One of the most powerful keys to optimal performance is the ability to direct your focus and attention wherever you wish. Society’s misunderstanding of focus is analogous to a sprinter trying to win a marathon.
Focus is not achieved from rushing or grinding down
Most people think they need to “grind down” to focus: they clench their jaw, furrow their brow, and induce muscular tension to be productive, like whipping a horse.
This belief leads to a distracted mind and burn-out, and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the human body and mind work.
Focus is not determined by how intense or aggressive you are, but by how clean and clear you are internally.
Consider for a second where you register information. When you absorb or recall information, where do you sense it in your body?
Most people report shifts or openings in their gut and chest, along the center of their body. They notice a core softening.
This response is a form of relaxation. As soon as you rush or tense yourself up, you are disconnecting and distancing yourself from your ability to learn and embody yourself optimally.
The more relaxed you are, the better able you are to enjoy the presence of mind optimal for peak performance.
Meditation is all about relaxation. A tense body and a busy mind are the same thing. Whenever your mind is thinking excessively, your body is just tense and getting tenser.
A “chatty” mind is the result of internal tension. Relax the tension, and you release the accompanying internal dialogue.
As soon as this tension gets relaxed, you enter a state of Flow or The Zone. Your mind quiets down and information can pass between you and your surroundings and vice versa.
Your decision-making process is vastly improved from a relaxed state, as your enhanced access to your “gut” and intuition provides clearer, cleaner answers to internal (and external) questions.
Whenever your mind and attention are not where you’d like them to be, internal tension is creating a fog in you, shortness of breath, low energy that makes focus a burdensome chore.
Learning to access and sustain states of profound relaxation does not happen overnight. But you can do it: www.johnhankey.com/the-science-of-flow.
Progressive relaxation is a skill (and it also happens to be the secret of meditation). The more that you practice it, the deeper that you go, the more easily you sustain this powerful way of being out in your life.
Focus is not achieved through having a rigidly still mind. Many meditation practitioners believe that the mind needs to be still in order to induce Flow. This approach often leads to interior tension, as individuals tense muscles in order to “keep their mind still.”
In actuality, only when the body’s interior processes are able to move does the mind quiet down. Internal movement is a universal sign of a healthy body: breath, blood flow, food and waste, emotions.
One of the most direct ways to learn how to relax more fully is from a body scan meditation (track #6 from the above link) in which an audio invites you to relax your body part by part. Then, when you listen a second time through, you will be deeper, your kinesthetic connection to your body will be strong and your focus will be sharper.
Awareness of body is the key, and practicing it is one of life’s most worthwhile activities.