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Focus

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Focus

Postby Obsidian » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:36 am

In a similar vein to my previous post, something else that has been playing around in my mind.

I was watching a show on great thinkers of the past and something regarding Isaac Newton caught my attention. It's said he could fall into a trance-like state of concentration for many hours at a time, not moving or doing anything but thinking intensely. In this state he's supposed to have come up with most of his thought experiments and ideas.

The reason it caught my attention is because it wasn't described or defined as a meditative state, rather a state of intense concentrate or focus. This made me think of various other aspects of focus I've encountered.

Everyone thinks they can focus but my experience has shown that, for the most part, very few people can focus for very long at all. Holding one hundred percent of one's attention on something is extremely difficult for more than 10-15 seconds. I find my mind begin wandering even sooner than that, usually. All through school, martial arts and magic, focus has been stressed as a particularly important skill to have. But unlike a lot of skills, most people seem to assume you either have it or don't have it.

I've been taught in the past to focus on the thought of a candle. Just a single, solitary candle burning. Begin with the wax of the candle, add in the flame, the candle holder, etc. But never lose focus on the fact that you're focusing one hundred percent on the candle in your mind. Or instead of a candle, use an apple. Focus and hold that apple in your mind. (I don't know why those two things were chosen but I would hazard a guess at an apple being universal and a candle being 'magic-y')

After a few seconds my mind would begin wandering and I would have to (sometimes forcibly) rein it back in to the candle and nothing else. Easier said than done!

When I relate this to magic and energy work, I find myself focusing on creating something then my mind wandering or throwing up fantasy and imagination, me losing track of exactly what I was working on and the whole thing becoming a struggle. When I try craft something, project or just sense around me.

I can see focus as a skill that will be developed and strengthened more the more it's used but I thought of posting here to see if anyone had any experience developing their focus, any tips or tricks, any other conflicting ideas and see if I could generate some discussion. What do people think of focus and the idea of holding a single thought in your head for extended periods of time? Anyone struggle as much as I do?
"Nothing is more amazing than getting the shit kicked out of you by something you didn't believe existed" - David.
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Re: Focus

Postby LordArt » Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:09 pm

I suppose that is why Omnis use macro casting. One doesn't have to concentrate that long to get the job done, or if it is something larger, there is a progression of thought rather than static thought. Meaning, if one has to build something, each piece requires concentration, but then you move on to the next, so the focus is kept versus just focusing on one thing for a long period of time. If each piece is made properly, it doesn't require concentration to keep it there, so such progression works rather well.

As far as someone focusing to discover something new, I wouldn't think that comes from focusing on ONE thing. From my own discoveries, it's usually a series of wondering thoughts. Yeah, you need the time and the relaxation to be so open, but one idea leads to another, then another then how to implement an experiment to try it out, etc. I bring up relaxation because if you are stressed from life, you are going to be more concerned about that, than your brainstorming. Back in the day, the hottub the original core members use to use actually provided that exact environment to allow such innovative thinking. Quite a bit was innovated in there. Post-sex counts too. I got a lot of ideas then too, much to the annoyance of my Ex-wife at the time. It's about what truly relaxes you and lets you be open without the clutter of life.

I'm not saying meditation doesn't have it's place (and has come up a lot recently in other discussions), but it depends on one's approach if it matters or not. For us, not so much. If you are using a system that requires such mental gymnastics, it is likely required.
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Re: Focus

Postby Obsidian » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:21 pm

Thanks for your respond Art.

Quite interesting the way you put that. Logical now that it's been spelled out for me but I hadn't really thought of it like that.

The Omnimancy method of casting spells (even the Psionics methods of programming, to a lesser degree) is very much a sequential thing. Step B comes after Step A and once Step A is done you can essentially forget about it. It wouldn't require any more strenuous concentration than most everyday tasks once you've got the hang of it.

I see what you mean about the research side of things as well. When you let the stresses of the day fall away all sorts of ideas come flooding in. For me, that's when I get musical or lyrical ideas (as well as other things) and I can well see how that would be the same for magic as well. I suppose once you reach a high enough level of skill you would be able to come up with an idea, do some poking around, extend the idea and work on experimentation (like you said) without needing to hold 100% focus on any single part of the equation.

Maybe I'm forcing too hard to hold my attention on a single thing. Or is that a good thing to try and do in the early days of training and learning?

I think the key thing out of everything you mentioned is reaching that point where the stresses and troubles of the day fall away and leave your mind free to explore. Something else I need to work towards =P
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Re: Focus

Postby Oyama » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:36 pm

Focusing the mind on one thing for extended periods at a time increases your ability to focus and to eliminate extraneous thoughts, which has beneficial effects no matter what level of magical training you're at. That said, it is not necessary, and it is particularly not necessary for omni-style magic.

I found that learning to quiet my mind's chatter and keep it still and focused on one thing improved clarity and accuracy of senses more than anything else. Your mileage may vary, but I still maintain that it's a beneficial practice, albeit not strictly necessary to perform effective magic. It's also worth noting that the focus on one thing exclusively is done more as a conditioning exercise than an actual magical method. It's what you get out of the practice, not the practice itself.
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Re: Focus

Postby Obsidian » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:43 am

I had kind've reached the same conclusion as you stated there, it's what you get from the practice not the practice itself. I like how you worded that, I need to think of it as a conditioning exercise. So far I'm up to concentrated focus for a mere few seconds, it's rather disheartening.

Whilst I'm practicing sensing I get a lot of extraneous thoughts come through and interrupt, interfere or generate confusion with what I'm attempting to do. Even if it's just something simple like looking into the core of a simple piece of tech or moving even around, my mind seems to flicker between various magic things, day-to-day stuff, hobby things.. It's rather frustrating because I wind up with poor or no results from my magic practice.

Have you any suggestions in exercises I could work on or should I just keep at what I'm doing (as I described in my earlier post)?
"Nothing is more amazing than getting the shit kicked out of you by something you didn't believe existed" - David.
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Re: Focus

Postby 4min33sec » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:09 am

For all his flaws, I still think Crowley's Book 4, Part 1, is the best quick summary of what to expect when doing these sort of concentration exercises.

Capsule review: if you're up to several seconds uninterrupted concentration, you're doing well.
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