Optimal Focus: How do I Train my Mind?
How do you direct your mind?
How do you get your mind to focus on what you would like it to focus on?
Learning how to "arrest the attention" is key to success.
I've put together some tools below to help you create optimal focus and therefore success. Success comes from achieving your values in real time and real space.
To achieve success, all you have to do is learn how to train your mind to focus, and commit to practice this habit of focus, so that the values you have move from the realm of ideas to the realm of action, within rational limits of course.
What is focus?
If you think of focusing an image in a camera, focus is drawing the image into clear and sharp definition.
So, focus is drawing something into clear and sharp definition.
When you want something into your life, you have to do the things to draw this something into clear and sharp focus. There is a technical science to this, which is described below. By diligently applying the tools below with increasing skill and persistence, you can manifest success by training your mind, and, as you will see below, your heart.
What is success?
Success is seeing your values come to life in real time, real space. When this happens, you can then become open to receiving those delicious and gorgeous feelings of contentment, "santosha", satisfaction, a peaceful fullness.
Some people are blocked in receiving the feeling of contentment, and that is something that you can work on with a coach or therapist, or potentially through a guided meditation. Contentment also requires slowing down, quietening the mind, and a deep acceptance of what is; a moving from the drive of the dopamine state of the brain to the serotonin calm receptive state. Contentment is not easy to achieve in our culture of always driving for more, but it can be done. Enjoyment is a close feeling to contentment, and is also part of the very juicy salacious savouring of this magnificent life that we are privileged to lead. But that we do not always feel full gratitude for, which again, is a block or obstacle that can be understood and released through healing work.
Some people have great joy in success and easily soak it up! If you are one of the those people, and simply want to know more hows and whys of creating success, then keep reading below. When you are primed to enjoy success, then surmounting the obstacles can be a curious and delightful challenge, like the refining, refining, refining of skill and technique to achieve an athletic goal.
No matter how your brain is wired for success, you can do something very simple and very satisfying right now.
After you read this next paragraph, close your eyes and then imagine your greatest heart's wish, or "sankalpa", coming true. See it. Hear it. Feel it. Smell it. Fill your imaginary senses with the experience of this wish fully being realized. Notice how you feel. Encapsulate that feeling into one image. Now open your eyes. For the next two weeks, daily repeat this image and the feeling in your heart, and in your mind, and if you can, in your whole body. See if that changes your state, and hence your experience of your world.
The practice of focus is scientifically proven to change your brain.
The science on focus is clear. The more you practice thinking of something, the more frequently the neurons that make that thought happen, fire together. On electron microscopy, we can see the connection between the neurons, the "synapse", grow in density and thickness.
Neuron branch like baby vines, reach out, cling together, and make stronger and stronger synapses when you repeat the thought or the action. So, the more you think or do something, the more it becomes a habit. The more it becomes a habit, the more likely you will see the opportunities in real time and space to make that thought come true. It becomes like connecting the dots.
Create the Physics:
The science on the physics of your energy, your "vibe", the way you show up and others perceive you, is clear. The more you feel great about a thing that is going to happen for you, the more you create a vibe, an energy, and electromagnetic field vibration emanating from your heart, and your mind. Your heart and mind are electric and electromagnetic. As you create different electrical patterns in these parts of your physical form, you create a different energy. People sense this. Animals sense this. You magnetize towards you the beauty and happiness that you feel.
The heart has its own intricate nervous system. With 40,000 neurons or more, this little "heart brain" is now being intensively studied by the new field of "neurocardiology". The 40,000 neurons or so allow the heart brain to sense, process information, make decisions, and have a kind of learning and memory independent of brain function.
The heart also makes hormones. The heart also acts to change, or modulate, the levels of hormones. One of the hormones the heart creates is oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the "love" or "bonding" hormone, and is so important that it can overdrive hunger for food.
We now know that the heart creates neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that communicate to the brain. The heart synthesizes and releases the following neurotransmitters: norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine. These are associated with energy and drive, and dopamine can also be associated with euphoria as well as drive, or motivation.
In addition to the above intricate sensitivity, the heart is highly adaptive and creative and reactive in the sphere of human emotion. Small changes in the length of the heart rate, are always occurring, moment to moment. This is also called Heart Rate Variability. These changes between the beat to beat of the heart, are related to the type of emotion you are feeling.
