Concentrate on concentrating

This article was published in the May’2008 issue of the magazine Management compass

Vagaries of mind

It’s concentration that helps you achieve your goal

I had written seven articles in The Times of India in the year 2006, out of which two made it to the Times Wellness Book. Out of the two, one is on concentration:-
“Indian children are exposed to how Arjuna was asked to focus on the eye as a target for his arrow, as an exercise in concentration. Ralph Waldo Emerson has said ‘Concentration is the secret of success in politics, in war, in all management of human affairs.’
One way of determining what your purpose in life is to try and engage in an activity in which you completely lose awareness of time and space because you are fully concentrated on it. That would be the activity in which you are in your element. Though it can be described as an intense concentration, Osho has elevated it to the level of meditation. He even goes to say that when you are happy doing whatever you are doing, you are automatically meditative. Meditation is a function of happiness and not the other way around. In the children’s context, if their concentration is monitored proactively, it could give an indication of their life’s purpose…

Emerson’s statement has a different connotation as well. It is a well- known fact in Yoga that the power of concentration is the power of the human mind. People are able to perform miraculous feats with the power of concentration. In this context, if you are caught in the wrong profession, a good power of concentration can go a long way in mitigating the misery. One can pass by with a reasonable degree of efficiency if the general level of concentration is high…

So either one is in the right profession (spontaneous concentration) or the general level of concentration is high. At least one of the two should be strong for you to be adept at what you are doing. Therefore we realise the need and importance of developing concentration not only for children, but for our ownselves too.”

The above article was based on a passage that I had come across in an article on meditation: “Many people cannot concentrate on their work because their minds keep straying. Others keep worrying about their pet obsessions. These are the vagaries of the mind which prevent you from doing a good job at any given time. At the other end of the spectrum, you find people daydreaming a chain of colourful thoughts. So deeply engrossed are they that they lose awareness of what is going around them.” I had this problem and I was looking at it from only one perspective of what I could not do. Later, when the “colourful thoughts” made me a writer and a poet, I realised that my mind was concentrated on them which is why I could not concentrate on the jobs. That is perhaps the reason why creative people do not like nine to five jobs; they are simply not cut out for them.

The most well-known enlightened man in the history of mankind, Buddha had this to say in this context “Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” Some of the great artists of this world have described absorption in their work as a kind of orgasmic pleasure. Pablo Picasso said, “It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction”. Whatever be the form of creativity, nothing can replace the artistic satisfaction that one experiences on being able to complete a creative task when one gets completely absorbed in it and achieves a state of total concentration by transcending thought. Some years ago, in an interview, filmstar Shah Rukh Khan had said, “When I stand in front of the camera, I feel as if I am making love to my audience.”

Creative people are known for being emotional, sensitive and mood swings. Einstein had once said, “All great discoveries come from people whose feelings run ahead of their thinking”. From a writer’s/ poets perspective, some of the best creative ideas come when the mind is given a free run. The mind can be explained in terms of centrifugal (stronger at periphery than centre) and centripetal ( logical and centred — stronger at centre) forces and the mind with a centrifugal predisposition has creative
tendencies.

Ayurveda talks of Vata, Pitta and Kapha people. A Vata (air) predominating person will have emotional tendencies towards fear and anxiety. They are very creative and imaginative, make good artists, poets, inventors and writers or have divergent attention concentrated in ideas. They are indecisive, changeable, excitable, moody and solitary people. Kapha minds are the exact opposite — grounded and centred and have convergent attention focused in implementation.

One definition of creativity is to reveal a new synergy between two seemingly disparate ideas or a rearrangement of the old. One is supposed to drench oneself and the subconscious with all the facts one can muster with full concentration and when the mind is calm and relaxed, ideas incubate from the subconscious to correlate, combine, associate and categorise in different kinds of synthesis. No wonder some of the most important discoveries from science have come in a relaxed state of mind when the concerned individuals have been bathing, walking or even shaving.

Apart from getting creative ideas in a relaxed, concentration is facilitated when the mind is in a creative state and vice-versa. The Bhagvad Gita says, “For he who has no tranquility there is no concentration.” The other extreme is also equally true. Psychiatrists use occupational therapy as one of the means to treat people who have been through severe trauma by making them do interesting activities in which their mind becomes so engrossed that they completely forget their painful experiences. In this way concentration can be used to induce tranquility which can further enhance concentration in a virtuous circle.

In one of his discourses, Osho said that people with a thinking disposition and philosophers often complain that mundane things bore them. He divided people into two broad categories — the ‘buffaloes’ and the ‘Buddhas’. He said that the buffaloes were the hedonistic types — they had no grand purpose in life but were content with their daily existence and never thought too much about the monotony of daily existence. The Buddhas on the other hand were the intellectual types, trying to seek a deeper purpose and meaning in life and their existence and would easily tire of routine. Osho said, “Either be a buffalo or a Buddha”. He meant that either ignore the routine activities completely or observe routine so minutely that the novelty of life becomes apparent in this micro-observation. This is the way to transform the mundane into the sacred. This requires tremendous alertness and concentration, which in this context can actually be called awareness, presence, consciousness, mindfulness etc. Incidentally Buddha also said, “The stages of the Noble Path are: Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Behaviour, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.” Right concentration is mentioned last but is certainly not the least — trains in Japan and Germany move at 500 miles an hour because of the concentrated force of superconductivity or electrons moving in one direction without any resistance.

Another statement of Buddha sums it up: “Wakefulness is the way of life.” J krishnamuthy talked of constantly witnessing all thoughts, feelings and actions as they arise. Osho says that being totally aware and in the present is the key to transcend negative emotions and overcome all kinds of suffering. He says, “If you are present when anger is happening, anger cannot happen… In fact, there is only one sin and that is unawareness. When you become aware, your body becomes more relaxed, your body becomes more attuned, a deep peace starts prevailing even in your body; a subtle music pulsates in your body”

From the above, it seems that constant watchfulness has the kind of effect on your body and mind that sports do. Talking of sportspeople, the best cricket Team in the world, Australia indulges in sledging primarily to disturb the opponent’s concentration. Sachin Tendulkar actually said once, “If concentration wavers, the brain does not pass signals at the pace that the ball comes.” When asked on a tour to Bangladesh on how easy it must be for someone like him to face Bangladeshi bowlers, Sachin replied, “I only think of the ball and its merit and not the bowler.” This is to induce what sportsmen call a state of “flow” in which they forget all else and are totally focused on their sport as a means to excel. Pete Sampras, who won the maximum number of grand slams, attributes his success to being able to achieve flow as one of the main reasons. Martina Navratilova puts it even more precisely and concisely: “I try to concentrate on concentrating.” Can you afford to do otherwise?

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4 Responses

  1. I may positive attitude as well to your exhaustive and insightful piece.

  2. Thanks for the information about concentration. Now if only I can do more of it. It’s nice to see good info online for a change.

  3. Jeremiah says : I absolutely agree with this !

  4. captivity says : I absolutely agree with this !

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