Do you struggle to keep your attention on one job or do you get easily distracted?
Like to have rock solid concentration?
Ever since I can remember I have been passionate about playing the violin. The first time I heard one was in a concert where the famous hungarian violinist Gyorgy Pauk was performing. On hearing the first few notes I knew instantly this was for me! And so I began to have regular lessons. I worked really hard right from the start and can remember one comical moment when I was told to go and practice in the broom cupboard as I had learned ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ ahead of the others in my group! I’m laughing as I write this and although I’m sure the teacher meant well, I hope teaching methods have improved since then.
Throughout my years practising the violin the one challenge that was constant was controlling my attention. Although I practised for hours a day I found my attention drifting off all the time. But it wasn’t just whilst practising, I noticed it happening regularly out of practise time as well.
I found myself wandering off in my mind and getting distracted or thinking about another job I had to do. It was very challenging and hard to get things done.
Over the years whilst talking to my students it turns out this is a very common problem. So much time can be wasted when one is easily distracted and when one’s attention is too widely spread it can become extremely frustrating & energy draining to say the least.
So it is a really important aspect of our lives to train, not only will you feel better but you will also be in a far better position to get the very most out of every moment of your lives. A really powerful way to train our focus is through Tai Chi.
When you watch someone doing a tai chi sequence we see a physical expression of what is being practiced on the inside! What you see on the surface ‘physically’ belies the enormous amount of work happening on the ‘inside’. This ‘internal’ work is the key in making tai chi such a powerful method of self growth and transformation.
When we begin to learn tai chi or qi gong we spend a lot of time on correcting the alignments of the body. This of course is incredibly important for your general wellbeing and longevity. While practising the slow movements of a tai chi sequence we might choose to focus on our knees, hips, shoulders or spine and begin to move & position them with better alignment that allows for greater freedom and release of tension.
But at the same time we are actually training the mind. We start to notice when we get distracted and our mind wanders. Gradually we get better at reigning the mind back and re-focusing on the job at hand. At first it might be difficult to focus for more than a few seconds and it can be quite surprising but with practise these moments of focus extend to a minute, then 2 minutes until you can hold your attention during the whole of the tai chi sequnce which can be anything from 4 – 25 minutes long!
Zen practitioners call this training ‘one pointed focus’ and in tai chi we use the same principal. After focusing on the alignments of the body we might extend it to other areas such as the balance, rooting, centredness, breathing and eventually into more complex areas of tai chi.
Focus is comparable to a muscle in that it too can be strengthened with regular training. Cultivating focus will dramatically enhance your overall ability to concentrate and will enhance so many areas of your life.
Here’s a simple exercise you can try right now and begin training your focus.
- Just take a moment to sit and close your eyes.
- Start to listen to your breathing. Notice each in-breath and each out-breath.
- As you breathe in, mentally say to yourself “I’m breathing in” and as you breathe out, mentally say to yourself “I’m breathing out.”
- Notice when your mind wanders and set your intention to re-focus on your breath each time.
Don’t worry if at first you can only focus for a few seconds before your mind wanders off, it’s perfectly normal. Remember your ability to focus is a little like a muscle, with regular training it will grow and strengthen.
It would be great to hear your experiences with this so keep in touch via facebook or email me
To Your Success