The Power of Attention

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

By constant practice, and ever-renewed effort of attention, a subject that in the beginning was dry and uninteresting, may become full of interest when you master it and learn its meaning and its issues. The power of concentrating your attention on the subject may become stronger.

When a great misfortune has be fallen you, or when you pass in re view a certain course of conduct in order to find the cause of failure, it may take possession of your mind to such a degree that no effort of the will can make you cease from thinking over it. An article has to be written, a book is in the process of preparation; the work is carried on even if there is loss of sleep, and you are unable to tear yourself away from it. The attention which began voluntarily has taken hold over the entire consciousness.

If you possess strong power of attention, anything that the mind receives will be deeply impressed. Only an attentive man can develop his will. A mixture of attention, application, and interest can work wonders. There is no doubt of this. A man of ordinary intellect with highly developed attention can turn out more work than a highly intellectual man who has poor attention. Failure in anything is mainly due to lack of attention. If you attend to one thing at a time, you will get profound knowledge of that subject in all its aspects.

The ordinary untrained man of the world generally attends to several things at a time. He allows many things to enter the gates of his mental factory. That is the reason why he has a clouded or turbid mind. There is no clarity of thought.

He cannot do the process of analysis and synthesis. He is bewildered. He cannot express his ideas clearly, whereas a disciplined man can attend to a subject exclusively for as long as he likes. He extracts full and detailed information about one subject or object and then takes up another. Attention is an important faculty of a yogi.

You cannot attend to two different objects at a time. Mind can do only one thing at a time. Because it moves with such a tremendous velocity backwards and forwards, you think that the mind can attend to several objects or things at a time. You can only see or hear at one time. You cannot see and hear at the same time, but this law is not applicable to a developed yogi. A developed yogi can do several things at a time because his will is not separate from the cosmic, all-powerful will.