Friday, March 8, 2013

*Background Concentration* and *Focalized Concentration*

Crap! Doesn't it bother you when you try to detail something as exhaustively as you can in one go, and then have some additional thoughts that you wish you had the first time around?

I know I'm making rather the repetitious rounds with this whole concentration thing as of late, but I've realized something important: There's two kinds of concentration. Knowing how to distinguish them makes an important difference in how you can implement them into your life. They are background concentration and focalized concentration.


Background concentration, I'll admit, isn't concentration in the usual sense that we think of it as. I use this term to describe the state of mind that is at rest, when the attention isn't actively exerted upon something. In this state the mind is going to coast on its habits, and your overall ability to concentrate is going to have a heavy impact on what's going to happen during this state. I call it background concentration because in this state the mind is going to bring forward everything that usually exists in the background noise otherwise, your dominant mental habits.

Focalized concentration, on the other hand, is just another term for concentration as we think of it, when you are actively trying to point your mind intensely onto something. Background concentration needs more analysis.

Understanding what background concentration does is pivotal to understanding why concentration is so important to your health. If your focalized concentration is bad, then likely your background concentration is too: If you cannot focus your mind during a specific activity, then you may not be able to focus your mind elsewhere too, leaving you to the whims of habits you've set up previously, perhaps long ago.

The reason why this can be bad is because this allows for ideas and beliefs to run rampant and ingrain themselves into your subconscious, thinking patterns, and automatic responses unchecked, making your character more and more impervious to your direct influence. Your free will is never totally negated granted, but loosening your grip on the reins can go a long ways in making it an uphill battle, one which will become more vertical and difficult in time.

Aside from what I've already said, good concentration is important since it allows you maximimal control over your mind, minimizing and near-negating the cycles of automatic motions or habitual reflexes, which gives you the optimal ability to construct your character as you see fit.

Background concentration, for much of us, can be where we spend many of our waking hours, whether it be walking down the sidewalk daydreaming or humming on a long elevator ride. Even if you don't intensely engage your habits at that time the fact you are allowing them to initiate and run a cycle means that, in a way, they will get stronger and easier to run -- so we must take desperate care to watch our habits to set up the right ones for success.

As such, it's important to distinguish between focalized and background concentration because if your usual conception is the focalized version, then you could mistakenly engaging in some very deleterious behaviors during your background concentration moments, such as when surfing on the internet or switching between various gadgets. By neglecting the conditions of a steady and focused mind in our moments of low-exertion we can retrogress and undo the progress we've made in deepening our attention in other activities like writing.

For instance, let's say you've improved your concentration so that you'll do your homework much more efficiently and are successful doing so. Regardless, when you get on the internet you set up browser tabs of contradictory purposes, have multiple unrelated IM conversations concurrently, switch between the computer and the phone, and so on.

The problem with doing that is that by being so incredibly unfocused during this time -- this time of employed background concentration -- you would undo the progress you've made for your focalized concentration and weaken both, weakening your mind's overall ability to focus.

The sign of completely good concentration, I think, is a state I call "still water," when the mind's daydreaming and visual habits are totally negated, and the coasting periods are entirely silent. You'll notice when you've obtained it: When you tone down your mental exertion, rather than resort to daydreaming your mind simply does nothing. Although this may sound like a sign of stupidity it's actually an incredibly serene state: The mind is utterly quiet and at peace; it's like still water.

Furthermore, it feels incredibly empowering. From direct experience with the State of Still Water you won't feel stupid; you'll feel like you have total power over your mind. You could go from the internal silence to intense cognitive tasks whenever you want to, without any pestering urges of daydreams, rogue thoughts, or any other inward distractions . . . you can control your consciousness completely.

So when we seek to improve our concentration, it's important not only to conduct in those practices that enable us to get deeply engrossed into an activity, like reading, but also maintain a lifestyle that protects those benefits so that they're long-lasting. Tending to focalized concentration helps us get the full power of our mind into a single point honed onto a single spot; background concentration aides us in preserving the peace and controlling the braking/idle states, so that we can engage in Still Water for rest and be ready to speed up to 60mph at any moment.

As with all my obsessions with certain mental activities, I'm going to wear out on concentration sooner or later, but for now it maintains a standing reservation in my mind.

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