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  • 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?

  • Did she make a good choice?

  • Now I want you to remember the most recent holiday that you went on,

  • the most recent vacation that you went on.

  • Do you remember where it was?

  • And what kind of vacation was it anyway?

  • Was it a yoga retreat? Was it a wellness trip?

  • Was it educational? Was it adventure?

  • How long did you go for?