Tai Chi and Focus

How an ancient Martial Art can improve your focus to enhance your love life, get that promotion, and get more done in less time

Tai Chi can improve focus, attention, and concentration

Tai Chi forms are a great way to become more focused

You’ve been through it 3 times already, or has it been 4, and you still can’t get it. The instructions seemed simple enough. Even the guy at the store said you’d have it put together in an hour. And here you are, 3 hours later, and your daughter is still waiting, impatiently as usual, for you to put together her new bed. She has a date with the monkey prince to do some jumping, and she can’t wait any longer.

But, you can’t seem to focus with all the distractions around you. The neighbor’s son is playing what passes for music loud enough to rattle the windows, your wife is vacuuming downstairs, you’re missing the baseball game on T.V., and the monkey Princess is giving you the “look.” Yeah, that look. That same look your wife gave you when you said you’d be able to put the bed together in less than an hour.

If only there was a way to put the Princess’ bed together even with all the distractions going on around you. And while we’re at it, there should be a way to get that TPS report done, even while the boss is yelling in your ear to get the TPS report done. And a way to let your queen know that she is still the only one with the keys to the kingdom.

Your Focus Needs More Focus

Well, there is and you don’t need a little purple pill, or even blue, yellow, or orange ones. What you need, my friend, is a little focus. Focus is the ability to do one task, and only one task, at a time with total mental and physical concentration.

Depending on which study you read, our attention span is around 5 minutes, with some studies saying it has dropped to as little as 9 seconds. The difference may be accounted for if you look at the difference between focused attention and sustained attention.

Focused attention is used where 100% of our attention has been diverted away from our task, such as when we hear a ringing telephone.

Sustained attention is the level of attention required to produce consistent results on a given task, such as putting together a bed or preparing your TPS report.

Focus is easy to attain and easy to build. And like a muscle, building focus takes time, commitment, and a plan.

Building Focus, One Breath At A Time

Try this exercise:

Sit comfortably in a chair. Sit up straight without slouching into the back of the chair. Your feet should be flat on the floor and hands on your knees. Now take a breath through the nose, expanding both the chest and belly. When you can no longer comfortably inhale, slowly exhale through the nose. Repeat this for 3 minutes. Pay close attention to the tip of your nose. Focus on how the nose feels as the air passes in and out of your nostrils. Leave outside distractions outside. Let your thoughts run free. Just focus on the breath.

That’s it. Don’t judge. Don’t comment. And most important, don’t stop until 3 minutes have passed.

There you have it! You were able to focus for 3 minutes.

How can we improve that? How can we maintain our focus for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more?

The Martial Modalities For Improving Focus

You can do the above exercise for as long as you want to build up your focus for, or you can use different modalities to expand the capabilities of your new found focus.

Meditation

The exercise you performed above is a form of meditation. There are many different techniques you can utilize in sitting meditation. You can also meditate while standing, walking, or doing  pretty much anything.

A 2012 study http://faculty.washington.edu/wobbrock/pubs/gi-12.02.pdf, found that meditation training helped workers focus better, remember more of their work details, and stay energized and experience less negative moods.

Yoga

Through Yoga’s postures (asanas), we turn our focus to the body as we relax and breath into each of the postures. This conditions the body by building our core and strengthening our muscles. The breath and the body give us focal points while you practice.

Qigong

Qigong kicks up our focus a notch as we visualize our energy as we bend, twist, and relax our body in each movement. The breath is also used as a focal point.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is known as a moving meditation. Taking the meditative qualities of all the above modalities, Tai Chi adds movement in the form of stepping, form practice, partner work, weapons, and self-defense applications. All elements that can aid in building up our focus.

Visualize yourself with the new found power of focus. You’ll be able to:

  • Put that bed together in no time, even with all the distractions and noise around you. Result: Happy princess!
  • Get all your reports at work done completely and on time. Result: Happy boss and maybe a raise or promotion!
  • Spend quality time with your queen and give her the focused attention she deserves. Result: Well, I’ll leave that to your imagination. This is a G-rated blog after all!

The Martial modalities of Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga, and Meditation allow us to build up our focus as we sit, walk, visualize, breath, and move. The grand ultimate is when we can take that same level of focus and apply it the tasks we do daily. The more sustained our focus on a given task, the quicker it’ll take to complete and the more benefit it’ll have in many areas of your life.

Sifu Dale Guadagna

About Sifu Dale Guadagna

Dale Guadagna began his Tai Chi journey in 1998. Encountering job-related stress, he joined The Peaceful Dragon to help manage his chronic stress. Seeing how the Chinese Arts of Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga, and Meditation has helped countless students, including himself, he has devoted his life to teaching these arts. In 2009, with his wife Maricris, they opened Lake Norman Tai Chi Center to serve North Mecklenburg, Iredell, and Cabarrus counties in North Carolina.
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