Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Translator: Rhonda Jacobs Reviewer: Peter van de Ven When I was growing up as a child, I was teased very often for being so distracted, teased for not being able to concentrate, and you know, had I not been born a few decades ago, I probably would have been given one of those colorful acronyms like ADD or ADHD, branded and probably drugged for not being able to concentrate, right? It wasn't until I was in my early 20s when I graduated from university - I grew up in Australia - and I left and went to Hawaii where I joined my guru's monastery, it was a cloistered, traditional Hindu monastery, where he taught me how to concentrate. And that's what I want you to keep in mind, this concept of being taught how to concentrate. It's in my humble opinion that most people can't concentrate today, for two reasons. One is, we're never taught how to concentrate; and second is, we don't practice concentration. So, how can you do something if you're never taught how to do it? And how can you be good at something if you don't practice it? Let's take a little survey here. How many of you here in the audience, growing up in school, were formally taught how to concentrate? Can we have a show of hands? Like, formal training in concentration, in school, like classes every week. Okay, one person... two people in this entire audience. Right. So, here's a question for you: How many of you in this room here, growing up, were told to concentrate? (Laughter) Isn't that amazing? People tell us to concentrate, but they don't tell us how to. And I got told to concentrate all the time. "Dandapani, concentrate on eating your food." "Dandapani, concentrate on doing your homework." Anybody want to show me how to do it? How many of you here have children? Okay, how many of you tell your children to concentrate? (Laughter) Do you show them how to? No, right? And then you wonder why they can't concentrate. You can't expect somebody to do something if you don't teach them how to do it. And then if they want to be good at it, they have to practice it, right? So, if I wanted to play for the Chicago Bulls or dance with the San Francisco Ballet company - you know, I ask people this question all the time in my talks, I ask them: How many hours a day should I practice? General answer's usually about eight hours a day, six days a week. And then I ask them, so after six months, can I play for the Bulls? The answer's usually no. After a year? No. But I'd be better at basketball, right? I'd be a better ballet dancer. So, imagine if you practice distraction eight hours a day, six days a week, what would you be good at after six months? Distraction. After a year? You'd be really good at distraction. After a year and a half? You'd be an expert at distraction, you'd write the New York Times bestseller on distraction. TEDx would invite you to come and give a keynote on distraction. You'd get on stage, you'd be so distracted, you'd forget what you were supposed to talk about. That's how good you are. Alright. But the truth is, we don't practice distraction eight hours a day, six days a week. The truth is, we probably practice it more like 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The average person sleeps about seven to eight hours, just say, roughly, so we're awake for about 16 hours of the day. Let's just say on the average, we're practicing it 13 hours a day, seven days a week, distraction. And then you wonder why you're so good at it. That's the law of practice. The law of practice is that we become good at whatever it is we practice. Whether it's positive or negative, it doesn't matter. If you practice something over and over and over again, you become really good at it. And that's why people are so good at distraction, because it's what they practice. Why aren't people good at concentration? Because they're never taught it, and they never practice it. They don't need to be drugged. They just need to be taught how to do it. Children don't need to be drugged. They just need to be taught how to concentrate. Then they need to practice it, just like anything else, to become a good tennis player, to become a good dancer, a performer, anything. Practice, practice, practice. And then people say things like technology are great distractors, right? Smartphones. "Oh, I have this thing, so distracting, my smartphone." The internet. Are they distractors? I'd like to say no, first, and then yes. But mostly no. Why? Let me tell you a story. When I left Australia after university and went to Hawaii to be a monk, it was a very traditional monastery so when you join the monastery like the one I did, you literally have to give everything up: your family, your friends, everyone you know, everything you owned. And when you got to the monastery, you're given a set of robes, a set of beads, and a MacBook Pro laptop. (Laughter) Yes, I did say a Mac. So, every monk got a Mac, and when iPhones came out, we had an iPhone as well. And it's really interesting- it's always fascinating to me to see people's reactions when I tell them about monks with Macs. You know, and I remember this lady once, that came to visit the monastery, and she asked me a question, and I said to her, "Why don't you send me an e-mail, and I could e-mail you back a response my teacher wrote up, and it will give you some nice insights." She looked at me kind of strangely and finally