Here is the full transcript of Hindu priest and meditation teacher Dandapani on Unwavering Focus at TEDxReno Conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Unwavering Focus by Dandapani at TEDxReno
When I was growing up as a child, I was teased very often for being so distracted, teased for being distracted, teased for not being able to concentrate. And you know, had I not been born a few decades ago, I probably would have been given one of those colorful acronyms like ADD or, ADHD, branded and probably drug for not being able to concentrate, right?
It was until I was in my early twenties when I graduated from university, I grew up in Australia and I left and went to Hawaii where I joined my guru’s monastery. It was a close to traditional Hindu monastery where he taught me how to concentrate and that’s really what I want you to keep in mind, this concept of being taught how to concentrate.
It’s in my humble opinion that most people can’t concentrate today for two reasons. One is, we’re never taught how to concentrate; and second is, we don’t practice concentration, right?
So how can you do something if you’re never taught how to do it and how can you be good at something if you don’t practice it? Let’s take a little survey here. How many of you here in the audience growing up in school were formally taught how to concentrate? Can we have a show of hands? Like formal training in concentration in school, like classes, every week. OK, one person — and two people in the entire audience, right?
So here’s a question for you: how many of you in this room here growing up were told to concentrate? Isn’t that amazing? People tell us to concentrate but they don’t tell us how to. And I got told to concentrate all the time — Dandapani, concentrate on eating your food; Dandapani, concentrate on doing your homework. Anybody want to show me how to do it?
How many of you here have children? OK, how many of you tell your children to concentrate? Do you show them how to? No, right and then you wonder why they can’t concentrate. You can’t expect somebody to do something if you don’t teach them how to do it, and then if they want to be good at it they have to practice it, right?
So if I wanted to play for the Chicago Bulls or dance for the San Francisco Ballet Company, you know, I ask people this question all the time in my talk, I ask: how many hours a day should I practice? The general answer is usually about eight hours a day, six days a week. And then I ask them, so after six months can I play for the Bulls? And the answer is usually no. After a year? No, but I’d be better at basketball, right? I’d be a better at ballet dancer.
So imagine if you practice distraction eight hours a day, six days a week, what would you be good at after six months? Distraction, after a year you’d be really good at distraction. After year and a half, you would be an expert at distraction, you’d write the New York Times bestseller in distraction, TEDx would invite you to come and give a keynote on distraction. You’d get onstage you’d be so distracted you forget what you’re supposed to talk about, right? That’s how good you are.
But the truth is we don’t practice distraction eight hours a day, six days a week. The truth is we probably practice it more like 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The average person sleeps 7 to 8 hours to say roughly. So we’re awake for about 16 hours of the day.
Let’s just say on average we’re practicing it 13 hours a day, seven days a week distraction. And then you wonder why you’re so good at it. That’s the law of practice.
The law of practice says that we’ve become good at whatever it is we practice, whether it’s positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. If you practice something over and over and over again, you become really good at it. And that’s why people are so good at distraction, because it’s what they practice.
Why aren’t people good at concentration? Because they’re never taught it and they never practice it. They don’t need to be drugged, they just need to be taught how to do it. Children don’t need to be drugged, they just need to be taught how to concentrate. And then they need to practice it just like anything else to become a good Tennis player, to become a good dancer, a performer, anything, practice, practice, practice. And then people say things like technology are great distracters, right? Smartphones, oh, I have this thing so distracting my smartphone.
The internet — are they distracters? I’d like to say no first and then yes but mostly no. Why? Let me tell you a story. So when I left Australia after University and went to Hawaii to be a monk, it was a very traditional monastery. So when you join a monastery like the one I did, you literally have to give everything up — your family, your friends, everyone you know, everything you owned. And when you got to the monastery you’re given a set of robes, a set of beads and a MacBook Pro laptop. OK, yes, I did say a Mac.