Tag Archive | Focus

The Essence of Meditation 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the essence of the meditation practice?”

Concentration, or Focus. Maintaining your attention on one thing in spite of distractions. This focus point is called the anchor.”

“Aren’t you supposed to focus on your breath?”

“It can be your breath or anything else. The breath is a beautiful anchor because it’s a powerful physiological tool in itself. By slowing it down, it has a calming effect.”

“Aren’t you supposed to do it in a distraction-free environment?”

“There are two types of distractions: internal and external. The main type of distractions are internal – your own thoughts. 

A distraction-free external environment makes the practice easier – though by no means easy. You progress in the practice by adding challenge. It can be adding various levels of external distraction, and/or doing it in various states of inner turmoil.”

On Mindfulness and Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I love Emily Fletcher’s definition of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness: the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment.

“Bringing your awareness into the present moment is easy. Keeping it there, that’s the hard part. I’d rephrase the definition to:

Mindfulness: the art of keeping your awareness in the present moment.

“What’s the practice?”

“I find it useful to compare it with Meditation.

Meditation is the practice of focused awareness. Focusing your attention on a point (anchor-point).

Mindfulness is the practice of diffuse awareness. Focusing your attention on the now, on the present experience, and engaging all senses (VAKOG).

The two practices are complementary.

It is possible to combine the practices into one. 

Mindfulness Meditation is the practice of both focused and diffuse awareness. While focusing your attention on a point, expanding your awareness to your entire peripheral field of vision, and engaging all senses. 

I know this practice from NLP. The practice originates from Hawaii where they call it Hakalau. In NLP it is also referred to as ‘the now state’, or ‘the learning state’.”

“You use the word ‘presence’ a lot. What’s the difference between mindfulness and presence?”

“The way I use them,
presence is the desired state,
mindfulness and meditation are the practice for reaching the state.”

The Essence of Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the essence of meditation?”

“Haven’t we gone through this already?”

“We’re going to keep going through this until I manage to implement it.”

“There’s five aspects to it:

Intention-Setting

Focus-Point

Meta-Awareness
Response
Return

Intention-Setting is essentially Priming. This is how you initiate the practice. You can set the intention ahead of time (eg I’m going to meditate immediately after I wake up), or in the moment (eg I’m going to perform this action as meditation).

Focus-Point refers to choosing one point of focus and trying to maintain your attention on it. I say ‘trying’ because your attention will INEVITABLY wander.

The last three combined form the core of the practice. Thinking in terms of rep(etition)s, like in physical training, combined they constitute one quality-rep – or beautiful-rep, as I like to call it.

Meta-Awareness refers to noticing that your attention has wandered.

Response refers to managing your reaction to it. The keys here are Non-Judgmental Acceptance, and Loving Kindness.

Return refers to gently bringing your attention back to your focus-point.

A beautiful focus-point is the breath. But it can be the sensations in your body, an emotion, or anything else. You can choose any item in your environment and focus on it.

These are the purely technical aspects of the practice. Consistently perform quality-reps of it and you can get great benefits. However you can upgrade [<link; short] it by turning it into a spiritual practice.”

“How?”

Make every single meditation a Loving Meditation.

You’re thus imbuing the practice with Meaning.

Love is a meta-practice.

Using the macro/micro model, we might think of Love as the macro focus-point, and of your chosen point of focus as the micro focus-point.

Or, using the foreground/background model, we might think of Love as the background, and of your chosen point of focus as the foreground.”

On Attention and Focus

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I improve the quality of my experiences?”

The quality of your experience is the quality of your Attention. This makes attention management one of the most important life-skills.”

“What is the difference between Attention and Focus?”

“Focus is a functional-model for Attention. It is useful because it reveals some important properties of Attention.

Attention properties:
Depth
Direction
Width

Each property has a corresponding skill. In isolating them, you can focus on and train them individually.

Attention sub-skills:
Deep-Focus (Depth)
Selective-Focus (Direction)
Wide-Focus (Width)

Deep-Focus is the capacity to maintain Attention on one thing (One-pointed Attention). This is what you’re essentially training with Meditation.

