Have you ever been so focused on doing something that time fades away? You were so focused that you didn’t even pay attention to what was happening around you because all that mattered was what was in front of you? In yoga that’s called “dharana”. Dharana basically means intense focus.
It is so hard to bring our attention to just one thing at a time. In fact, we’re constantly being asked to multitask, apply our knowledge in different ways, and pay attention to a lot of different kinds of stimuli though out our entire day. That’s a lot for our brains to handle, don’t you think? Our brains can truly only handle one thing at a time. It learns to makes decisions quickly, so it may seem like we’re multitasking, but really we’re not. Yoga is the perfect counterbalance to the fast paced world we live in because most of us actually do crave time to slow down, but often we don’t know how to or know how simple it can be. The simple answer? Just practice.
How? First think about how you already practice concentration (Dharana). Do you take time to read or do school work? That is concentrating. You have to put your focus on only on thing and not think of anything else to understand what you’re reading so you can remember it. It’s the same with yoga. To balance on one foot, you must put your concentration and focus into that action. Nothing else. In that moment of balance you are entirely focused and mindful at what you are doing instead of multitasking. If you don’t, you will fall out of the pose and lose balance.
To build strong concentration, or dharana, you have to practice ways that enable you to focus on one thing. For some that might mean taking yoga classes, reading a book, or going for a run, but it can also mean making art.
Why is art mindful? Well, it’s meditative. Art is a creative exercise that can strengthen your concentration muscles. Instead of splitting your attention between tasks you are only focusing on one activity at a time. The idea is that you don’t even really think about what you’re doing, you’re just trying to pay attention to what feels right. Your focus is what is in front of you and happening in the moment. You’re tuning out the environment around you, tuning down the awareness of influences, and maybe not even noticing sensations that come up. It’s kind of feel like having tunnel vision, except you benefit from it.
It can be really fresh and enjoyable to focus on one thing at a time. After practicing a few times you may notice that you feel more in tune with yourself, you may actually be more self aware, and also use less energy for the same tasks you do each day. Have you ever felt drained or even more scattered after you’ve had to fulfill many tasks right after another?
It can be challenging to disconnect with the world around you, but remember it takes time. The challenge is what makes the concentration muscles stronger. The more you practice the more you will realize what is important to you and how it’s important. The chatter , the things that pop up by surprise, and even the extra things you would like to ignore in your environment will become less intrusive. You may even find that what you pay attention to shifts.
So make your art a dharana practice. See if you can focus your attention to one thing. Even if it’s a for a short time, it’s a practice. And it’s the practice that matters.