Finding Mastery and Focus in Unlikely Places

I got to go on my friend Michael Gervais’s podcast, Finding Mastery, last week.

His deal is a bit different than mine – he’s a sports psychologist. And he’s always hunting for the perfect formula that lets athletes access the focus and adrenaline that makes them superheroes in the arena, without totally wrecking how they show up in the rest of their lives.

Actually, it doesn’t sound like it’s all that different from my deal.

Because among the things we talked about (and we got into some really cool stuff, like being careful not to rely on your serotonergic circuitry for happiness and why getting out of your beta waves is so important)…

One of the major themes was that nothing works unless you fuse intention with attention.

If you can’t do that, you run on fumes. 

You may excel in the area where you’re funneling the attention you’ve got control of (which, frankly, ain’t much unless you’ve got I + A), but you’ve got nothing left for the rest of your life.

That’s why I make such a strong distinction between what we do here in the West and what ascetics do in the East – because they’re not householders.

It’s a lot easier – not easy – to access and hone the spiritual state of calm that comes with activating the neural pathways that mind-body practices open.

After all, they’re only being asked to pay attention to a few things. Their bodies, their practices, the meaning of life…

Okay, those sound like some pretty big things.

But they’re not asked to fracture their attention between how loving they’re being to their wives, how heard their children feel, whether they’re coasting in their careers or how they’re treating their employees, if their bills are all in order and how well they’ve invested for their retirement, who called the plumber last week because this water is still coming out funny…

You get the point.

We’ve got a tougher task here in the West.

We know that lack of mindfulness makes us sick –  physically, mentally, and emotionally. The evidence in favor of meditation and kung fu is simply overwhelming. And yet, over the tens of thousands of students I’ve worked with…

So many of them don’t want to do THIS work… the work that solves the intention and attention problem.

Because it’s hard, right?

It’s confusing. It’s the direct antithesis of the Western model – work, grind, never stop moving, and when you’ve got a second to relax, the last thing in the world you want to do is 10 minutes of Qi Gong and a serious meditation session. You want to binge watch something that makes you feel good, even if you know that feeling is only temporary.

Michael asked me something interesting during the podcast…

He asked me if I could meet any of the great masters of mindfulness, someone I really admire, who would it be, and what I would want to know from them.

I won’t spoil my answer, except to say: I don’t want to meet a great master of mindfulness.

I’ve met those, and so often, they end up being just like you and me – their careers are wonderful and they help people, but their marriages are falling apart. Or they’re rotten to their employees. Or they’re deeply unhappy in themselves.

What’s really impressive is meeting someone who’s done the hard work to cultivate a beautiful and lush life garden (more on that here – it’s one of my favorite things to talk about.)

Someone who’s carefully chosen the plants they want to care for, who keeps the stream from which they draw their water running and rippling and cool and clear and infinite. 

The trick? 

You have to know what’s in your water.

If you’re drawing vitality from coffee and adrenaline, it’s not pure. It’s not infinite. It’s not sustainable.

Your water’s got to be made of Time, Money, and Energy.

And that combination, just like everything else in mindful wellness, relies on one thing primarily:

The focus that makes it all happen.

In a culture where information wars, social media, and everything else is trying to grab your attention and use it to manifest the world that they want rather than the world that you choose…

Attention and focus are the most valuable currency you’ve got.

And we’re all living below the poverty line. 

I actually wrote a book about it, called Focus

It’s pretty simple, really. 

We’re not focused and we need to be. The whole book is a focus blueprint – here’s what you need to do, and here’s what you need in order to do it, and here’s the roadmap for owning your focus. 

The book comes out on November 10th – you can pre-order it here, if you’re so inclined!

And check out the podcast I did with Michael

Just another reminder that as different as we think we all are – a sports psychologist and a Toaist Abbot – we all really want to extract the same things out of life, and we’re all really having the same functional problem.

Let’s focus on it together.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.