Have you ever noticed what happens to your body when you concentrate? We’re taught from a young age to “Concentrate!” but is it really helpful? Could it be that concentration gets our attention and body fixed and stuck rather than available and flexible?
Give concentration a try right now and observe what happens in your self. Concentrate on the screen in front of you, the words or something that’s on your mind. As you focus on the object of your attention to the exclusion of everything, what happens in your body? You probably have to stop concentrating to notice that you may have stopped breathing! Maybe you find your head pushed forward or your shoulders pulled up.
I concentrated in this way for years, in fact I worked really hard at it. And my body paid the cost. I put myself through serious contractures and pain until I was able to discover what I was doing to myself and how to stop.
Maybe concentrating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
My body paid the cost of concentrating. But what about attention? I find that when I concentrate my attention on something, I lose sight of everything else – of the big picture. I only see what I’m concentrating on. What does that do to perspective?
Now try out allowing your attention to expand to include the object of your focus as part of the big picture. Looking at this paragraph, for example, can you include your self in your attention, too? What’s your breathing like as you look at the paragraph as part of a big picture that includes the world around you and you, too?
Attention is like a muscle. When we place it intensely in one place, it can get stuck and stiff, making our actual muscles stuck and stiff as well. Muscles work more optimally when they are allowed to move rather than being clamped down. Our attention can also work optimally when we allow it to expand and be fluid.
Concentrating is like trying to balance by holding all of our muscles still – that actually puts us in a more precarious position, whereas allowing movement actually helps us to balance more easily. If we work hard to concentrate, we are probably more likely to find ourselves distracted or ‘somewhere else’ and ‘have to concentrate’ to bring ourselves back.
What about if we allow our awareness to include our selves and the world around us as well as the object of our attention? Could we be more present and responsive to changing situations? As we learn to flex and stretch our ‘attention muscle,’ could we even find ourselves less perturbed by unexpected or less than ideal circumstances?
Next time you’re in a Zoom meeting or working on something that ‘requires you to concentrate,’ try out allowing your attention to expand instead of contract, to flow rather than to focus, to include rather than exclude. See what changes in your whole mind-body self. I find it helps me to be more at ease and flexible.
Wishing you flexibility and perspective,
DiscoverEase in Movement