Chapter 1: Foundations for a Concentrated Mind Lesson 1.1: Living a Purpose-Focused Life There is nothing more important than knowing who you are, the path that you are on, and its final end. —
It was a cold and windy winter evening in Munich as we hurriedly walked toward the restaurant we were heading to. As much as I love walking around in this old Bavarian city, my favorite place in Germany, I was eager to get out of the cold. It wasn't long before we arrived at our destination, and the warmth of this quaint restaurant with its well-worn hardwood floors was a welcome embrace. We made our way to a table in the corner, draped the chairs with our layers of winter wear, ordered some wine, and continued the conversation we had been having on the walk here.
I was spending the evening with one of my dear friends, Moritz, a German entrepreneur whom I have known for a few years. He reached over to his glass of wine, took a sip, placed it back on the table, and asked me, "If you say that knowing one's purpose in life is so important, critical, in fact, then why do you always talk about the mind and focus? Why do you not start with teaching people how to find one's purpose in life?"
The wood chair creaked as I leaned forward and responded, "We discover our purpose in life with our mind. To do so, we need to have sufficient understanding and mastery of our mind, plus the ability to focus it. Only then can we maintain a state of self-reflection consistently over time to come to a clear and definitive conclusion of our life's purpose. So, though it may appear that seeking one's life purpose is where we should start, it is, in fact, not the case."
I continued, "When I ask people what they want in life, most people respond with some version of 'to be happy.' You often hear parents saying to their kids, 'We just want you to be happy.' Happiness should never be pursued. Rather, one should pursue a lifestyle where the by-product of living that lifestyle is happiness. For example, I have a glass of wine with one of my dearest friends in my favorite city in Germany and I feel happy. So the key is then to have good wine with good friends in Germany."
Moritz laughed and responded with, "I'll toast to that!"
"Cheers!" I smiled as we clinked our wineglasses.
It was warm inside, but sitting next to the window I could feel the cold desperately trying to seep in through the glass. "It's a sequential process," I shared. "Having a good understanding of the inner workings of the mind and the ability to focus is the foundation of what is needed to discover our purpose in life. Our purpose defines our priorities, and our priorities define the lifestyle we should lead. The by-product of living a life that has been defined by our purpose is happiness."
Moritz responded, "Well, when you put it that way, it all makes sense why you would want to start with understanding the mind and learning to focus."
"When we can live a purpose-focused life we can live a rewarding life."
This book will give you the foundational teachings and tools necessary to understand and leverage the mind and the power of unwavering focus. Understanding these two things-your mind and how to focus it-will allow you to begin the process of discovering your life's purpose, and subsequently defining your priorities and focusing on them, thus enabling you to live a life of purpose and joy. In the upcoming chapters, we will learn, among other things, how to use these learnings to live in the present as well as to heal many of the ailments that plague our mind, such as worry, fear, anxiety, and stress.
I'll share with you a step-by-step process of understanding how the mind works so that you can learn to control and direct it. You will also learn how to focus. In addition, I will share with you a range of simple, practical, but highly effective tools to help you become good at controlling the mind and focusing. You will learn ways to implement these tools easily and consistently in your daily life to sustain your progress toward the goals you want to achieve. Don't expect to master any of these tools by the end of the book; rather, expect to get a good and solid understanding of how these tools work, and practical techniques for applying them in every aspect of your life. It's your consistency in applying these tools in the coming weeks and months that will determine how much you actually benefit from them. Eventually, if you are consistent enough in your application, you will find that your mental patterns, your habit patterns, start to change, and you will create a different lifestyle for yourself.
The ability to focus is one of humanity's greatest assets. It is at the core of all human success and endeavor, because the ability to concentrate is what helps a person manifest their goals in life. Most people want to experience some version of happiness, contentment, enlightenment, or other such uplifting feelings, but they do not know how to attain such states because they are never taught that the key to creating the life they want is concentration. Additionally, most people are never taught how to harness and direct the powers of concentration as a tool for manifestation.
Now, the question will be asked, "Do I need to live a focused life?" My answer is "No." You absolutely do not need to live a focused life. Living a focused life is a choice, and we all have the choice of whether we want to or not. It's your life, and you should decide how you want to live it. That said, living a focused life supports you in having a more rewarding life.
There is a reason you are reading this book, and I hope it's because something inside you is telling you that leading a focused life or a purpose-focused life will improve the quality of your life and bring greater meaning to it.
What's the difference between a focused life and a purpose-focused life? A focused life is one in which you are able to give whoever and whatever you are engaged with your undivided attention. You are fully present in all your experiences and thus creating a truly rewarding life, though your experiences are not driven by a greater overarching purpose. A purpose-focused life, on the other hand, is one in which your life's purpose defines your priorities, and your priorities drive what you focus on. Your life is lived very intentionally. You make wise choices each day based on your life's purpose: who you spend time with, what you spend your time on, what music you listen to, what books you read, what shows you watch, what foods you eat, and more. You give who and what you are engaged with your undivided attention, but the who and what are intentionally chosen.
Ultimately, the goal of this book is to help you live a focused life or a purpose-focused life and reap its boundless benefits. Lesson 1.2: Taking Charge
We have the choice of what we focus on in life. This choice is not always easy. Sometimes, if not often, it is extremely difficult, but we do have the choice.
