Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Focus: Far More Than Concentration

Water Drops on Red Rose

“Always recognize the dreamlike qualities of life and reduce attachment and aversion.  Practice good-heartedness toward all beings.  Be loving and compassionate, no matter what others do to you.  What they will do will not matter so much when you see it as a dream.  The trick is to have positive intention during the dream.  This is the essential point.  This is true spirituality.” – Chagdud Rinpoche

Traditionally the word “focus” means to concentrate or pay particular attention to.  But “focus” has so many expanded meanings for me.  For example, all these ways of being depend on one’s capacity for focus, but are also not limited by it:

  • Mindfulness and awareness
  • Spacious awareness
  • Relaxed awareness
  • Loving awareness
  • Presence

When I use the word “focus,” I don’t mean being overly concentrated.  You can focus lightly on one thing, but still be cognizant of everything else going on around you.  That’s spacious awareness that is both relaxed and alert.

On Track with the Most Important Priorities

With all these big, beautiful states of mind luring me, why would I choose the more boring “focus” as my one powerful word for 2014?

I want focus because I want to center my attention on the most important priorities. I want to let go of everything unimportant and unnecessary in my life and in my work.  I don’t want to have regrets when death arrives – which could be at any moment – because I wasted my life on minutiae.

What are these priorities?  For me, they include:

  • Love and gratitude
  • Work that serves and illuminates
  • Meditation that expresses mindfulness, awareness, and a warm heart
  • A balanced self-nourishment so I have the foundation to nourish others

I reject:

  • Wasting time online
  • Floundering around in self-doubt and other unhelpful emotional states
  • Having more things to do than time to do them in
  • Unrealistic time assessments
  • Living in the past or the future

If there are any underlying patterns obstructing my focus this year, I’ll be teasing them out.

Keep Stating the Intention

I know there is a big gap between how I am now and how I want to be.  Being ever so human, I am often pulled away from mindful awareness into old streams of thoughts and emotions.

That’s OK.  I will just bring my mind back to the present moment when I find that it is lost without chastising myself.  I will keep stating my intention each day, appreciate all the moments of mindfulness I do have, and enjoy the journey to greater awareness.

The best resource I’ve found on focus – in the traditional sense – is Leo Babauta’s book Focus.  You can download 27 chapters for free or opt for the expanded, paid version.

I want to live in spacious, loving mindfulness and awareness and focus on what’s really important in this life.  That’s my aim for 2014 and my word for the year is “focus.”

Do you have trouble with focus?  How do you work with it?

I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please subscribe for free updates by email. With love, Sandra



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  1. Jean Sampson

    I do have trouble with focus a lot (I have been blaming it on age!) because I will start to do something and then remember what I was doing a moment ago that needed doing and then get distracted on the way to do THAT and do something entirely different that needed doing, of course. I think I focus best when I am doing something like writing or painting or drawing. That seems to be my form of meditation. It takes a lot to distract me from doing those things which are all extremely important to me. Now, if I get distracted from cleaning the bathroom, maybe that is not such a bad thing! 🙂 This is one of those months in which I am busy, busy and busier——and I feel that everything is a distraction because I am doing nothing really creative. Well, maybe organizing and hanging 2 huge art shows IS creative, but it is not as inward as I like—-and I am also having to depend on other people (and they do let you down at times when you really do need their bodies to work! 🙂 and the fey winter weather. I don’t think a really bad attack of vertigo at the beginning of the month helped much either. Now, THAT will tear the heck out of anyone’s focus! 🙂
    Seriously. I do need to spend some time sitting and evaluating what is important and what is not—–I did eliminate 3 meetings a month that I have been attending (and leading one of them) so that really did open up some space. The whole point was to spend more time at home with hubby, and that is happening. But my life is like quick sand that will keep on pulling me under unless I have a real solid something to pull me out. I am still working on this. Just as you are getting rid of “stuff”, I am working on getting rid of things that take me away from my house, especially at night. Getting there one step at a time, but I am really having to say NO a lot because folks see that I have spaces that are not filled now and they have stuff for me to do, to attend, etc, all of which are good and fun things (sometimes) but I am fighting to hold onto those nights I cleared!!!

    • Hi Jean, I’m with you when it comes to sitting down and figuring out what is important and what is not. Protect those evenings! It sounds like they could easily slip away.

      Yes, I sometimes can’t remember from one moment to the next; I know what you mean. But, I too have good focus when I’m working on a project. I just don’t want to waste time on the little stuff! Good luck making it through this month!

  2. I love how you list your priorities and what you reject. I wonder if the gap you mention between how you are and how you want to be is that big – or as big as you think it is!

    I’m terrible for wasting time online too. It’s a professional hazard when you work online but I really enjoy it. I think I need to set aside time for mindless web surfing. It keeps me on the ball, inspires and connects me with great people (like you) too so it’s not all wasted. It’s just a question of tuning in and out consciously – that’s what I’ll be working on 🙂

    • Hi Annabel,

      Thanks! Yes, that’s a good point about the gap. Maybe it’s smaller or bigger than we think. I do know that there’s an opportunity in every moment so it’s not something we have to strive for years down the road!

      I love your attitude about enjoying your time online. You’re right, when you work online there’s a fine link between what’s part of the work and what’s goofing off. I love connecting with great people like you too.

  3. Hi Sandra,

    I appreciate your wider perspective on focus but isn’t it weird that the concerns and worries remain the same! Each day we make the same promises to ourselves…not wasting time, be more thankful, give more love, concentrate on present…and the irony is that we have to keep reminding ourselves all the time or after a few days!

    Well life is like that and the same for all of us! Sitting so much away from each other, how our thoughts match really amazes me!

    I am so focussed (and I say it with all humility) that nobody can shake me out of my work before I finish it.

    Wish you all the best for remaining focussed through out the year!

    • Dear Balroop,

      This is just the path of being human, isn’t it? We constantly a work in progress. I think it’s worthwhile to keep those reminders going and eventually I think it all comes more naturally.

      The synchronicity is amazing!

      I can be focused like that too when I get going on a project. I’m not a hopeless case at all! 🙂 I just want more focus! 🙂

      Thank you for your good wishes.

  4. I do sometimes get “out of focus”. One method I’ve been trying is to be aware when I start multi-tasking and pull back to single tasking. This helps me to be more mindful and relaxed. I chose “grit” as my word for the year!

  5. Hi Beverly,

    I’m glad this works for you! Thanks for this suggestions. I love “grit.” Go for it!

  6. Well that is interesting. I chose two words this year – Fearless and Focus. So we’re both going to get focused, I guess! Great minds think alike, and all that. I’ll have to have a look at the book you recommended. Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Jennifer,
      Now how cool is that? Yes for focus! Fearless is a very powerful word! I did a lot of work with fear last year but I have a ways to go to fearless. Thanks for sharing your 2014 words. So lovely to see you!

  7. I’m such a multitasker, that it’s often hard for me to focus on just one thing. I usually have to become obsessed with an idea. For example, I recently had a dream and it was so detailed and haunting that I had to write about it. As soon as I got home from work, I sat down and stayed up all night writing a short story. I had distractions, of course (internet, getting a snack, etc), but I was driven enough by the story in my head that I had to get it done. That’s usually what it takes for me to focus.

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