us teachers-in-training in 2007 that “this time we are living in now is one of the most transformative in human history.” That statement held more potency than I could’ve ever realised back then, yet it stuck all these years. Here we are – April 2020 – experiencing a global paradigm shift together as one – no one is untouched. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. The ancients called it as tapas which literally means “to burn” and refers to the friction of transformation. We simply cannot transform or “up-level” without feeling some sort of rub or discomfort. To feel the burn.

Be intentional with where we rest our focus

What’s important to remember is that we each have a choice to hold the vision, for what is possible if we are going to progress to a positive place. Whilst still making plenty of room to feel the discomfort or burn, to feel those deep emotions. To digest it. To move beyond it.

Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, wrote this so beautifully in his book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ where he said,“the last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” What we choose to focus on determines the experience of our life. No matter what is happening in the world – we can always choose how to respond, what to focus on, what to think, and what to do.

When we allow the eyes to get caught up in the outer appearance of things (sites, screens, comparison, judgement, shiny objects, overindulgence etc), these distractions lead us further and further away from balance and harmony. When we get caught up in these distractions too often, our life force (prana or chi) flows out of us. It depletes us.

Focus is a practice

Every day presents a new challenge (invitation?) to say ‘yes’ to what matters and say ‘no’ to what doesn’t. In these times, this couldn’t ring more true.

Like any other form of training, focus requires effort. When we control and direct our focus – first of the eyes and then of our attention – we develop our concentration and our ability to see things more clearly. In yoga this technique is known as drishti. Drishti is applied to organise our sense of sight, our vision. It serves as both a practice and as a metaphor for focusing our awareness toward a vision of oneness, connectedness. It trains us to see the world as it really is – by removing the distractions, perceptions and illusion/ignorance that obscures this true vision. When we train and develop our focus, our capacity to live from this level of ‘big perspective’ awareness, a more awake life is possible.

Just breathe

Like all yogic practices, drishti uses the gifts of the human body and mind as a starting point for tapping into our full potential, of what’s possible. The simplest place to enter this space of potentiality… is with the breath.

The mind is notoriously busy. Now more than ever it feels! Whenever our ‘monkey’ mind starts to lose focus, the trick is to unhook those thoughts/distractions by bringing our focus back to the breath. Focus takes practice. It’s about training our awareness to focus on the breath and just let our thoughts do their own thing in the background. Again and again and again.

When things get to much – use can use your breath to bring you back to centre – every time. Your breath is your trusted friend. Draw it in and let it anchor you to this moment. To being present. Something as simple as taking three deep belly breaths can take you out of the ‘monkey mind’ and help bring you back into your body.

There are a lot of distractions out there pulling at our attention right now. Practice staying focused. Keep your eyes on the road. Be the gatekeeper of your mind and don’t let any old thought or distraction run the show. Be intentional with where you rest your focus.

How are YOU choosing to think about this circumstance? Let me know – I’d love to hear from you!