When I was a monk living in my guru's monastery, I met a man from the island country of Mauritius who always smiled. He was, for lack of a better word, interning at the monastery for a few months, and during this time I got to know him. One day I asked him, "Why are you always smiling?"
He looked at me and said, "My father died when I was very young. My widowed mother had to raise me and my siblings all by herself, and we were quite poor. Every morning my mother would wake us up, get us to stand in a line, and then make us all laugh for five minutes. That was how we started our day."
I cannot even begin to tell you how that story has impacted my life. This lady, faced with the loss of her husband and forced now to provide for her children and herself, made the choice of how she would start her day. She chose what she wanted her kids to focus on. She chose what to impress on their malleable subconscious first thing in the morning. Little did she know that her actions would ripple halfway across the world to Hawaii in the living example of her son and then be told in a book one day.
Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison only to be released, topple South Africa's racist system of apartheid, and become president. This is a great lesson of a person who chose what he would focus on in his mind while in prison.
These are two examples of people who took charge of their mind and made the conscious choice of what to focus on in life. We cannot leave it up to our environment to determine what we focus on. The outcome would be disastrous. We must take charge of what it is we wish to focus on in life. We also cannot leave it to our mind, because the mind has no ability to discriminate between what is good for you and what is not good for you.
If my mind knew what was good for me, I would be perfect. Every time I picked up a bowl of French fries, my mind would say, "Have three fries and then have this bowl of salad, it's healthier." But my mind doesn't say that. My mind says, "Yes, go for it. Have that bowl of fries, and put on extra ketchup, because it's really, really good." And then, "Have some of these onion rings, too."
The mind has no idea what is good for you and what is not good for you until you have trained it to discriminate between the two. Once you have trained and programmed the mind to be able to determine wisely what is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually uplifting to you, then it can help you make better choices in life.
There was a time when people were sold the concept that smoking was good for you. They believed it, told their minds that smoking was good for them, and smoked themselves to death. Now, if the mind knew that smoking was bad for them, it would have said, "You idiot! Smoking kills. Stop doing it. You're gonna kill us both." But it didn't say that because unless you give the mind the right information, it has no ability to guide you in the right direction.
That said, there is a part of the mind that does know what is good for you. It's called the superconscious mind. The Three States of Mind
To better understand the mind, you can view it in three states. This book does not dive deep into understanding the various states of mind, but I want to give you a brief, simplified insight, as it will support many of the points I bring up throughout the book.
You can view these three states of the mind as the conscious, the subconscious, and the superconscious mind. To better understand this, imagine the mind as a three-story building, with the superconscious mind on the top floor, the subconscious in the middle, and the conscious mind on the ground floor. Let's look at the characteristics of each of these states of mind.
The conscious mind is the external mind, oriented to the world around us, and is tied to our five senses. It is the instinctive part of us, and I often refer to it as the instinctive mind. It governs, for example, our hunger and thirst, the basic faculties of perception and movement, procreation, impulsive thought processes, and more.
The subconscious mind is our intellectual mind. It is the seat of reason and logical thinking. You could also say that the subconscious mind is our "hard drive." It records all the conscious mind's experiences, whether those experiences are remembered or not. Additionally, it stores impressions and habit patterns, and also governs involuntary physiological processes.
The superconscious mind, as Gurudeva describes it, is "the mind of light, the all-knowing intelligence of the soul." At its deepest level, the superconscious can be described as spiritual consciousness or nondual consciousness. The superconscious is the source of creativity, intuition, profound spiritual experiences, and more.
Viewing the three states of mind as a three-story building, we can make the following conclusions. To impress something upon the subconscious mind, we would need to go through the conscious mind (we would have to go through the first floor to get to the second floor). Intuition, which comes from the superconscious mind, must pass through the subconscious mind to get to the conscious mind for us to perceive it. A cluttered subconscious would make it difficult for intuition to get through.
Of these three states of mind, only the superconscious knows what is good for you. It is, after all, the all-knowing intelligence of the soul. This is a problem because people mostly function in the conscious and subconscious mind, with an occasional flash of intuitive wisdom coming through from the superconscious mind.
The subconscious mind basically doesn't know what is good for you unless you have trained it to know. To train it, you must first have a good understanding and control of the mind in general. Then you have to gather the right information, digest it, form clear conclusions, and input these conclusions into the subconscious in an organized way, so the subconscious can use these conclusions to guide you. This is when the subconscious becomes an incredible asset. A clarified subconscious working in harmony with the superconscious is an unfathomable power you are entitled to.
In today's world, the tsunami of information that barrages us daily devastates the very landscape of our subconscious mind. The subconscious dies a slow death of information indigestion, leading to the inability to make decisions (even simple ones), confusion, overthinking, anxiety, stress, and more. We consume information faster than a starving man would food, but do not give any time to the processing of that information and the critical stage of forming clear conclusions. This act debilitates the subconscious. More and more people are simply unable to make decisions or even to know what they want in life.
At any point in time during the day, your awareness is functioning in one of these states of mind (and we will learn about awareness in chapter 3). How you act and react to experiences in life is based on which of these states of mind your awareness is in. Ultimately, you should be in charge of where in your mind your awareness goes.
Copyright © 2022 by Dandapani. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.