Keeping Focus

Keeping Focus

I read a lot. One of my biggest challenges when doing so is staying awake. It doesn’t matter how interesting the topic or how good the writing, I just tend to get sleepy when I read.

I want to figure out a solution.

I’ve recently switched my meditation practice to more of a concentration focus through the practice of labeling various phenomena as they enter my stream of consciousness. I keep it simple by just focusing on verbs: seeing, seeing, hearing, seeing, thinking, planning, feeling, etc. I’d not really had troubles with drowsiness during meditation before, so it surprised me to notice that I needed to add “dreaming” as one of my labels.

What I’ve noticed while meditating is that right before my head bobs in drowsiness, I experience a little rush of highly discursive thoughts. They’re so discursive, in fact, that I began to see them as the onset of a dreaming state — and it was originating right there in the transition from waking state to sleeping state.

After experiencing this little insight, I’ve started noticing that this is similar to what’s happening when I drift off while reading. My mind loses focus, discursive thoughts drift in, and before I know it I’m having to reread sentences and then whole paragraphs as I attempt to regain focus.

I wish I could say that I’ve solved the problem. I have not. But now I have new insight into the nature of the problem, and I think that’s the first step.

My focus on alertness in reading right now is part of an overall effort in concentration. The new meditation practice is part of that. Another part of that was reading David Amerland’s excellent book, The Sniper Mind. In it, you’ll find a couple tricks that snipers use to maintain an alert state under much more grueling situations than sitting in a chair in one’s living room reading a book.

I will do a more in-depth write-up of my thoughts on the book later, but what’s worth noting here is just how much of it is focused on focusing mental energy. In fact, that really is what the book is about and it’s an excellent read. It’s so cool to see one of our own here on G+ with what looks like it could be a breakaway book. And don’t let the focus on snipers dissuade you if that’s not your particular thing. It wasn’t mine, but because it was David I jumped at the chance to get an early copy of the book. The stories of the snipers are really engaging and provide a powerful backdrop for learning about mental concentration and just how amazing the human mind truly is. I recommend it.

The Sniper Mind goes on sale Nov 7, but you can pre-order your copy here (and in the process help nudge Amazon into realizing this will be a popular book):

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