Someone asked me the secret to concentration. I don’t claim to have it, but I remember when I learned to concentrate.
It happened when I was nearly thirty years old. Yes, I had been through school, university and a post-graduate course, and still I didn’t know how to concentrate.
Then one day it all changed.
I was in the college library studying for an exam. I had my books and notes around me. Something clicked inside of me and I felt in command. I felt like Captain Picard on the Starship Enterprise.
What I mean is that my physical relationship to the papers around me changed. I sat up alert in my chair. I was in charge. I looked around at the papers, the notes and the books and saw them as connected rather than separate. They told a story together – no longer were they separate sources.
Maybe what happened was a lucky chance. Maybe it was because the papers and books were spread in a semi-circle. Maybe that is what made them seem like the dials on a starship, or a car or an aeroplane.
For whatever reason, it was simply easy for a moment to be aware of my physical and mental relationship to the material.
I realised in that moment that up until then in my mind I had always been hanging on by my fingertips – convinced I would fail or at least not do very well.
Up until then I had managed, but that was such a poor substitute for succeeding.
I had managed but I had always felt I was standing on a quaking volcano of uncertainty.
Now I was in command.
I didn’t suddenly become brighter or more able to do things – but I could concentrate. I was relaxed. And because I was relaxed, I could take things in, see the connections.
I already knew that being relaxed made studying easier. What I learned was that my relaxed state came out of my feeling of being in command.
And why shouldn’t I feel in command? If I feel anything else it undermines the endeavour from the beginning and I sabotage myself.
Of course, we humans are notorious for doing that, aren’t we?