‘Focus’ is not a word which I use often in my vocabulary. Connecting with it now in order to put into writing what it means to me, I noticed, that I don’t really like its vibration. It feels pretty serious, effortful, boring, unflexible and single-pointed. Very much to do with head, mind and concentration. Going from A to B with blinkers on, in opposition to ‘being open’, ‘including all’, ‘living in the here and now’.
One of the official description of the word focus is:
“Keeping the attention on what is most important in life; the thinking skill that allows us to begin a task without postponing and then maintain the attention and effort until the task is complete. paying attention in the midst of distractions and setbacks and to sustain the effort and energy needed to reach a goal.”
Sounds and feels like a lot of effort and exclusion, right?!
It reminded me of my childhood, when I was told to focus on my homework instead of playing outside and building a tree house.
It’s an interesting thing for me to observe, that something very similar happened to me years ago with the word ‘perfectionist’, which I hated. I then changed my mindset and shifted from ‘being a perfectionist’ or ‘doing things perfect’ to ‘being total’ and ‘doing things with totality’, and that felt much better! ;-)
Same with ‘responsibility’ (which feels like a very heavy word, carrying a lot on its shoulders) to just changing it around to ‘ability to respond’, which is much lighter and playful and helped me to give a whole new perspective to the meaning of it.
It’s realizing again, how much influence our past with its conditioning and false ideas have on us. How much baggage certain words and phrases can carry and signify, for each of us in a different way, depending on how we related to them in the past.
After being with the word now for some days, I did see that I am doing focusing all the time, its actually one of my strong sides, but instead of using ‘focus’ or ‘focusing’, I have been calling it:
‘being present’, ‘being total’, ‘putting all my energy or awareness into something’,
‘making adjustments to see clearly’ or ‘shining light onto something’…
To me focusing is not necessarily working towards a goal in the far distance or aiming towards something by blocking everything else out; and its not something static either. It’s alive! Including that which happens on the way by being totally open towards it, creates the magic through which things come together, the beauty of the flow and synchronicities which are happening effortless just by being open to them.
The first and most important step to me in order to have a focus, whether its for personal growth or business, is self-awareness, gut feeling, presence and being able to create an inner space to connect with what my essential truth and priority is at that time…
It’s finding a ‘yes’ to whatever it is that arises, which is connected to the gut and not to the verbal expression; it’s just a ‘knowing’ that this is it, a connecting with a deeper truth, which makes it sometimes difficult to express and explain a new project or idea and many times at that point it doesn’t make much sense to others….
Its emptying that which is not needed in order to connect with that ‘knowing’ that is and always has been there. Not requiring any new technique or external knowledge. Its about rediscovering and trusting that which is already there.
If it resonated with me in such a way, that it feels absolutely true for me to put my total focus onto this, when I then share it with my friends and coworkers and this truth can be felt, it also reaches their essence and creativity and makes it easier to focus on it together.
For me, the years of meditation and awareness practices play maybe the most important part in the quality of focusing. It is in a way, the ability to stay with the ‘felt sense’ as it develops, to look at it with curiosity, without judging. Its the ability to welcome what comes; to listen to that place which is trying to tell me something and to be ready to be surprised.
There are two main varieties of distractions: sensory and emotional.
And its not the chatter of people around us that is the most powerful distractor, but rather the chatter of our own minds. It occurs especially, every time we try to concentrate on one thing and ignore the other. We create in the brain a tussle between focus and distraction. Its about figuring out how we can prevent those things from distracting us; finding out which technique or activity helps us to unveil and rediscover what is real, authentic and true for us, whether you use the technique of ‘witnessing’, or ‘opening the heart’, or ‘inquiring’, or simply doing something which allows your creativity to flow, or maybe you don’t need no more technique and can directly drop into your heart or essence.
Once this connection with, lets call it ‘our inner truth’ is made, especially for a new business idea or project it is important to find a healthy balance in-between the full range of inner (self-awareness, gut feeling), other and outer focus (on those and which surrounds us).
We have to synchronize with our own inner emotional reality and also with the internal reality of those who we like to inspire and reach.
Open awareness creates a mental platform for creative breakthroughs and unexpected insights. In open awareness we have no devil’s advocate, no cynicism or judgment – just utter receptivity to whatever floats into the mind.
But once we hit upon a great insight, we need to capture it by switching to a keen focus on how to apply it. Serendipity comes with openness to possibility, then through targeting it putting it to use.
