The Beauty of Focus

It has been a stressful year, in so many ways.

This morning, I opened up my Calm app to attempt to resurrect my meditation habit. I have had an intermittent meditation practice for years, and despite the fact that it really seems to work for me, I have never developed a rock steady daily habit. (From a tools perspective, I find that when I’m in a good routine, I either use nothing and just do breathing, or use a simple app like Insight Timer, but when I’ve lost the groove I find it helpful to use tools like Calm or Simple Habit to get back into it.)

Anyway, for me, the big benefit of meditation is helping to get perspective on the constant stream of ruminating concerns flowing through my mind — some of which are useful and necessary, but some of which are not. And the basic practice of focusing on what’s happening here and now (breath, sensations, sounds) is incredibly powerful as a way to regain clarity.

Thinking about this this morning made me realize why I enjoy certain activities so much — activities that have a natural focus to them and basically force you to detach from your running thoughts and focus on the present: listening to music, being at a baseball game, doing carpentry or other house projects, skiing, hiking, coding. Those are the ones that really do it for me, but of course you see it with gardening, drawing, reading, etc etc.

I’d like to think that this kind of focus-building isn’t about ignoring the world, but rather about getting your mind to a place where you can actually be more effective in doing the things you need to do to have an impact (whether that’s on your career, family, politics, community, etc).

It’s funny and a little backwards (though not ironic) that finding ways to focus down and think less can actually help you do more, but I think it can and does.

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