Focus and Distraction

We live in an age of constant distraction. Between an endless flurry of phone calls, emails, texts, tweets, breaking news and the bizarre collection of beeps, chimes, chirps and vibrations that accompany them, our attention is being hijacked from morning till night on a regular basis.
Both the goal and the strategy in Yoga meditation is to cultivate a mind able to sustain attention, or ‘bind’ with a consciously chosen object. For many practitioners, regardless of their ability to perform Asana, the practice of meditation, the ability to continuously and entirely bind with anything is difficult, if not impossible.
The mind usually wavers between distraction and concentration. If you are one of my Yoga students you hear me talk about this all the time. Depending how much interest you have in what you are doing or needing to accomplish, will determine what state of mind you are in at any given time. Our amount of interest drives our focus and this focus leads to sustained concentration.
Patanjali recognized that we must reduce the distractions of the mind first before it can be focused on an object in meditation or, for that matter, in any of our daily activities.  And yet, this essential, preliminary step of consciously reducing our distractions is most often overlooked by many of us before we act.
This is where regular practice fits in. Here, we not only use Asana to support and strengthen the body but through the correct use of pranayama and chanting, we are able to clarify our perceptions and purify our minds. With consistent practice, we reduce the minds existing tendency toward distraction, and increase our ability as well as our desire to meditate. In addition, we often find more clarity in our intentions and the ability to accomplish everyday tasks with less resistance and far greater ease.
Now, starting when you finish this newsletter, make a conscious effort to observe when you tend to be most distracted.  For the next 21 days, practice regularly with the specific intention of creating a less distracted, more focused mind. If you like, keep an ‘attention journal’.  Take note of how your practice results in feeling better, accomplishing more with less effort, and being measurably more present while performing your daily activities.  Are you up for the challenge?

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