If we focus to determined on something, we might risk to dismiss new insights and findings as noise, error or nonsense instead of a doorway to new discoveries.
Our mind holds endless ideas, memories and potential associations waiting to be made. But the likelihood of the right idea connecting with the right memory within the right context- and all that coming into the spotlight of attention-diminishes drastically when we are either hyper focused or too gripped by an overload of distractions to notice the insight. Tightly focused attention gets fatigued, like an overworked muscle. And in that state we might wrongly exclude peoples valid concerns, smart ideas, crucial information… and also their morale, loyalty and motivation.
Ever so often I do a reality check, if that which I’m focused on is still my truth, feel again what it is that really matters to me at that moment. Life is a constant change… so I try to stay open and flow with it.
Just an example: Around 18 years ago, together with my ex business partner, we had the vision to open massage centres at all the main beaches on Mallorca. At that time we were pioneers with ‘massages on the beach’ in three places already. For weeks and weeks we put total focus into the idea, followed all the legal procedures necessary, paid for plans, maps, architects and fees to be able to present the paperwork to 4 different authorities, and were finally told that it wasn’t possible. two years ago I had an impulse to try again and achieve that old goal; so I contacted the authorities and after a few meetings I was offered the possibility to get exactly what I was asking for, that in which we had invested so much energy and money years back…
But against my expectations, I didn’t feel good about it, or happy. So I looked deeper, and felt, that it was not my truth, reality and passion anymore… it was something old and only my ego wanted it, because I wanted it then. So I thanked everyone involved and dropped that idea.
I also let go of quite a few massage places in hotels in order to be able to be more present on just two main centres. Filtering out what I felt was irrelevant, heavy and old, both in my personal life and in business. ‘Simplicity’ has been my mantra for the last 2 years.. .and it feels great!
Modern life values sitting in school or an office, focusing on one thing at a time-something that may not always have paid off in early human history. Survival in the wild may have depended at crucial moments on a rapidly shifting attention and swift action without hesitating to think what to do.
“the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Its just like everything in life, if we want to live, work and grow in the ‘market place’, its about finding a healthy balance; synchronizing ones own truth with the external reality. Learning to see, feel and know what is not needed and being open to that which is… a mixture of direct focusing (excluding everything but) and watching or witnessing (including everything there is)…
Apart from meditation and self-awareness, what helps me to keep my focus on what is most important and positive in life are deep true conversations, meditation, friends, positive people, travelling, music, books, quotes and surroundings. These ingredients also help me to widen the horizon and allow me to discover things and aspects of life I may not have found or paid much attention to before…. and all that with playfulness and coming from the heart.
“Concentration is a choice. It excludes all except its object of concentration; it is a narrowing. If you are walking on the street, you will have to narrow your consciousness in order to walk. You cannot ordinarily be aware of all that is happening because if you are aware of everything that is happening you will become unfocused. So concentration is a need. Concentration of the mind is a need in order to live–to survive and exist. That is why every culture, in its own way, tries to narrow the mind of the child. Children, as they are, are never focused; their consciousness is open from all sides. Everything is coming in, nothing is being excluded. The child is open to every sensation, every sensation is included in his consciousness. And so much is coming in! That is why he is so wavering, so unstable. A child’s unconditioned mind is a flux–a flux of sensations–but he will not be able to survive with this type of mind. He must learn how to narrow his mind, to concentrate. The moment you narrow the mind you become particularly conscious of one thing and simultaneously unconscious of so many other things. The more narrowed the mind is, the more successful it will be. You will become a specialist, you will become an expert, but the whole thing will consist of knowing more and more about less and less. The narrowing is an existential necessity; no one is responsible for it. As life exists, it is needed, but it is not enough. It is utilitarian, but just to survive is not enough; just to be utilitarian is not enough. So when you become utilitarian and the consciousness is narrowed, you deny your mind much of which it was capable. You are not using the total mind, you are using a very small part of it. And the remaining – the major portion – will become unconscious.
If the major portion of your potentialities remains unfulfilled, your life will be a frustration. That is why the more utilitarian a person is, the less he is fulfilled, the less he is blissful. The more utilitarian the approach– the more one is in business life–the less he is living, the less he is ecstatic. The part of the mind that cannot be made useful in the utilitarian world has been denied. The utilitarian life is necessary but at a great cost: you have lost the festivity of life. Life becomes a festivity, a celebration, if all your potentialities come to a flowering; then life is a ceremony”.
(from ‘Meditation: The Art of Celebration’ )