“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs
“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” — Tony Robbins
Whether it is a business leader, pro athlete, artist and anyone else who is successful, almost everyone attributes at least a part of his or her success to focus. While focus is a familiar term, the problem is, how do you actually focus? What are the steps to stay focused? Is there a class or website to learn focus? Not really. While many people talk about focus being important, it is not easy to focus or learn how to do it. And in today’s era, it is harder than ever. While social media, smart phones, and the internet are great in many ways, they can be incredibly distracting as well. Fortunately there is a way to learn focus — meditation.
One of the oldest forms of meditation is a technique called Anapana. Anapana meditation is a technique that Buddha taught and shared. It is also the style of meditation we have been practicing via MeditateYear — focusing on our breath coming in and out of our nose. The objective of Anapana is to help develop concentration of the mind. This is important for meditation to help develop a strong and consistent mental awareness. While mental awareness may sound like a familiar term, it is most easily described as using our mind as a “sixth sense”. Much like our eyes provide our sense of vision and our tongue provides sense of taste, we can point our mind’s mental awareness towards what we want to “focus on”.
While this may not seem special, it is harder than you might appreciate. To demonstrate try to take a single bite of food without thinking of anything else but the various sensations of eating that bite of food. The textures you feel, the different flavors, the connected smell — all the sensations related to a single bite and focus only on that while you chew that single bite. Or do the same as you take a sip of coffee or another beverage. I suspect you’ll find it harder than you imagined. Just as you take a bite or sip, your mind will likely begin thinking about stuff you need to do in the future, something that happened in the past, or perhaps some other random idea. By practicing Anapana we learn and practice using our mind to focus our awareness on a single object — our breath.
Much like our eyes provide our sense of vision and our tongue provides sense of taste, we can point our mind’s mental awareness towards what we want to “focus on”.
How this translates to the real world is a bit like going to the gym to lift weights. With a regular exercise routine, you’ll be more physically prepared when you need to lift a heavy box, bookshelf, or couch. Meditation is the gym for your mind and having a strong mental awareness will help you constantly in the real world by allowing you to easily focus on a single task, conservation, or problem you’re faced with.
I have seen this to be true in my own life over and over. Whether it is trying to solve a hard work problem, calmly talking to someone who I’m having a heated conversation with, or even reading a book. The other day I finished a 200+ page book in about 6 hours, only breaking to use the bathroom. In the past, these things would feel impossible or much harder to do.
Meditation is the gym for your mind and having a strong mental awareness will help you constantly in the real world by allowing you to easily focus on a single task, conservation, or problem you’re faced with.
Meditations’ nature of repeatedly doing the same thing over and over and over, while it may seem boring, is literally at the heart of why it is so powerful. So when it comes to meditating, it is best to throw out any of society’s typical forms of measuring worthiness or interesting, and rely instead on two things: first, science. Science has only just begun to analyze the benefits of meditation and it is already pretty hard to deny the various benefits of regularly meditating. Two, are you doing the practice as instructed? If so, in time (depending how much you practice) you are bound to feel the benefits. And if you don’t, ask me or a teacher you can trust.
That said, if you have only practiced once a week for month or so, while that is great, I’d say it’s too early for you to truly feel the benefits. But if you have practiced daily for a month and you’re not feeling any of the benefits of meditation, like better focus, let me know. I’d like to sincerely help!
How to learn Anapana meditation?
If you Google Anapana meditation there are plenty of great resources, but below is a short recording from my teacher, sharing a guided Anapana meditation.
As mentioned above, I created a free weekly meditation program to deepen my own practice and to share my passion with others who are interested — MeditateYear. That said, if you’re truly interested in learning, nothing beats doing a 10-day silent, Vipassana meditation course (it’s a donation based course — I have no affiliation).
While meditation is often associated with spirituality, God and other things, I’m not qualified to speak of, meditation is certainly a practice of focus that can serve you beyond your time sitting on the floor. So if professional success is what you’re seeking, let this be another reason to meditate.