“Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
Being like water is easier said than done. It is easier to flow like water with exaggerated movements and flailing arms than it is to flow figuratively. If the secret to awareness and enlightenment is simply emptying the mind, then there are a lot of people out there who should be incredibly enlightened, shouldn’t there? The truth is that focusing the mind is not that easy, not easy at all. There are just too many distractions, too many things to do that our minds seem to be in ten places at once.
Whether it be for work, meditation, or whatever, it is important for us to quiet our minds and focus on the tasks at hand. This makes us sharper, more efficient and, somehow, more pleasant. So, how can we focus our minds? Here are 3 simple ways to get focused:
1. Block Out Distractions
Biologically, we are programmed to stay alert to changes in our environment; it’s part of our “fight or flight response”. It thus follows that we naturally react to every interruption to our environment. To be able to focus our minds, it is important for us to create our space and block out distractions. Close the door and hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign. Logoff of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, messengers and your email. Turn off your mobile, the TV, internet, radio or mp3 player. If silence is simply deafening, then choose sounds that will help you concentrate, such as soothing music, white noise machines and mantra chanting. Eventually, it will become easier to focus on thoughts and feelings.
2. Breathe Deeply
Whenever things aren’t going right, we are always told to breathe. Inhale deeply and exhale long. When we feel anxious or stressed, our breathing becomes shallow, causing our body to tense and our emotions to run amok and overpower logic. When we breathe deeply, our heart rate slows, bring about overall calm and improving our concentration. Counting breaths is a great way to get focused, because it bring us back from our cliff and back into the perspective of our immediate reality.
3. No Pressure
Really. Never pressure or force yourself into concentration. No matter how urgent or beneficial it may seem, forcing yourself into anything may turn out to be counterproductive. “What you fight against-persists,” they say. The more you force a wall up, the more thoughts and distractions will come to chip away at it. Thus, it would be better to leave the guilt-trip on the curb, allow thoughts to simply flow through you mind and then let them go. Lastly, gently redirect your thoughts back to the task at hand. Your mind will respond better to loving coaxing rather than brute force.
There are tons of other ways to help the mind to focus. What is important is that we never forget to just let it all flow. Empty your mind; be formless, be shapeless. Be water, my friend.