Negative emotions cause the heart rate to become less variable, less flexible. When this change in electricity happens, this leads to the heart's electromagnetic field to be in disarray, or scrambled. As this field is larger than that of your brain, and your brain will react to an applied electromagnetic field, your emotion will then change the way you think.
Positive emotions cause the heart field to be smooth, aligned, coherent. So, this will also change the way you think. So, if you can reset yourself to a place of loving kindness, or compassion, you can change your thoughts.
Emotion is strongly linked to motivation. So, change your emotional state, and you change your thoughts, your motivation, and therefore your action. You start to take actions that align to your values. You start to live your values. It's that simple. And yet, it can be very difficult to shift emotional habits, so you do need to apply the focus, lightly, consistently, with determination and perseverance.
When your body is more relaxed, you have more energy to focus. Using the minimal amount of effort to perform athletics or be engaged in a mental exercise or creative project, will free up more focus for the activity at hand.
In addition, there is a theory that our body may use tension to store emotions and memories. So, then, by releasing this tension through yoga or stretching, there may also be a release of this memory or emotion, allowing you more freedom to move forward. It's as if the body, as it does in somatoform disorders, holds onto the memory and emotion that the mind has chosen to forget. In somatoform disorders, we see the brain using extra activity to suppress the movement of a limb. When the person with the disorder is given a substance that tends to disinhibit the brain, and they then move the limb they were previously unable to move, the memory that is related to that limb may be spoke about at the same time. So, whether the memory is stored in the actual body part, or in our brain, there are memories related to the anatomy of the body.
So how do you use this information to increase focus?
Incorporate physical movement into your lifestyle. Use a daily physical practice to "check in" as to how you are actually feeling. Try to sense all the areas of your body. Notice any feelings that arise, accept them, understand them, learn from them, then let your focus on them go and return your focus to the goals fo your athletic practice.
Consider a yoga practice as this can be a more relaxed and very sustainable way to tune into your physical self.
If you are challenged in this area, in that you have certain physical limitations, work with an occupational therapist or rehabilitation specialist to modify this area to suit you. Another option would be to use the guided body scan, a part of the mindfulness practice that brings full attention to the body. Or attend a Yoga Nidra class, which will guide you through a body scan as well as connect you to your heart's greatest desire.
As a last note here, eat healthily, and sleep well, so that your physical system requires minimal effort to operate, and so your focus can be placed on what you need, instead of depleted through indigestion or fatigued by hangovers from food or other substances.
Sometimes it's really difficult to shift a thought pattern or an emotional pattern.
The key to shifting this is to cultivate state of acceptance. Non-judgmental, unconditionally kind, acceptance. Acceptance does not mean acting on the thought or the emotion. The type of acceptance I am talking about, is a pause. As if you are playing a piece of music on the piano and you take your hands off the notes for a moment.
The pause give you space to reflect. Take a moment. Notice how you have the emotion, or thought, and then you have the wish for something different. Honour all the wishes and thoughts and emotions as part of your current experience. See your unwanted thought or emotion as just an idea. Neither right nor wrong. Se if you can stop any battling with this particular idea. Notice how it takes less energy when you stop fighting with internal state.
Then think of being neutral. Feel neutral in your heart.
Like a scientist, look at the emotion or thought that is unwanted. Be curious. How can you lose interest in this emotion or thought, and let it start to fade away. Most emotions are temporary.
As you cultivate acceptance and neutrality, your amygdala will start to calm. The amygdala is the part of the brain that gets super riled up when we feel threatened. As you start to feel more "zen" the amygdala will lose interest.
Next, the thought or emotion that was bothersome, will seem less interesting. It's just an idea.
As the idea fades away, think about the kind of idea you would like to create. What you want to believe. For examples:
- I am successful
- I am deeply loved and loveable
- I have clear focus
- My body is healthy
You can preface these with statements like:
- It is perfectly natural that...
- For no apparent reason...
- I deeply believe that...
- I firmly believe that...
- Deep in my heart, I know that...
See how this feels. Enjoy that feeling. The acceptance, or neutrality, or kindness ot self, will tend to allow for a shift in your state of mind, of heart, of body.
Feel the happiness. Feel your values: peace, love, kindness, compassion, honesty, clarity, wisdom, etc. These create a positive real time vibe that not only lifts you up, but those around you.
As my grandma would say, "Capez nez?" which means "Why not?"
If you would like to learn more, join us at one of these three talks over the next month:
The May 5th talk details will be posted soon, stay tuned.
Dr. M. ~