asked, "Is it okay for monks to use e-mail?" I said, "Of course it's okay for monks to use e-mail, as long as there are no attachments." (Laughter) Some people are just getting it now. So, technology in itself is not a bad thing. It's actually a beautiful thing, as long as we're in charge of it. But if every time your iPhone beeps or makes a sound and you turn to it, and you go, "Yes, master. How can I serve you today?" then you live in that world of distraction. It's training you to be distracted. But if you actually use technology, then technology is not a bad thing. When I said yes, earlier, that technology can be distracting, there are some aspects of technology that can be distracting. For example on the Mac you have notifications that drop down, but that's as easy as clicking on it and turning it off, turning off those notifications and not responding but choosing what you want to engage with. So, technology in itself is not a bad thing. The question is, do we choose to engage in it or not? So, how do we become good at concentrating? We start by understanding the mind. Right? All of us have a mind. It's the most powerful tool in the world. It built a smartphone, it's put machines that drive itself on Mars. Yet there's no manual for the mind, right? When was the last time you saw a manual for the mind? Yet you buy a point-and-shoot camera whose only purpose and duty is to point and shoot; it comes with a 100-page manual. Yet we have the most complex tool in the world, our mind, and there's no manual. So, the first thing I learnt when I went to the monastery was to learn how the mind works. Because once you know how the mind works, you can control it, and once you can control it, you can focus it. You can't focus or concentrate something you don't understand. So, how does the mind work? From the monk's perspective, from the monk's experience of the mind, there are two things that you need to understand. One is there's awareness; and one is the mind. I'll take a few moments to explain this to you and share what they are. Imagine awareness as a glowing ball of light, like an orb that can float around. Okay? So, that's awareness. Now imagine your mind as a vast space, a vast area with many different sections within it. One area of the mind is anger, jealousy, food, sex, happiness, joy, science, art. And this glowing ball of light called awareness can travel within the mind, and it can go to any area of the mind it wants to go to. And when it goes to a particular area of the mind, it lights up that area. When it lights up that area of the mind, you become conscious of it. So, give you an example. Your friend invites you to go see a movie, for example: "Hey Doug, do you want to go see Mission Impossible 16?" "Sure, let's go." Okay, so you go to the theater, you sit down, the lights are all on, you're chatting with your friend, the lights dim, the movie starts. And if it's a really great director or producer, he or she can take your awareness to any area of the mind they want you to go to, right? They can take you to a sad area of the mind, to a happy area of the mind, the movie can get really exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, scary. And 90 minutes later, you see two words on the screen, and it says, "The End." And you turn to your friend and you go, like, "Wow, that was an amazing movie." But you paid $13 or $14 or $15, or whatever it is, to allow the director to take your awareness to different areas of the mind. And this happens on a daily basis - each day we allow someone or something throughout the day to take our awareness from one area of the mind to another. When we allow a person or something to do that, we're being distracted. The art of concentration is the art of keeping awareness, that ball of light, on one thing for an extended period of time. Every time that ball of light drifts away, we bring it back. It drifts away again, we bring it back. Right? So, that's the theory, you have awareness, and you have the mind. You are not the mind - when people say, 'My mind wanders all the time,' technically, that's a false statement. What wanders is your awareness; your awareness is moving within your mind. So, that's the theory of it. So, let's do a simple, little practical exercise to see if this actually works or it's just some monk Voodoo talk, okay? For that, I need audience participation. I need all of you to sit up straight in your chair, okay? If you have anything in your lap or hand, just place it down on the ground. Sit up straight in your chair with your spine straight. If you're leaning back, just sit forward a little bit. I want you to close your eyes, take a slow, deep breath in, and I want you to become aware of the room, become aware of the chair that you're sitting on, become aware of any sounds that you might hear, the sound of my voice, the humming of the projector or air conditioning. Now I want you to become aware of the most recent wedding that you attended. Do you remember whose wedding it was? Who was getting married? Did you approve of the marriage? Try and think everything you can about the wedding. Did you go by yourself? Did you go with your family? Was it a large wedding, hundreds of people, or was it small and intimate with maybe 20-30 people? How was the food? Was it good? Was there alcohol? Did you drink a lot? Do you even remember how much you drank? Do you remember what the bride was wearing?