A Few Minutes of Focus: A Lifetime of Clarity - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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A Few Minutes of Focus: A Lifetime of Clarity

Jun 27, 2014


It's 4.00 am. Mumbai, for once, is dead silent.

My alarm rings. I struggle to sit up in bed, eyes still glued shut. Time to clear my head. To contemplate my life. To focus upon the wonders of humanity ... zzzz.

I usually aim for 20-30 minutes of meditation in the morning but only last between 3-7 minutes before I fall asleep.

We all know that meditation has hazaaron faayde.

It reduces stress, and improves health, protecting us against everything from hypertension to heart attacks. Helps us deal better with everyday life - deadlines at work, household chores, traffic and trains, constantly-beeping smart phones and never-ending to-do lists.

And most importantly for me, it helps us focus our minds. Sitting in a state of stillness helps to quiet all the voices in our heads. Our own voices telling us to work harder, our partners' voices telling us to spend more time at home, our children's voices telling us to bring home the new Play Station video game, bosses, bills, duties and responsibilities...there's a cacophony of demands in our heads. Meditation de-clutters our minds leading to clarity of thought and recharges our brains.

A clear mind is vital to success and happiness. It is free to focus on the things that matter and makes good decisions. And at the end of the day our lives are a sum of the decisions we make.

So I really want to be the kind of person who meditates. Great athletes do it, artists, writers... even Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest women on earth with a remarkable life, and an uncanny ability to connect with people meditates.

Better decisions, better health, better writing ... how much more motivation could I possibly need to meditate?

But it wasn't enough. I just couldn't get myself to stay awake and focused in the quiet hours of pre-dawn.

That's when I stumbled upon the concept of 'morning pages'. The idea is to sit down first thing in the morning and write a few pages (three pages or about 750 words is generally recommended) in one go without stopping.

As a writer I was intrigued so I thought why not give it a shot. I sat down to write and as I began writing, for the first few days I struggled. What do I write? It's an odd feeling - being forced to write. And there were all these distracting thoughts in my head. I'd start and then a thought would pop into my head, 'Maybe I should get a cup of coffee before I start?' or 'Oh, I forgot I needed to send email/run an errand/brush my teeth...' Whatever excuse would get me away from my keyboard.

But after a few days of trying I found I had written the 750 words without pause. Whatever distracting thought came up I just wrote it down, and once I did that it was out of my head. So I wrote and wrote and slowly all the stray thoughts bouncing around in my head were released, leaving me with a calm focus and quieted subconscious. I felt...quiet. Different. It was nice, actually.

As I put my pen down, and things around me came back into focus, I thought about what I had experienced. Just like with my morning meditation, my morning pages started off with a zillion distractions. But as my task consumed me my mind emptied out. I entered a zone where it was just me and the pen, and everything else faded away... complete focus. I felt content. I just continued to sit there for a few minutes afterwards, mind emptied.

This experience is similar to a method known as 'active meditation' advocated by Osho Rajneesh. It starts with an activity - singing, dancing, painting, etc. and transforms into a quiet meditative state. It brings all the advantages of meditation without the challenges of sitting in cross-legged stillness for hours on end.

Have you ever seen Zakir Hussain playing the tabla? He is transformed... almost into a trance-like state. The expression on his face is one that combines peace and ecstasy, and his hands fly effortlessly across the stretched tabla top as though they have a will of their own. He is one with his instrument.

'When I am preparing and practicing for a concert it is a very private and intimate solemn reverent time,' Zakir says.

For Zakir Hussain, playing the tabla is meditation. This is the single-minded focus that great artists and athletes use in their work.

For me this meditation is my morning pages. You can find meditation in the thing that you love doing... something that focuses your mind, takes you away from the world, and makes you feel at peace.

To find your own meditative activity that brings you the advantages of meditation, choose a task that consumes you, one that is your forte, and that you are comfortable doing. Listening to music? Painting? It doesn't even have to be something special, just an everyday task will do. Just laughing really hard for a few minutes or crying with great emotion is a cathartic activity that leads to the same kind of release as active meditation.

Set aside a few minutes out of your day for active meditation. While you practice it let it take you to a private place in your mind. Focus on it as though it is the only thing that exists on earth for you to do.

