This is an unusual post for me. And yet I want to share this video with you since it appealed so much to me. First of all, I was surprised to see a hindu priest at a TEDx talk because more often than not there are authors, scientists, researchers, anthropologists, sociologists and experts of their respective fields who deliver TED talks. Meditation and spirituality is almost hokum compared to the exact sciences that the other fields are. But the talk explains something complex that we all are going through at this time in such a simple manner. And I think we all should watch this and learn the art of unwavering focus. Let’s begin!
First of all, who is Dandapani?
Dandapani is a hindu priest of Sri Lankan origin but grew up in Australia. After a degree in engineering, he chose to give it all up and became a monk for 10 years in a monastery in Hawaii. He went through the rigours of personal training and discipline to understand the mind and be able to control it. When his vows expired after a decade, he chose to step out into the world to share his profound knowledge with people at large and made New York his new home. He speaks at different events now and imparts wisdom on self-development, meditation and how to live life better. You can get more information on his personal website.
So, what is this talk about?
Coming straight to business now, I’ll summarise the main points of the talk – although I strongly recommend that you listen to the whole talk yourself. I have – multiple times!
We are all expected to concentrate and also ask our kids to focus on the task at hand. But, he begins his talk with 2 very valid questions – how do we do something that we are never taught how to? And how do we get better at something that we don’t practice? So the most important things here are: 1. We need to be taught how to concentrate 2. We need to practice it to get better at it. The video is about understanding your mind and being able to accomplish the two.
He goes on to say that we lead distracted lives. We are distracted pretty much every waking hour of our lives. And if we practice distraction roughly, say 13 hours a day, we will obviously get better at being distracted and not at being focussed. And yet we wonder why our mind wanders all the time. Technology is blamed to be the root cause of all distractions and anxieties. Smart phone and social media and the notifications that ping every second keep us on at the edge all the time. But, he asks, is technology really the problem? Aren’t we letting technology train us to be distracted? Instead of us controlling technology, we let it control us.
So what do we do to concentrate?
Understanding the mind is very important to be able to control it. And yet there is no manual to understand the mind. From the monk’s perspective, there are two important things to know – one, awareness and the other, the mind. We have different areas in the mind that are lit up like a ball of light when we think of those areas – feelings, work, family, sex, happiness, love etc. As a distracted mind, our awareness flits from area to area lighting it for split seconds before it is attracted by something else.
Concentration is the art of keeping our awareness – the ball of light – at one point for extended periods of time.
Coming back to 2 things that help you concentrate better: 1. We need to be taught how to concentrate 2. We need to practice it to get better at it
There are a couple of things that one can do in order to practice concentration.
1. Do one thing at a time throughout the day to practice concentration. The more we practice, the better we get at it.
2. Find opportunities to practice concentration throughout the day. When you speak to your spouse, focus only on that. And likewise with the other tasks that you do.
Practicing concentration is a great bonus for parents since children learn when they see you do it. And you are in a better position to teach them concentration rather than just expecting them to focus.
This video is a simple answer to the short attention spans we have, the distractions that we fight every day and an answer to the responsibility we lay on technology for all our woes. I’d love to hear what you thought after watching the video. Drop in your comments and lets get the conversation started.