Concentration basics #4: The biggest mistake


This video is part of a series. | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 (summary)
​Get the free manual for the series, the Concentration Basics Quick Start Training Guide (pdf).

Video summary

If you practice intent planting as seen in part 3 of this series, your unconscious process will quickly start prioritizing your intended target over other possible objects. As a result, you will start receiving what I call “drifting alerts” sooner and sooner after you get distracted.

When your unconscious process alerts you that you’ve wandered off the target you set a few moments or a few minutes earlier, this manifests in your consciousness as a sudden awareness of your state of distraction. 

Perhaps more than anything else, what you do at that moment decides whether your progress will be fast, smooth and rewarding, or slow, inconsistent and frustrating.

In order to encourage awareness, we should give the unconscious process a reward when it sends us an alert.

As inexperienced practitioners, we typically do the exact opposite: we react to the realization that we have lost the target with aggressive self-talk. We berate ourselves: "No! I lost it! wrong! damn it!"

That's obviously unpleasant, and is interpreted by the unconscious process as a punishment.

This effectively cancels out the focus intent we previously planted.

The intention behind this negative self-talk may be to punish the mind for drifting, or in general, for failing to adjust to your intent more fully and readily.

But what you’re actually doing is establishing an association between becoming aware of the drift and self-aggressive, painful feelings.

You are actually discouraging awareness this way.

Believe it or not, this by itself can slow your progress down to the the point the results of your training are not worth the effort anymore.

The flip side is that if you do this correctly, progress can be quite fast.

When you become aware that you drifted, praise yourself for becoming aware. "Yes! Good! Well done! We're getting somewhere!" Give yourself approval.

Self-supportive messages at the moment of awareness are aligned with the intent you planted and will confirm it to the unconscious process, making your progress way smoother and faster.

In the beginning, you will get more and more of these alerts.

This is because the previously prolonged drifting spells are “disintegrating”: you still get distracted, but you come to the realization that you have lost the target earlier and earlier, so the drifting spells are both shorter and more numerous.

This is a good sign: you are on your way to more consistent focus.

At a stage where you still lose the target often, a fast recovery time means you will get that "Oh, I lost it." realization maybe 30 times in 5 minutes instead of just one or two. That is 28 more chances you get to confirm the intent to stay on the target.

Every time you get that chance, you give yourself a mental nod of approval, you remind yourself this is a good sign, and you go back to the target task.

This is a very simple, but absolutely crucial measure that can save you huge amounts of time and effort, and even make the difference between success and failure in your concentration training. In fact, ignoring will almost certainly result in failure.

Key takeaways

  • 1
    The moment you become aware you are not focusing on the target anymore is a crucial moment in your practice: what you do now can make the difference between failure and success.
  • 2
    Punishing the mind with self-aggressive messages will create an association between renewed awareness and pain. It will effectively cancel the intent you previously planted, to stay on the target task.
  • 3
    Rewarding the mind with self-supportive messages will do the opposite: it will confirm the planted intent for the unconscious process. 
  • 4
    Always remember that increased awareness is a good sign.

Bottom line:

Unless you want to destroy your chances of progress, be sure to confirm your intent with a nod of approval every time you “come back” from a drift, then go back to the target.


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