Practice with Focus

I’ve been working my way through the “Wheel of Excellence,” and today I want to talk about focus.

Here is some of what Terry Orlick says about focus:

Focusing is the single most important mental skill associated with performance excellence. Focusing refers to the ability to concentrate totally on what you are doing, seeing, reading, hearing, learning, feeling, observing   or experiencing while you are engaged in the activity or performance.

Where your focus goes, everything else follows. Focus leads activation, anxiety, relaxation, learning, mental readiness, personal growth and performance excellence. Let it lead wisely.

I feel like I’ve been distracted most of my life.  When I was studying for the actuarial exams, I would frequently get up from the study room to get a cup of coffee, or use the restroom.  But I would notice a certain few who never got up the entire time they were in there.  Those few generally did well on the exams.

Oftentimes it seems like we want to be distracted from our practice.  Even while we practice we watch TV, or listen to music, or an audio book, etc.

Notice that focus is most important for performance excellence:  the execution of the practiced goal for before a live audience: running a race, taking a test, playing a recital, etc.

Again, while taking the actuarial exams, I can remember reading that you should take practice exams under conditions as nearly the same as those you will be tested under as possible.

You want a rhythm and ritual to your practice, by which you can gather your focus and minimize distractions at game time.

The regular practice of three kriyas from Kundalini Yoga has helped me focus: Ganpati Kriya, Radiant Body Kriya, and Kirtan Kriya.  These all involve chanting, and certain mudras of the fingers.  The first takes 11 minutes (first thing in the morning), the second about 40 minutes (midday), and the third about 30 minutes (evening).  They have given my emotions some ballast, and have improved both my patience and my ability to concentrate.

Finding Meditation

I chant.

It’s not something I would ever have chosen to do on my own. But my EPT therapist prescribed it for me, I practice it, and it works for me.

By “works for me,” I mean I finally found the off switch to the nonspecific sense of anxiety that haunted me most of my life.

My point is not that you should chant, but that if you keep an open mind with respect to the various forms of mediation, then you might find one that works for you.

I tried transcendental meditation back in college some thirty years ago.  It gave me headaches.

I tried pranayama (without a teacher; they were hard to find back then) and had a problem with swallowing air.

I tried just lying down and counting my breaths – that helped.  But nothing has worked as well as the chanting.

I’ve been diagnosed as ADHDWhen I was a kid I couldn’t focus on anything but the television.  I think my favorite kriya, Ganpati Kriya, has several aspects to it that make it easier for me to stay focused and harder to be distracted.

First, there are eight syllables that I chant out loud over and over for eleven minutes.

Second, the kriya has a mudra where the thumb touches the successive fingers on each hand with the pronunciation of each syllable.kirtan kriya

Third, I associate one of the chakras with each syllable and visualize the “activation” of that chakra with the pronunciation of each syllable.

So my mind and body are fully engaged as I practice this kriya, making it easier for me to stay focused for the entire eleven minutes.

I practice Ganpati Kriya in the morning, Sat Kriya at noon, and Kirtan Kriya in the evening.

How about you?  Have you tried meditation?  What works for you?

Emotional Polar Therapy (sequel to Practicing Acceptance)

All my life I have struggled to keep my emotions under good regulation.  When I wasn’t worried or anxious, I was angry or depressed.  Joy was nearly unknown to me, and I thought it belonged only to those who had won some great victory.

When the series on Integral Life Practice came to an end, I wanted to work with someone on my shadow self in the context of the enneagram.  One of the presenters referred me to an Emotional Polar Therapist.

My first visit to this woman was very strange, yet powerful.  We had an interview.  She tapped on my shoulder and took some notes.  She had me push against her hand while thinking some thought and took more notes.

She put magnets under my feet, a pillow on my lap, and a kind of bicolor needle work between my hands. Then she laid hands on me and had me breathe deeply in unison with her.  She had me repeat after her affirmations like, “I am a valuable person,” or “I deserve success,” etc.

The odd thing was that it was a struggle for me to say these things.  In fact, at one point I began to choke and weep.  This was my first visit, mind, and all the while I’m asking myself whether I’d been referred to some kind of witch doctor.

When that was done she gave me some homework of breathing exercises, and kriyasto do.  I left feeling like something had “happened,” like I’d seen a light after a long stay in a cave.

I did the exercises daily, returned to her periodically, and began to notice a gradual change in my emotional state.  The frequency and duration of my negative emotions steadily decreased.  The same measures of my positive emotions trend upwards.

I even experience joy now, and have discovered that it has less to do with great victories than it does with recognizing small ones.