Selective-Focus is the capacity to choose the optimal direction for Attention in any given moment.

We have a tendency to collapse Attention to a point. Wide-Focus is the capacity to expand Attention to the entire field of experience.”

“What is the optimal direction for Attention?”

“I’ve identified five dimensions (so far):

Focus on what you can control (not on what you can’t).
Focus on what you have (not on what you don’t).
Focus on the process (not the outcome).
Focus on the solution (not the problem).
Focus on the positive (not the negative).

You can think of them as a moment-to-moment checklist.

What are you focusing on now?

Selective-Focus checklist:
Control / Not control
Have / Not have
Process / Outcome
Solution / Problem
Positive / Negative”

“Why are you emphasizing the opposite in each case?”

“This makes it easier to invert [<link; medium length] them.”

On Writing and Focus

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

“How can I find inspiration to write my piece for the day?”

Focus on (and revel in) the process, not the outcome.

Focus on playful reflection and exploration, on solving life-puzzles, on optimizing life-systems.

Writing is a means to an end, not the end itself.

There’s a quote I like:

Speak because you have something to say, not because you have to say something.

It applies to writing as well:

Write because you have something to write, not because you have to write something.

Applied Positivity

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I wish she stopped sending me all these pictures and videos.”

“Always look on the bright side of things.

She thought of you, and wanted to share them with you.

Appreciate it, and send love back, even if only in your mind.

On changing State

The Triad of Human Emotions

#1: Physiology

Emotion is created by motion. Whatever you’re feeling right now is directly related to how you’re using your body. If you slump your shoulders and lean your head forward, you’ll move toward a state of depression. However, the next time you find yourself in a negative state, stand up, throw your shoulders back and take a few deep breaths. You’ll find that you’re able to put yourself in a resourceful state. From this state, you can make stronger decisions and enjoy a sense of certainty that will keep you calm in the face of uncertainty.

#2: Language

Language comes in many forms, one of which includes the questions you ask yourself, either aloud or inside your head. If you ask, “Why does this always have to happen to me?” you’ll create a much different set of emotions than if you asked, “How can I benefit from this?” or “Where’s the gift in this?” or “What’s humorous about this?” The language patterns you run play a significant role in the meaning you give a situation – and the emotion that situation creates in you. When you feel negative emotions taking over, look at the language surrounding your situation. How can you shift it to create a more empowering state?

#3: Focus

Where focus goes, energy flows. And where energy flows, whatever you’re focusing on grows. In other words, your life is controlled by what you focus on. That’s why you need to focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear. When you next find yourself in a state of uncertainty, resist your fear. Shift your focus toward where you want to go and your actions will take you in that direction.

(Tony Robbins)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I implement this wisdom?”

Turn it into a mental checklist.

Whenever you find yourself in an unresourceful state, bring the checklist to mind:

Physiology
Language / Meaning
Focus

We can think of this as the macro-checklist.

Every item of the macro-checklist is itself a checklist.”

Micro-checklists?”

“Yes. Here’s what it might look like.

As concerns the first:

Physiology
Breathe
Expand
Move

“Could you expand upon the last two? (Pun intended)”

Expand refers to two things: Posture – extending your spine, standing tall –, and Power Pose – taking up more space.

Move refers to a short burst of intense movement, so movement that accelerates your heart rate. Like Burpees, Jumping Squats, Sprinting… or climbing a tree.

As concerns the second:

Language / Meaning
Say a Centering Mantra
Ask an Empowering Question

This is something you have to experiment with for yourself.

It could be bringing to mind the anchor of your Macro-Meditation [<link; short length]. 
It could be saying ‘Thank you‘, and thinking ‘Beautiful Opportunity‘, and ‘Find the Gift [<link; short].’

Whatever works for you.”

“Is there a difference between expressing it as a directive or as a question?

Find the Gift.
Where’s the Gift in this?”

“Both work. The advantage of questioning, from what I noticed, is that it better activates the problem-solving mode.

