It's easy to focus on an interesting project. But to strengthen your power of concentration, tackle a dull task like "clock concentration" instead.
Concentrating on the clock below is simple. But it's maddening, too. Because it is so boring!
That is the genius of it. Your brain won't want to stay on this task.
Your mind will wander. You will need strong concentration to finish this utterly boring task.
Here's how to do it: For the next five minutes, follow the second hand as it circles the clock below.
Watch the second hand closely for five minutes. Do not look away. Don't become distracted by random thoughts, sensations in the body, or sounds in the room.
Sounds easy, but it's not. Five minutes. Give it a try, then keep reading:
(Don't see the clock? Open this page in a flash-enabled browser. Examples: Chrome on desktop; Puffin on mobile)
Focusing on this task may have been harder than you expected. In fact, you may have failed to maintain focus for the entire five minutes. This is okay - as long as you keep practicing until you succeed.
If you fail at this at first, don't feel bad. Almost anyone who makes a genuine effort to focus on the second hand for that length of time finds it hard.
Why? Because it's natural for the mind to wander. And the body doesn't want to be still. But it's possible through practice to strengthen concentration and self-control. Practice this task daily until you master it.
I first learned of clock concentration from the book, The Power of Concentration, by Theron Dumont. Here's how Dumont describes it:
Sit in a chair and place a clock with a second hand on the table. Follow the second hand with your eyes as it goes around. Keep this up for five minutes, thinking of nothing else but the second hand.
This is a very good exercise when you only have a few minutes to spare, if you are able to keep every other thought in the stream of consciousness subordinate to it. As there is little that is particularly interesting about the second hand, it is hard to do this, but in the extra effort of will power required to make it successful lies its value.
Dumont goes on to recommend sitting as still as possible during this exercise. Only the eyes should move, as they follow the second hand around the clock face.
It should be obvious that self-control is an important part of concentration. Halfway into this task, you may find yourself wishing it was over. Mental self-control is required to stay still and keep at it.
In fact, concentration tasks always require a certain degree of mindfulness. A wandering mind by definition lacks concentration.
Physically, you may fidget during clock concentration. You may feel the urge to move around, to change position. Use self-control to sit still for the duration.
As you can see, even a dull assignment can be turned to advantage.
Find five minutes each day to practice the clock concentration task. The rest of your day, be alert for chances to practice concentration during other boring jobs.
Need to mow the lawn? Do it with all the focused concentration you can muster. Focus on every step, and every turn of the mower.
Time for laundry? Focus on every item of clothing as you touch it. Pour the laundry soap with utmost control. Do not allow your mind to wander.
Drudge work at school or your job? Zoom your mental gaze into a narrow beam on each step of the task. Be fully in the moment.
Don't "feel" one way or another about each project; just complete it with all the patience and concentration you can muster. Maintain focused concentration on every task, whether you find that activity interesting or dull.
That's a real test of mind power. The more you practice this, the stronger your power of concentration will become.
As your concentration grows more powerful, you will be able to turn it on or off like an intense flashlight. You'll illuminate any object of interest with mental intensity.
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