Okay, okay, I get the message!!
Here’s the nutshell. Meditation is said to be good, right? I mean, we’ve all read/heard it a million times. And if you’re anything like me, you might be all, “Yeah, oh, I wish I could do it, but well, I have all these other things to do!” or, “I’ve tried it a couple of times, and well, I, you know, SUCK at keeping my mind quiet and focused!” I don’t need to go into further detail on the meditation thing, right? We’re same-paging it, I’m sure.
Which brings me to the Michael Phelps article (click on the link to read the article). Turns out that—aside from the genetically perfect swimmer’s DNA from which he’s made—he has a dedicated training program that focuses on, well, focus! He meditates on his swims, going over them in minute detail in his head, rehearsing them from the moment he arrives at the aquatic centre to what he’ll be listening to on his ipod to how he’ll hit the water to how his strokes will feel to the final reaching touch of the wall, over and over, until he can literally do them with his eyes shut (turns out he needed that skill—his goggles were leaking during one of his races: he closed his eyes, he swam like he’d rehearsed it, he won—not only the gold medal, but a World Record!) What really intrigued me about this article was the idea that in each of these thousands of imagined races, he, of course, won every one. So his days were filled with what they call “small wins”. These small wins have all the same positive effects on his psyche that come with an actual gold medal win, and these effects in turn feed his ability. It’s small-win/big-win—and it’s all thanks to uninterrupted focus.
And then last night, there was my drive-home convo with the teacher. Focus came up once again! I don’t remember how we actually got into it, but let’s assume we were trying to address my vague grasp on the stuff he’s teaching. Anyway, he pointed out that our minds want to take us in a million different directions ALL THE TIME and that this is not only exhausting but counter-productive. And that this mind-habit of ours is so engrained and “normal” that we don’t even realize we do it. He brought up an athletic comparison, as well. In his case it was the golfer: what’s the difference between an Average Joe golfer and a powerhouse star? Well, the powerhouse doesn’t let his mind waver for even a millisecond from the moment he raises his club through to contact with the ball through to the after-swing. The rest of us? Waver waver waver. Our brains divert for tiny little fractions of a second, not once but many times—and so we lose our focus and the shot is compromised.
And what’s more? All this mind-wandering, all this lack of focus, is exhausting!!!
We become depleted and drained by the meaningless world travels of our mind. (One other real-life reminder of this for me: my inability to write last week, remember?) Okay, in all of our defenses, of course not every mind-ramble is “meaningless”, many will lead to interesting thoughts or ideas, but it’s amazing how often they are counter-productive.
And maybe if we train ourselves to focus, a little bit at a time, we might be able to tap into that extraordinary energy we otherwise dissipate as we contemplate the mundane, the same-old, the inner-critic, the internal-bosses-of-us.
How? Well, back to square one on the meditation thing. Meditation has got to be a training ground for focus, right? But how about practicing focus when you’re doing something as simple as (to my teacher’s example) washing the dishes. Try applying all your focus to the task. Don’t let your mind wander. Or when you’re driving the car. Just look at everything you see and focus completely on that. Or when you’re getting ready for your day in the morning. Don’t think about the day ahead, just on how it feels (and looks) to lather that soap and comb that hair and brush those teeth.
If we can put ourselves in a “state of focus” for even just small snippets of time, maybe, just maybe, we will build up our focus muscles. And maybe, just maybe, our daily lives will be filled with much-deserved and darling “small wins” about which we can feel really truly pumped and which can take us to a whole other athletic level!
Deb: (trying hard not to blognap) I love this topic. It’s like you were a fly on the wall in a family discussion we had last night about focus and its many natural enemies. I adore the ideas you put forth here, Barb. And I am going to start simple. Brush the teeth, focus on the teeth, etc etc.
I have been a meditator since I was in my early twenties. T.M. to be exact. Shalaka and I actually had an online discussion about it. I loved meditation and, although I know this is an overused phrase, it saved my life. It turned things around for me at a tough and challenging time. The best part is, it was gift of love from my cousin Scott, the cousin I mentioned in an earlier post who helped out my Mom and Dad through this last period of time.
I kept it up for years, loving it and then ... it slipped away. It made a guest appearance during menopause and saved me again. I am getting the messages loud and clear that I need to resume. I keep using excuses like, “I don’t have two 20-minute periods a day to meditate.” Wrong. I do. I must find the time.