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HOW TO MAINTAIN FOCUS IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS

An exercise in mindfulness to quiet your monkey mind and bring clarity.

The rigors of our everyday lives require us to juggle time and commitments to jobs and families, never-ending to-do lists, appointments and obligations. They force us to multi-task, in an effort to find enough hours in the day to accomplish our goals. This juggling of priorities creates a monkey mind, one which jumps from task to task, landing only long enough to check off an item as complete. The on-going health crisis has surely added an additional stressor. It has hijacked our minds of late with constantly evolving guidance and a 24-hour news cycle which complicate our normal day-to-day concerns with those of the health and well-being of family and friends. Preserving sanity is not the primary goal of our monkey mind.

This monkey mind is disquieting. It only succeeds in aggravating our nervous system, filling it with worry, anxiety and needless distractions. The practice of yoga can be a panacea. Yoga asks us, instead, to quiet our energy toward a singular goal of physical and mental attentiveness – focus. A more centered view of life in a mindful manner. Even short periods of focus enable the monkey mind to rest and provide the time necessary to recharge our minds, bodies and spirits.

Yoga can be transformative in its ability to direct attention and efforts away from the things which agitate and toward those which bring comfort. Whether an experienced yogi or a novice, the simple practice of entering a place of centeredness can transform the over-active monkey mind into a docile and placid creature. The ability to redirect the mind in a way that provides solace in an otherwise turbulent time is the one we must focus on.

To begin, find a place where you can sit quietly, in any manner comfortable to you. Close your eyes and draw your attention to your breath. Focus on the process of inhalation and exhalation and the life-giving oxygen entering your body. Notice your breath. Is it short or long? Ragged or smooth? Tight or loose? Without judging, focus on smoothing the breath to calm and quiet the mind. Breathing in deeply through the nose and feeling the belly expand. Thoughts will come. Without judgment, acknowledge the thought’s existence as if it were a butterfly lighting onto a flower. Having noticed the thought allow it to fly away. When another thought comes to beckon your attention away from your breath, allow the same acknowledgment. Let your mind’s garden populate with beautiful butterflies arriving only long enough to witness their arrival before they leave to flutter away. The effect of this process of mindfulness is calming and, in time, will retrain the monkey mind. It will soon become a matter of bringing to mind the mental triggers to guide you back into a state of calm.

Give this gift to yourself whenever you feel your monkey mind swinging wildly in the jungle of life. For it is often in the moments of greatest uncertainty where there exists clarity. Endeavoring to seek a change in perspective will yield great results.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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