Does this sound familiar:
You get up to stretch your weary back from your fourth virtual meeting of the day, only to realise you haven’t eaten yet. As you amble to the kitchen in your business-causal-pyjama-bottom combo looking for eggs, you notice your kid is glued to a TikTok video instead of the laptop where a 20-something is attempting to educate a bored class of teenagers. You chastise them half-heartedly and answer an email on your phone while cracking two eggs into a pan. Your dog is sniffing around, hoping for scraps, when the doorbell rings. Oh! Maybe the groceries are being delivered early today. You run to the door but have to double back because your mask is in your office. Finally you open the door only to realise it is actually the mail man with your latest forgotten Amazon purchase. What was it again? Just as you’re waving a socially distanced thank you, the smoke alarm goes off and the dog is barking.
Your breakfast is burnt.
Focus is increasingly difficult to achieve in 2021. As humans our brains are built to adapt to challenging circumstances, but the past year has thrown such a rollercoaster of predicaments at the human race that many are finding it daunting to just get out of bed, much less deal with the trials of the day.
A moment of meditation might be the answer to more focus.
A study by Kees L. Blase and Adeline van Waning found, “The attention focus test showed a significant increase of 18.7% in sustained attention, moving from medium to high attention focus, with a significant result of t(20) = − 8.764 and p < 0.001. Participants reported positive subjective changes in attention focus, sense of happiness and calmness and increased abilities in emotional regulation and attunement.”
Sounds great! So how to do you tap in to these meditative powers of focus?
- The Shamatha Technique—This technique was the focus of the above study and literally translates into “calm”. In this technique one sits in the traditional seven point Buddhist posture to align the physical body with the spiritual one. Then, once comfortable, one focuses on the natural rise and fall of breath. Every time the mind wanders, return to the natural rhythm to regain focus.
- The Body Scan Technique—This can be done in any position, preferably with eyes closed so as to reduce surrounding stimulus. One mentally scans their entire body slowly, from the very top of the head to the tips of the toes, noting any tension. Gently focus on the tension and the relaxing of the body in this area until it eases, then continue the scan until satisfied.
- Chakra Meditation Technique—In this technique one would acknowledge which spiritual chakra(s) is experiencing blockage and meditate on it—sometimes with the aid of metaphysically corresponding crystals, candles, singing bowls, etc.—until the chakra is unblocked and the body finds balance.
- Resting Awareness Technique—This practice is purposefully relaxed in comparison to the others. All it requires is awareness, so it can be done anywhere at any time. The purpose of this meditation is to give your mind respite, so conscious and unconscious thoughts are allowed to drift in and out of your mind without any need to act upon them or follow them anywhere. Imagine a rock in a gentle river. You are that rock, your thoughts are flowing calmly around you.
- Loving Kindness Technique—This technique is another one that can be done anywhere at any time. It simply starts with directing positive energy and love towards oneself first and then gradually extending that goodwill out towards others, letting go of any pent up negativity affecting the day.
There are many meditative techniques and it is a big step towards attaining peace when we set out to find which one belongs to us. Meditation is proven to increase our focus and lower cortisol levels in the body, something we all need as we head into this new year.