When I first started doing yoga I was a fidgeter. The sweat, the heat, the energy racing through my body, the uncomfortable sensations, my moving towel, wanting to drink all the time… fixing my shorts….all got my attention. What yoga taught me was the art of mental focus. By learning to feel all these things without reacting to them and staying with my breath and my gaze… the fidgeting slowly fell away.
Savasana was the hardest… the urge to get up an leave was so strong. So I challenged myself to stay for 10 breaths before getting up…. then 20 breaths.The more I practised doing this the less the urge came and the stillness was easier to find. What I discovered is that things pass, feelings change and it possible not to get swept off with every passing thing. Through doing this my entire practice changed and I would say my attitude to life also.
This is why I try to teach focused discipline in my class.. because I know and understand both how powerful and transformative training this ability can be for the mind and the being. Like physical strength the mind is a muscle that needs to be worked and also made more flexible.
To actively direct our mental focus on only one thing at a time means to not focus it on all the other things that are constantly around us. It means to have the ability and also the discipline to say yes to only the most important thing at this moment and no to all the other distractions.
It removes a lot of the clutter and the noise and creates space and balance.
Yoga and meditation use the devices of breath and gaze to help us do this because focus and attention are totally intertwined. Through placing the mind’s attention on the breath and fixing the eyes on one spot (inward during meditation, outward on the drishti point of the pose in yoga) the movement and activity of the mind is greatly reduced and your focus goes way up.
Yoga is a practice that requires great concentration to do properly and do well. For example, any kind of balancing posture is about 20% ability and 80% mental focus.
In life too, the ability to put all your mind’s power onto something, dramatically improves your output and the result. By learning how to focus your mind on a single task it is amazing how effective you can be – intention transforms while attention creates.
It also makes us feel more content, more centred and connected to the present moment… so we’re able to make better decisions and use less of our resources.
If our focus is continuously getting caught from the outside rather than being directed from inside, it creates a constant state of reaction rather than response. While is it good to get feedback from the outside, if it gets out of balance you find yourself stressed, drained and often unfulfilled. As the influence of our environment (including people) gets bigger, we’re less in control of our lives and we’re not choosing where to place our energy, which in turn burns us out.
Staying focused for a length of time is the dynamic that gets you into he state of “the zone”, the optimal state for any human being. This is when you become at one with the thing you are doing, time vanishes, effort disappears and you forget everything else. You feel you have some kind of extra power and everything just flows. You’re super present. This is when you’re the most creative, effective, productive and harmonious.. in this state.
Actively directing our mental focus and developing this skill to a high degree, has a direct relationship to our level of success and also joy and fulfilment.
This is mindfulness training.. how to bring yourself back to the present moment to find more happiness and fulfilment in your life and existence.
Be aware & stay focused!