You and the task are one. Purposefully feel every aspect of it. If your chosen task is a morning walk by yourself, feel the rhythm of your body as you walk, the sound your feet make against the ground as you stride along, the quickening of your breath as you exert yourself... And as your mind and body get caught up in the repetitive movement, stray thoughts will disappear, and your mind will clear and focus.

Slowly you will start noticing a difference in your days - and as you find yourself facing everyday challenges with greater ease, you will begin to look forward to your morning meditative activity with greater anticipation.

The usual clogged brain and stuck thoughts will free up giving way to a calmer demeanour and clearer thinking. This will reflect in the way you make decisions, the way you interact with people, and the way you articulate your thoughts... leading to success and happiness in all areas of your life.

So give yourself a few minutes during your day to try the active meditation method. And write in to share your experience with me.


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13 Responses to "A Few Minutes of Focus: A Lifetime of Clarity"


05 Mar, 2017

Thank you. I am 67+. I had a time when i used to write to much rubbish things.... but I was really calm on those days. I had no idea of active meditation was helping me to calm down. Now I am in farming. aquaculture. Writing has nearly stopped. I will pickup it again. thanks again for inspiring article

AK Sathish Kumar

11 Nov, 2016

Simple and truly motivating !

13 Sep, 2016

the concrete, under high stresses it may pull out of the concrete, an event that often as well as the studs and joists (if these areas are opened up) Keep in mind not wear this one out its sturdy enough to stand a massive amount of weight on NFLCommissioner RogerGoodell. "He is a proven businessman and has experienced success in all of his sports

Like (1)


15 Mar, 2016

Good piece of simple write up -really  motivated me a lot .. Superb (am 59 yrs old)  Thx  Liked it


19 May, 2015

It's really simple but superb write up. I love it. Thanks.

Like (1)


02 Aug, 2014

I’m from Russia so I don’t speak english very good, but this post is really useful.

Sundaravaradan S

01 Jul, 2014

Waav! What a simple, frank, realistic sharing of Active Meditation! (I am 65 years of ripe Age). I love this writing!

Swapnil Malewar

29 Jun, 2014

You've rightly said Anisa madam about the Meditation. In today's rat race - even if we don't want to participate - we are forced to engage in many tasks like our daily schedule, attending functions, jobs/studies, hanging out with the friends and not to forget our appearances on social networking sites via smart gadgets. We don't get time to meditate and even if we get and try to do, it just simply turns out impossible dream. What I do is jog (or run) most of the mornings, which gives me enough time to leave the daily thoughts and explore the new ideas or sometimes even rejuvenating the older memories. Sometimes I think about how I'll proceed in next few years becoming an Entrepreneur (I forgot to mention that I believe in Law of Attraction). I just like it to say the least. This is my way of motivation. Accept my kind appreciation for writing this wonderful post.


29 Jun, 2014

In addition to all the benefits of meditation, if you try active mediation (foreseeing outcomes in great minuteness and detail), they will become reality (or actualize, which means the same thing). And folks can even meditate while standing or at any hour at the day. It takes practice and persistence. :) For those who say it is so tough, I ask, how much they struggled to learn to ride a bicycle. A few falls did not dissuade them but the more dejected they were, the stronger they came back, until they learned. :)


28 Jun, 2014

Anisa I am enjoying the journey so far ...and excitement and anxiousness is catching on me like a fire ....Regarding Morning time ... I feel so good after spending some time by meditating on the Word of God and Praying it really helps one to carry through the day ..Thanking God for giving this beautiful day in Our Life !!!


27 Jun, 2014

Superbly written. Very good, I will start at least reading your blogs.

dev golchha

27 Jun, 2014

Hi Anisa, I've initiated meditating for last 30-40 days and been able to acheive some peace and calm after 10-15 days of noise and distractions. Its so blissful to experience the "detached" stage and it brings more and more clarity with each passing day. Every one especially children should meditate daily (for whatever time 1min, 2min, 5 min..)and eventually it will become a habit.


27 Jun, 2014

By the way, if you would like to try the meditative writing method my colleague directed me to this great site where they have calming music and backgrounds to help you focus while you type called Ommwriter.com - it's making my morning pages a pleasure!


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