“To do two things at once is to do neither.” ~ Publilius Syrus
“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” ~ Ron Swanson, Parks & Recreation
Do you ever have days where you’re trying to get things done but you stop as soon as you start and move onto the next thing? I’ve been doing this a lot this month as things gear up for the Kekoka Yoga Retreat, flitting from room to room, task to task.
The intention I set each time I step onto my mat is simply to be present. Yet I often flit around there too, shifting my attention to uninvolved body parts (like my hair or toenails), a plan for my next class, or a reflective or judgmental thought.
Our attention is one of the most valuable things we have, and the modern world can be addictive and overstimulating. Focusing on one task at a time allows us to be present. Doing more than one thing at a time divides our attention. But paying attention to one thing is a lot easier said than done! Luckily, there’s a practice for that…
The sixth limb of the 8-limbs of yoga is dharana, which is roughly defined as concentration. Alice G. Walton points out that dharana isn’t so much the state of concentration, it’s more the act of bringing your “monkey mind” back to whatever it is you’re focusing on. Again and again and again. The focus can be your breath, a mantra, a physical object like a candle or a specific sensation in the body. The thing to remember in practicing dharana is that the goal is the practice, of redirecting the mind again and again, of training the mind to pay attention. If you’re practicing Warrior II, for example, it’s not so much the pose you’re practicing, it’s the act of paying attention to the pose. If you’re practicing seated meditation, it’s not the seat, it’s that potent observation.
There’s something innately gratifying about focusing intently on something, of getting lost in a book, a song or a creation. It brings a sense of calm, of joy and of clarity. Practicing concentration can help us with our focus anywhere, not just when we meditate or get on our mat. Please join me this month in focusing on this one thing. I promise it’ll be worth your effort.