developing your ability to focus


what is focus?

If we can think a thought, then we can focus. To focus is to think. This makes focusing a function of the mind. But in every moment of our day-to-day lives the mind is thinking, always thinking. Even while we practice yoga, the mind is thinking thoughts of one kind or another. So what makes the difference between everyday thinking and focusing? Focusing is simply thinking on purpose. It is deliberate thinking to progressively narrow down the usually wide variety of thoughts we think, into fewer and fewer thoughts, until we find we are able to think just one thought or keep the mind on just one subject, for an extended period of time. That is focus.

what is the value of focus?

“Focusing” is only of value if we have a desire. If we have no desires, there is no need to focus. But if we have even one desire which we’d like to fulfill, then expanding our capacity to focus will serve us tremendously. There are many types of desires that we can have: A desire to manifest something physical, such as an object, or wealth, or a relationship; A desire to heal ourselves or someone else physically, mentally or emotionally; or we may have a desire for a subjective experience such as inner peace, or fulfillment or freedom.

For each of these types of desires, focusing helps us achieve the desired outcome because it allows the mind to become vibrationally more and more attuned with the desired outcome. And here it can be helpful to note a vitally important distinction: the manifestation occurs when the mind attains vibrational alignment with the desired outcome itself, not with the desire for the outcome. There is a subtle but vital distinction here, as this is what often trips us up as we attempt to learn and apply “the Secret” to attaining our goals. We think that because we are longing for the attainment of our desire, we are focusing and therefore getting closer to our goal. But as long as we only continue to want what we don’t have, there is no conscious intention or attention required in that, and therefore we are not actually focusing anything new into existence. Those who have explained the Law of Attraction clearly have explained that continually wanting and wanting something, will only lead to more wanting of it; not to actually having it!

This is important because of the fact that the vibration of a problem is a very different vibration from the vibration of the solution to that problem. We can quickly prove this for ourselves. Try this. Recall how you felt emotionally in the moment you discovered you had a big problem to face and resolve. Now take three deep breaths and let that feeling go. Now, recall how you felt the moment you knew it was going to be solved. They are two completely different feelings, right? That’s because they’re completely different vibrations. And when we achieve the correct focus, the manifestation of the outcome is also not far behind. There’s also a nice bonus for focusing the right way — once the mind has found vibrational alignment with the desired outcome, we have already begun to enjoy the emotional benefits of the desired outcome, even before we objectively begin to see its manifestation.

how is focusing accomplished?

So the capacity to focus can be very valuable if we have a desire we wish to achieve. And the greater our capacity to focus, the more easily or quickly we will achieve alignment with and therefore enjoyment of the desired outcome. Now, how do we develop or increase our capacity to focus? The same way we expand in any other ability: We practice!

First, it’s important to acknowledge that each of us already has within us the capacity to focus to one degree or another, and that we do exercise that capacity on a regular basis. When you stand in a one-legged balancing posture, you are focusing! Even in those moments when we may have admonished ourselves for “not paying attention” we may have told ourselves that we “lost our focus” but we didn’t lose it; our focus just changed to something else! What bothers us is just that our focus changed without our conscious intention to change it.

So the ability to consciously direct our thoughts is what we want to work on, because the degree of focus is determined by the degree of conscious attention we apply to the object of our focus. And there are two sequential aspects to the practice of focusing.

First, we must consciously choose what it is that we wish to focus on. The process of choosing itself can become an exercise in focus, if we wish to deeply consider WHY we would choose to focus on one thing, rather than something else. Once we have determined WHAT we wish to focus on, we can begin to develop the capacity to focus. This capacity has three dimensions: specificity, singularity, and duration. Here’s how to practice focusing.

Step 1 – Decide specifically what you want to focus on. In this example, we will choose what to focus on by using a clear, specific statement: In my next yoga class I will focus on my breath.

Step 2 – During class, bring your attention to the breath. Notice the breath. Keep noticing the breath. Begin to move your body according to the teacher’s instructions and keep noticing the breath. As you move into and out of the postures, continue to notice the breath.

Step 3 – When you notice that you are not noticing the breath any more, or that you are thinking another thought at the same time that you are thinking about the breath, then in a gentle, friendly way, bring your attention back to the breath, and only the breath. And continue to notice the breath.

Step 4 – Repeat Step 3.

And that is all. If you will continue the above practice, you will rapidly strengthen your mind’s capacity to focus, not only on the breath and thereby derive the maximum possible benefit from each moment you spend on your mat, but your mind will gain the ability to focus on any other goal you choose for yourself.

And then?

As we continue to practice the act of focusing, we continue to develop our ability to focus in all three of the dimensions previously mentioned — we are able to focus more specifically, more singularly, and more continuously. Where do you imagine such a path would ultimately lead us? It can only lead us deeper and further inward… to stillness. To the infinite stillness that is the source of our true Self. From a yogic perspective, this is the ultimate value of all our efforts to focus.

Enjoy your capacity to focus

Parveez Shahviri