Concentration is the power of focusing all one’s undivided total attention akin to the prowess of Arjuna in archery. Focus is on the effort you direct toward whatever you’re aiming or learning at the moment “Concentration is a form of exclusion, and where there is exclusion, there is a thinker who excludes” says Bruce lee
Any skilled endeavor concentration is a prime requirement. For instance even in an intelligent game like chess you need deep concentration and that’s how we find people sitting transfixed between the warriors on the chess board for many long hours forgetting even food. The process here is a quick succession through observing, perceiving, desiring and searching mind unblocked for a solution. Concentration is the sine qua non of any intelligent job.
Kevin was a bishop who ran away from his followers and took shelter in a lonely cave with just enough space for a stone bed. None could even stand erect in the cave. Kevin lived the life of a hermit there with an affinity, love and closeness to nature. His companions were the animals, insects and birds. He lived as yogic life for years wearing only animal skins, and eating fruits, drinking spring water. He is today a well known Irish saint.
There is a story about Kevin. He was stretching out his hand squatting in the cave in a stone like stillness, like a wax statue with such a concentration and immobile for days together. The story goes a blackbird found the hands to be an ideal place to build a nest. It, laid eggs, the eggs hatched and the little birds flew away from his hand. Kevin was oblivious to all this.
There is another legend claiming that he threw out a wicked woman who attempted to seduce him. He was leading a hermit’s life in that cave tucked into a valley between two lakes. One day, the wicked woman sailed up to the saint’s cave and was trying to lure him with her queer charm, and in answer Kevin promptly drowned the wicked woman in the lake. The point to note is that the saint never allowed his mind to wander a bit and even destroyed whatever distracted him from his concentration.
Nikos Kazantzakis gives a superb definition of what is concentration although he is talking about a monastery discipline. “There are mountains in the world,’ I said, ‘which are huge, immense and dotted all over with monasteries. And in those monasteries live monks in saffron robes. They stay seated, with crossed legs, for one, two, six months at a time, thinking of one thing and one thing only. One thing, do you hear? Not two – one! They don’t think of women and lignite or books and lignite, as we do; they concentrate their minds on one and the same thing, and they achieve miracles. You have seen what happens when you hold a glass out to the sun and concentrate all the rays onto one spot, Zorba? That spot soon catches fire, doesn’t it? Why? Because the sun’s power has not been dispersed but concentrated on that one spot. It is the same with men’s minds. You do miracles, if you concentrate your mind on one thing and only one. Do you understand, Zorba the Greek?” Nikos Kazantzakis question here is a unique description about the concentration power of the monks.
How can we attain concentration in what we do? In the monasteries they slept on wooden planks and St.Kevin in the first story slept on a stone platform. But in our less holy living conditions we need some basic comforts to be able to relax and concentrate. Our traditional squatting may not be possible in an office or school. We have to sit in comfortable chairs with proper back rest and ergonomically designed furniture. You can decorate your walls with wildlife pictures and natural sceneries. Make it a pleasant place to sit and relax so that concentration can be easy. This can help your focus, especially if you can see these mind soothing pictures from your desk. Pleasant music and sounds from nature like the chirping of birds and humming of bees etc can be added to your taste to change the feel of the environment as you prefer.
You may not have the luxury of a rooftop garden or an office laden with plants, but spending time outside someplace green, or eating your lunch in the park each day, could make a significant difference to your power of concentration.
A word about food habits may not be out of place. Eat a solid breakfast and drink plenty of water because dehydration affects your brain. Consuming avocado, help improve cognitive function due to an increase in Lutein levels in the eye and brain. It enhances cognitive skills, including processing speed, memory, and attention. Add also few walnuts to have similar benefits. Substantial amounts of lutein are also present in kiwi, grapes, spinach, orange juice, and zucchini
Concentrating attention will enable us to construct our thoughts, motivations, and form emotions that are the most relevant to our goals to take priority in our brains. You can make changes to your environment so that it is favorable for enabling concentration.
Take a deep breath
Start simple begin with a quick and easy deep breathing exercise. Start slowly to take deep breaths and focus on each and every breath. Continue to breathe and concentrate and focus. This breathing activity is something you can do irrespective of the place where you sit. Initially you may not succeed in driving away stray thoughts. Concentrate on your breathing and slowly you will pick up the trick and remain focused on what you are doing.
Yoga and meditation
Daily practice of Yoga is quite advantageous; it may significantly improve energy levels and activate brain function. Practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation helps you to bring a lot of positive energy and remove all negative thoughts and to fight off anxiety and worry. “Meditation disciplines the mind, sharpens concentration and improves memory. It also energizes body and mind” opines a yoga expert.
Meditation can also bring in lot of energy in your life and it would enable you to focus more on your goals with right concentration.
Live in the present Moment
It is rather impossible to remain focused on your goals when you are ruminating about the past, or getting upset about what would happen in future. Your anxieties about what happened in the past or what might happen in future can distract you in the present moment and take you away from your focus. In addition to these psychological distractions we have many other things to disturb you like constant interruptions due to the presence of electronic media. “The secret of concentration is to shut down the other windows” says Amit Ray, the yoga expert
We have to learn to be fully mentally engaged in the current moment, overcoming all these distractions. Those who have undergone training in the use of mindfulness meditations, showed marked significant improvement in their power of concentration and focus. They were equipped to stay on task longer, and performed the work more efficiently. Gudjon Bergmann says “Concentration is a relaxed mental state, where the stream of consciousness flows in a single direction, either focusing on a phrase or mental picture, or alternately, a state in which the mind is alert and aware”
Sometimes we come across situations where we are totally unable to concentrate on the present task, and it is a reality. What to do then. ? Take a drive to the sea shore or the mountains and do something what is totally unrelated to what is in your focus. This deliberate distraction can help you to come back with added vigor so that you can concentrate fully on the matter of your focus. Studies conducted underline the fact that sudden taking of brief breaks by shifting your attention deliberately elsewhere can dramatically improve mental focus.
Swami Vivekananda speaks on concentration
Swami Vivekananda says Concentration is the essence of all knowledge; nothing can be done without it. Ninety percent of thought force is wasted by the ordinary human being, and therefore he is constantly committing blunders; the trained man or mind never makes a mistake. When the mind is concentrated and turned backward on itself, all within us will be our servants, not our masters. The Greeks applied their concentration to the external world, and the result was perfection in art, literature, etc
The main difference between men and the animals, he says is the difference in their power of concentration. All success in any line of work is the result of this. Everybody knows something about concentration. We see its results every day. High achievements in art, music, etc., are the results of concentration.
Building your mental focus is something that has to be accomplished over a life time. Right from the days of childhood we need to train our kids to concentrate on their goals.
By gainng mental focus, you will find that you are able to accomplish those goals in life .one will be able to reap success, joy, and satisfaction only if that capability is developed. If your physical and mental resources are focused, you would be able to solve all problems faced. “Concentration is a genius; it has the power to solve any kind of problems. It works with the same principle a magnifier uses when creating fire: Bring all your powers to a point and destroy your problem” is what Mehmet Murat says.
Jose Vazhuthanapilly, BSc., LLB, DBM, CAIIB Retired in 2008 as AGM from State Bank of India. He had worked as a visiting faculty in the Bank’s Staff Training Centers for 5 years. He is a writer with 22 books to his credit including books on self-help/ psychology. He resides in Ernakulam, Kochi. He is active also in social service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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