In 2005 Devi and I arrived in India for a three-week visit with Swami Kriyananda, who had moved there in 2003. The day we landed, Swamiji had begun writing what was to be perhaps his greatest book: The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda. Though still playing the loving host to us and others, and despite the fact that he was in his eightieth year, Swamiji set himself the goal of writing ten pages a day for this book.
To everyone’s amazement, no matter what else was happening each day—and that included many hours a day spent with those he was hosting—Swamiji would bring his focus back to the book to reach, and often surpass, his self-created target. After less than two months he had finished the work: six hundred pages of fresh, inspiring insights based on Yoganandaji’s Gita commentaries.
This accomplishment was the fruit of Swamiji’s lifelong discipline of concentrating and focusing his mind. A friend recently sent us several statements by Paramhansa Yogananda on this subject, and I thought it would be very helpful to share some of them with you:
“Concentration is the power by which you can free your attention from objects of distraction and place it upon one thing at a time. It is the gateway to power. The root cause of failure is lack of concentration.”
“Just as all human beings have eyes, so does everyone have a spiritual eye within the forehead. It awaits only your discovery by deep concentration within. If you can keep your mind focused deeply enough and long enough at the point between the eyebrows, you will get the right answer to any problem. The more deeply you concentrate your attention[there], the more you will find your ego dissolving into superconsciousness.”
“Habits can be changed in a day. They are nothing but concentration of the mind. Simply concentrate another way, and you'll completely overcome the habit. Concentration and meditation destroy mental diseases and corrosive bad habits that are lodged in the brain.”
“To acquire mental magnetism, you must do everything with deep concentration. People who have reached the top of their profession or business have great magnetic power.”
Sometimes people wrongly think that spiritual teachings such as these are not very useful in the “practical,” everyday world. But here is what two of the most successful men in the world, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have to say about focus. Shortly after they had become friends (each donates a vast percentage of his billions to charitable causes), Bill’s dad asked them to write down on a piece of paper one word that best described what had helped them the most. Without collaborating, they each wrote the word, “focus.”
Warren went on to say that he focuses his energy only on that which he is intensely interested in, calling it his area of competence. He suggested this exercise: Write a list of two dozen or so goals to be achieved within a set time period. Next, circle the five most important. Now you have two lists. The first, the longer one, is renamed: “Avoid At All Costs.” “The difference between successful people and really successful people,” he’s said, “is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
We can best develop focus by, well, focusing. It starts with intention, is built by effort, gradually forms into a habit, and finally becomes a way of life. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish by using the power of the focused mind.