Oakville Zen Meditation

#85. Focusing: What? How, Why?7DEC15.

What is focusing?

To focus is:

  • “To direct attention or effort on something / somebody.”
  • To concentrate, to pay attention, to center, to be aware.
  • To force the mind to think / concentrate on one thing at a time during a period of time for whatever reason, task or goal.

Focusing is to ongoing thinking what a picture is to a movie: one single shot at a time rather than a series of shots.

When we are focusing, our attention is pinpoint-concentrated on the target the same way a laser is to light.

Focusing is a monotasking mental exercise.

Focusing has its limits in intensity, duration and efficiency since:

  • Our mind does not like to be told how and what to think about.
  • Our ability in focusing - quality, quality and duration - decreases with age.
  • Technologies make us more and more vulnerable to outside distractions and multitasking: Wi FI, etc.

Effect of focusing on the mind outflow:

Because focusing is a mental act imposed to our mind the flow of our thoughts is greatly reduced. Focusing is in fact an efficient mind control tool.

There are 2 main types of focusing:

Cognitive or intellectual:

This is our day-to-day focusing activity, the most common one. Concentrating on something using our analytic, discriminative, deductive and judgmental mind for a specific task such as work, art creation, cooking, etc. The list is endless.

“Non cognitive” or Mindfulness:

To be mindful is a very specific and unique focusing technique, which is:

a- Non-cognitive, non-intellectual that is without using our analytic, discriminative, deductive and judgmental attitude.

b- Non-decisional that is there is no specific decision to be made.

Being mindful is to contemplate, observe and reflect on the focusing object like a mirror does.

Since there is no analytic and judgmental process the practice of being mindful is the most effective way in controlling our thoughts and feelings. The mind becomes “frozen” in a contemplative and observing state like pressing on the “pause” mode.

Why to focus?

By necessity we are focusing all day long for zillions of reasons and the list is endless: work, creative tasks, listening to someone / something, driving, planning, entertainment, workout, etc. No point to go further. Again, focusing is always task-driven.

In Zen the 2 main goals in practicing mindfulness-based concentration are:

1) To achieve an efficient meditation:

The main purpose of meditation is learning to control thoughts and mind. Relaxation and serenity will follow.

By focusing on something such as exhale breathing or other focusing point called mind anchor we force the mind to center on ONE thing therefore imposing it to reduce its flow of thoughts (fennel effect). Only then, we become conscious of our incoming thoughts. Being aware of them is needed to control them. Meditation is a mind control exercise whereas, during the day, the opposite occurs since the mind and its thoughts are controlling us. With experience one can focus on anything as long she/he stays focus on it and not daydreams. The focus point can be part of your body, someone, a picture via visualization, a sound, a word, a sentence, a thought itself, a feeling, and an event. Any focusing object is OK as long as you:

  1. are comfortable with it
  2. don’t analyze/judge it and just contemplate it and
  3. don’t start to daydream.

2) To help us, during our day-to day- life we can focus on:

  • The present moment by bringing the mind where the body is that is now.
  • Practicing monotasking (true focusing) rather than multitasking (superficial multi-focusing).
  • What we are doing, our current environment, etc.
  • What is real and what is not including our thoughts.

Thank you. Ven. Ji Gong Sunim Nov. 15