Unwavering Focus | Dandapani | TEDxReno

Unwavering Focus | Dandapani | TEDxReno

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? What was the weather like over there? Try and think everything you can
about this vacation. Did you spend a lot of money? How was the food? Spicy? Bland? Bad? Did you get sick eating the food? Now your eyes are still closed, I want you to become aware
of the room again. Become aware of the chair
that you’re sitting on, the sound of my voice, humming of the air
conditioner or projector. Now slowly open your eyes
and settle back in your seats again. Okay, that was a very simple exercise
to prove two things to you. One is, there’s a clear separation
between awareness and the mind; and second is, you can actually
take your awareness and move it to any area of the mind
that you want it to go to, because you just allowed me to do that. I took your awareness from this room, becoming aware of this chair
that you’re sitting on, the sound of my voice, the air
conditioning, the projector, and you went to the wedding
area of the mind, and the longer you stayed there,
the more you thought about the wedding. How do I know you were thinking about it? Because I had my eyes open
and when I asked you a question like “Did the bride make a bad choice?” some of you went, like, mm-yeah, (Laughter) with a dress, yes! So, I knew you were thinking
about the wedding, right? And then you went
from the wedding area of the mind, and you traveled all the way
to the vacation area, and you stayed there, and while in the vacation area,
you weren’t thinking about the wedding or about the room. And then you went from the vacation
area of the mind back to the room again, and I made you think
about the chair, the room, and you weren’t thinking
about the wedding or the vacation then. And this is what happens all day. We allow people and things around us
to take our awareness from one area of the mind
to another, all day long. From the time we wake up,
and therefore we become distracted. To be concentrated
is to be able to keep your awareness on one thing for an extended
period of time. How do we practice this? We practice this by doing
one thing at a time throughout the day. What’s the best way
to develop concentration? The best way to develop concentration is to bring the practice
into our everyday life. Look at opportunities throughout your day. In your average day, ask yourself, what’s a great opportunity
to practice concentration? How many of you have a spouse
or partner that you live with? Quite a few of you. Every time you speak
with your spouse or your partner, keep that ball of light,
that awareness on that person. It drifts away; bring it back. It drifts away; bring it back. The more you practice this, the more you become better
at concentration. Give her or him your undivided attention. So, if you speak to your spouse
for two hours a day, what a great opportunity
to practice concentration. Every time you speak with your child,
practice concentration. Parents come up to me
all the time and say, “Dandapani, how can I teach
my children to concentrate?” Very easy: you learn to concentrate first. You know, there’s an old saying that goes:
Monkey sees, monkey do? You know? And if you can’t concentrate, you can’t expect your child
to concentrate. And if you don’t teach your children
how to concentrate, how can they possibly
learn how to concentrate? They can’t. The benefits of concentration
are endless, right? When you’re able to concentrate, you’re able to focus all your energy
into a single given point. Life is a manifestation
of where your energy’s flowing. And if you can’t concentrate your energy, the things you want to manifest
in your life becomes very challenging. So, learn to concentrate
by doing one thing at a time. Bring this practice into everything
that you do throughout the day. Make it a part of your life. Practice, practice, practice. Keep bringing awareness back, and keep it focused
on one thing at a time. Share this knowledge with your children. Be an example for them
so they can grow up. Let’s stop drugging our children, and solve the simple problem
by teaching them how to concentrate and helping them
to practice concentration. Be unwavering in your focus. Proceed with confidence because life is meant
to be lived joyously. And it all begins by learning
how to concentrate, and staying focused. Thank you very much everyone.

100 Replies to “Unwavering Focus | Dandapani | TEDxReno”

  1. I've been trying to meditate for the past 4 years but I fail miserably each time. I meditated for 10 mins after watching one of his videos. Today, after practicing for a week, I can meditate up to 40 mins. His methods are practical. The way he teaches you to visualize energy and awareness was something new to me. It worked. Best thing that has happened to me in years.

  2. What if you have to do something you don't like such as having to learn and pass a particular subject you don't like or doing a job you hate?

  3. I’m amazed tedx has merely 18M subscribers and TSeries has almost crossed 50M. Where’re people going? people tend to prefer pleasure and fantasy world to live over reality!

  4. I like how he didn't mention the fact that this is actually meditation. I guess meditation can be a misunderstood concept, hence the use of words such as awareness and concentration.

  5. This was very good. This is one of the few videos in which i didn't scorll in comment section.
    Thank you for the video.

  6. What will happen if we keep on multi tasking for years and are successful financially and socially?
    I’m genuinely asking

  7. Amazing and easily feasible methodology. Hats off. I salute the deep knowledge and the excellent articulating ability of Dandpani sir. ✌✌👌

  8. If you saw the video while he was talking about the wedding and vacation, you’ve failed the message.

  9. Thanks a lottttttttttttttttttttttttt Sir for sharing such an inspirational talk.
    It really works and really appreciable best method for practicing concentration.

  10. Note: of this video
    There are two levels of mind
    One is : awareness (conscious mind)
    Second is mind : ( subconscious mind ) where our knowledge is stored ( love , food , happiness etc.
    Where your awareness goes you practice that kind of thing .
    Best way to practice a concentration is to practice to pay
    Attention whatevere you do throught your day .

  11. Good point, nobody is taught how to concentrate with all the distraction eg. commercials, computer, i phones and fun. It should be a lifetime coarse starting in preschool.

  12. My dear students ,now you are follow my direction you will be success in your education ten days once go to movies stop this before examination . In the evening meet you friends two days once discuss with subjects maths and physics formulas ask your friends it is up-to-date your knowledge it is very good attitude you must shine in your education gradually then your parents feel very happy your uncle and anti also feel very happy when you achieve good results when you get this merit you have in the class more respective created this thing is honour to you .why don't do neglect you self ?

  13. No wonder I'm so distracted, I've been practising the art for yeeeears. I needed this. Thank you Dandapani.

  14. Let's be honest. He didn't realize give that much tips about concentrating. He just explained why we are distraught.

  15. very interesting ..I never looked it from that point of view..still it reinforces the new age we believe that we create what we are in our world…thanks!

  16. I find it really hard to concentrate when doing my college work at home. Would focusing on my college classroom at home to concentrate?

  17. “Be here now” “ live mindfully “ “live consciously “ , he is an excellent teacher and explainer .
    I didn’t understand his dress code though . With all due respect , according to me , it shows his mind is not completely free , has some attachments to some scriptures or customs or religion .

  18. I went to pick up my phone and then he started talking about controlling technology vs it controlling you, so I left it and focussed on the video till the end, then decided to pick it up and write this comment.

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