I recently read an article about the benefits of mindfulness training in schools, written by Anne Trafton. “By definition, mindfulness is the ability to focus attention on the present moment, as opposed to being distracted by external things or internal thoughts.” Certainly it is advantageous to learn to concentrate without being preoccupied.
It has been demonstrated in a number of studies that people feel less stress and fewer negative emotions when they are taught to practice mindfulness exercises. This sounds wonderful and hard to argue with. However, the aspect of mindfulness training that I take exception to is that these exercises emphasize being in the moment, rather than being focused on the past or the future. I understand the thinking, after all too often we are regretful about the past and anxious about the future.
Yet from my perspective adapting the popular phrase “be in the moment” is a problem. Our individual and collective history is rich with knowledge and lessons. Understanding the past can help us to not repeat mistakes. Holding a vision for the future can help us to stay the course during the ups and downs on the way to manifesting our aspirations. I am concerned that the popularity of mindfulness will facilitate short term benefits from the message of “be in the moment,” while creating long term problems. The negative side of this conditioning could influence people to avoid important issues in their personal lives as well as worldly concerns.
It is true that sometimes reality is difficult to face and can be stressful. Nevertheless, is it not better to provide tools to navigate our challenges that encourage problem solving and resilience, instead of fostering the idea that attention on the past or future will bring stress, fear, and distraction. In fact, I am a big proponent of teaching focus and concentration, but not just on the present moment.
In earlier journal entries I have referred to my understanding of the chakra system, which exists in the aura of every person. It is made up of seven centers of energy aligned from the top of the head to the base of the spine. Each center represents a different part of our nature. The third eye chakra in this system is located in the middle of the forehead and is the center of wisdom and focus and concentration.
When people are taught to focus they activate this center. Whether it is focusing on their breath, a focal point on a poster, or concentrating deeply on reading a passage. Focus and concentration not only prevents distraction it also activates good judgment. When the past is observed with focus, personal memories or historic narratives can be observed through a wise lens. Plus the ability to make good decisions is enhanced, a quality needed for planning appropriate details for the future. Rather than emphasizing being in the moment, let’s practice focus and concentration techniques as better approach to antidote and prevent regret or anxiety.
This might sound like splitting hairs, to some, but actually I feel this is a vital point. Focus skills and the wisdom of the third eye will provide the benefit of mindfulness training without the downside.
A number of years ago, I gave a lecture about this concept to a group of high school students. I asked them to close their eyes, while they recalled a memory of a difficult situation. At the same time, I told them to observe their emotional reactions to that circumstance. Next, I instructed them to tap the middle of their forehead as a way to help them find the location of the third eye chakra. Once they found that spot, I told them to put all their attention there while recalling the same memory. I wanted them to feel the significance of the third eye for themselves. After my talk, a male student rushed up to me looking amazed. He repeated again, again. “I wasn’t angry when I was focused out of my third eye.”
Focus skills can help us to develop good concentration and emotional balance in the moment, but they can also be a way for us to review past situations to gain insight. The current moment, the past and the future can all be perceived and navigated more wisely with honed and practiced focus skills.