To Focus Is To Suffer

“I’m focusing.”

And I’m sorry to hear that.

Because “focusing” is miserable. Think of a camera that’s focusing. Everything is blurry. When the lens is finally clear, that’s not a state of focus for the camera — it’s a state of perception, awareness, consciousness, experience.

“Focus” is not a state of mind. Focus is a phase change, a period of transition. It’s not meant to be a permanent state of mind.

“The ice cube is in a state of melt.”

“The water is in a state of freeze.”

Something sounds wrong. The ice cube is melting. The water is freezing. You are focusing, but only as a means to return to a state of awareness. A state of awareness — consciousness, experience, all the same idea — is more stable.

Perpetual focus feels heavy. A flow of experience feels light. When you’re experiencing something, you’re not thinking about what you’re experiencing — you’re IN it. You walk into the movie.

Focus is not a hammer. Distraction is not a nail. When Mr. Distraction jumps in front of you, Ms. Focus gently takes your hand and keeps you on the path of Experience. And Mr. Distraction will usually leave you alone after that. There’s no need to drop kick Mr. Distraction or call the cops; that’s exactly what he wants — attention.

Focus is a tool to bring you back to experience. Ms. Focus is a temporary helping hand, available only when you need her.

A prolonged state of focus is unbearable because it calls for hyper vigilance. Ms. Focus is tightly holding your hand. You’re walking on a frozen lake, always looking over your shoulder, worrying that Mr. Distraction might sneak up on you and shatter the thin ice beneath your feet. Here, Ms. Focus’s paranoia and overprotectiveness become stressful.

When you’re truly experiencing something, you’re not thinking about what you’re experiencing or how to protect yourself from distraction. Utopia is any place where you’re not thinking about another place.

In a state of experience, things will still make their impressions on you. But you don’t latch on to those impressions and think about what they could mean. Your mind is wrapped in thought-resistant fabric, and all those droplets of stimuli just roll down.

Decide what you want to experience, what you want to be conscious of. Define your intent. You can’t experience everything at once. Say no to some things so you can genuinely experience other things. Save what you declined for another time; you can be promiscuous with your awareness, so sleep around.

Then, jump in. Don’t think. When Mr. Distraction gets in your way, Ms. Focus will be there for you. The more you trust her, the more she’ll trust you. Soon after that, Ms. Focus will learn to stay out of your way when you don’t need her. And you’ll be able to experience everything, anywhere. You’ll be light and aware as your guardian angel trails behind you.

Student @ Brown U. Author of NYTimes Bestseller ‘This is Me: Clickbait in My Bio.’