As concerns the third:

Focus
Focus
– on what you can control.
– on the positives (not the negatives).
– on the solution (not the problem).

– on the Big-picture.
– on Possibility.”

“The last two have to do with Meaning.”

“Yes, there’s some overlap between them.

For instance Expand can also be used metaphorically:

Transcend your small self and its lilliputan problems and Expand into your Big / Heroic Self.

The tendency when you’re in an unresourceful state is to contract, both physically and mentally. Expand is meant to counter that. You could think of it as a Mantra-Word. And you can amplify the effect by combining it with Big Thinking [<link; medium].

On top of all this, there’s a meta-cognitive practice: Introspection.

Notice your thoughts and feelings, and the language you’re using, and identify dysfunctional patterns.

Turning obstacles upside down

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I woke up in an unresourceful state which messed up my entire morning ritual.”

“What do you think triggered it?”

“I think it was a combination of factors. I didn’t sleep very well, woke up with an intense lower-back pain, and felt cold. Normally I’m resistant to cold, so when I am feeling cold, it’s a sign that something is wrong.

It made me realize that changing state is the most important thing, because only in the resourceful / beautiful state you are able to effectively / efficiently access your resources and find solutions.”

“But didn’t you already know that?”

“I did, but this time it was different. It made me really engage with the questions:

How can I access the beautiful state under any conditions?
How can I make the beautiful state my center, my baseline?

Changing state became my implementation focus, my ONE Thing for this month, and I mobilized all my resources towards solving this puzzle.”

“Would you have mobilized your resources in this direction had you not encountered this obstacle?”

“No, I wouldn’t have.

I guess I’d started taking the beautiful state for granted. Every morning I’d do my activation ritual, charge up, and get down to work.

Only when my state impaired my capacity to get my soul work done – combined with an implementation mindset – that it finally became my work.”

Spiritual Reps

Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate. (Chuang Tzu)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I deal with these negative thoughts?”

“What’s within your control?”

“I can’t keep them from appearing, so that’s outside my control.

I guess what I can control is how I respond to them.”

Always focus on what you can control.

Don’t resist them. Flow with them.

Accept and appreciate them, for they are manifestations of the Inner Obstacle.

Every encounter with the Inner Obstacle is a Beautiful Opportunity, an aspect of the Beautiful Practice. You could call them spiritual rep(etition)s.”

On dealing with time-sinks

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“There are some activities that tend to swallow big chunks of your precious time if you let them. I call them time-sinks.”

“Haven’t you eliminated non-essentials?”

“I have. But it’s a matter of proportion. Or, to use a different model, opportunity cost. The more time you give an activity, the less time you have for others.

Time-sinks come in two flavors, big and small.
Either one big time-block – activities that are hard to disengage from.
Or multiple small time-blocks – activities that stealthily compound.”

“What strategies do you use for dealing with them?”

“One strategy is setting limits.

Always have an exit strategy.

It can be a limit per session. ‘I’m going to read for half an hour, then take a break.
It can be a limit per day. ‘I’m going to check social media for no more than 10 minutes per day.‘”

“So you track your time?”

“Yes. Not for all activities. Only for certain time-sinks.

The idea is to identify failure-points and give them special attention.

Another strategy is setting focus.

Let’s say you want to read for x minutes. 
If you focus on finishing the chapter (outcome), and the chapter takes longer than x minutes, you will likely exceed the allocated time.
If you focus on reading for x minutes (process), you’re much more likely to succeed.

So the key is to focus on the process not the outcome.

Another strategy is setting intention.

This is a kind of priming.

If you don’t set the intention, you’ll default to your habitual patterns. Depending on the habits you’ve formed, it can work for or against you.

Make it a habit to set the intention right before engaging in an activity.

You’re essentially setting up a life-algorithm.”

“Can you give an example?”

“For instance:

Set a timer to 25 minutes.
Focus on the process not the outcome. (Priming; Practice: Selective-Focus)
Ignore ALL distractions. (Priming; Practice: Deep-Focus)
Stop / Interrupt yourself after 25 minutes. (Priming; Practice: Discipline)”