The Power of Focused Attention

June 2008

Hi and Welcome to Issue #034 of Devine Online!

I would like to dedicate this issue to my wonderful fiance Peter, who provided the inspiration for this piece.

Have you ever gone to a self help course and come away full of hope and enthusiasm, only to lose all that motivation and go back to the same old self-defeating habits and behaviours just a few weeks later?

These days its seem that we have too many choices, and almost every week there is a new promise of eternal bliss being marketed; you know the sort of thing I'm talking about - glossy brochures and promotional videos featuring hundreds of testimonials, chanting the eternal message.....that this time, this way is the only way.

Heard it all before? Tired of the same old promises sugar-coated in different packages each time? Some self-help practises have been tried and tested many times over the years but there is one quiet achiever in the bunch that never fails to get results; and that is simply the practise of focus and mindfulness.

What do we ACTUALLY Want?

Happiness. Of course. Such a simple concept, yet so elusive to so many people. Some people argue that the very meaning of life is the pursuit of happiness, and even the Dalai Lama agrees. But how do we actually attain a lasting version of contentment and inner peace?

Happiness as we know is a state of mind free from worry, suffering, neurosis and pain. Freud argued that human suffering is inevitable, since our primary purpose in life is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. He said that our inner battle between the Id (primal instinctive drives), ego (reality) and superego (conscience) ensures that we are in a permanent state of inner conflict.

What battle are you fighting? Many people work long hours and make personal sacrifices to make money because they believe it will give them the essence of happiness, such as peace, freedom or security....but at the end of the day, are they really just trying to buy a state of mind?

In truth, the things that money can buy are transitory in nature and because of our unique ability to adapt to our present circumstances, we get bored and restless very quickly. Ironically, the happiness we so desperately seek is already within us, and can be unlocked and accessed by the power of the focused mind.

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The Happiest Man in the World

Many of the well-known self-help gurus recommend that when you set out to achieve a specific goal, you can save a lot of time and effort by first finding somebody who has already achieved this goal. The idea is to find out what they did and copy it. By modeling their actions and behaviour, we too can achieve what they achieved. Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) experts agree that this is an excellent way to achieve our goals.

Does such a person exist? Apparently he does. Mathieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who has been dubbed ‘the happiest man in the world.' Sound pretty far-fetched? Well, it is a well known fact that Ricard has logged thousands of hours meditating and developing his powers of focus and concentration in his daily practice. Tests at the University of Wisconsin (involving a 3 hour MRI scan) showed the electrical activity in his left brain cortex (which is associated with happiness) was unprecedented.

So we know that there is someone out there who is doing it. Is the answer to become a Buddhist monk and give up all our worldly possessions in pursuit of happiness? Well, not exactly. Not all of us can do what Ricard has done, but we can take the principles of his teachings and use them in our every day lives.

I Don't have time to Concentrate

Ah yes.....that old chestnut. If I wasn’t so busy bringing up my kids /making money / fighting with my wife, of course I’d meditate.....wouldn’t we all?

The good news is that you don’t have to go and live in a cave and devote your life to mindful focus. Just 10 minutes a day of focused attention can have enormously positive effects on the quality of your life. And if you haven’t already worked it out by now, the quality of your life is the quality of the attention that you pay to it. Almost every great achievement of mankind came through focused attention to the task at hand , be it sport, Mozart’s symphony or a man on the moon.

But even if you really don’t have 10 minutes a day to yourself, you can still bring the art of mindfulness into everyday activities. For instance, when you wash the dishes, how often do you REALLY pay attention to what you are doing; the temperature of the water, the feel of the scourer on the pan? Most of the time your mind is elsewhere, either thinking about the past or the future.

The next time you are doing a really mundane activity, practise paying attention to this activity to the exclusion of everything else. This could be any activity, such as washing the dog, brushing your teeth or polishing the silver. Try it, and you wil increase your powers of concentration tenfold!

Need some help? A skilled therapist will plant the right seeds and get you attracting what you want in life.

Make a decision today to identify and remove the beliefs that are no longer serving you well.

Pay Attention

How many times have you heard your parents or teachers say this? When you consider the fact that we have seven plus or minus two thoughts bombarding the conscious mind per second, then this advice really starts to make sense.

We can choose to pay attention to what we are doing, and by doing this, we are practising being in the now. There is a time honoured belief among the contemplative traditions that our true nature is peace, love and joy. Meditation and mindfulness are the key to bringing us back to our true nature.

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Feeling stuck? Consider enlisting the services of a qualified therapist to help you identify your blocks and create new, empowering beliefs.

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So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this issue of Success Express...have a great day!

- Sonia

Manifest Your Success

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