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Awareness, Concentration & Memory
Concentration is attentiveness; having a single-minded focus on something. Let me exemplify this: when you switch on a torch, a beam of light comes out of it and falls on an object. This beam of light is attentiveness, and the energy stored in the cells which make this beam happen, is awareness. There is a profound difference between awareness and concentration. You may have concentration but no awareness. On the other hand, with awareness one can create concentration and that too whenever and wherever you want it. Nevertheless, to understand and fathom your awareness, concentration can be used as a stepping-stone.
Often people do not possess a clear understanding of the two and confuse awareness with concentration. Awareness is not concentration and concentration is not awareness. The consciousness that makes your mind and brain think and work is awareness, whereas, concentration is just a wave of the mind. It is possible that a person has the concentration but not awareness. You may have seen a goldsmith at work – he uses a blowpipe whilst simultaneously making the finest designs and the prettiest bangles, earrings and necklaces – his hands are involved in a very delicate craft. He has no dearth of concentration. Similarly, watch a painter, an artist - he is totally engrossed in his art.
Air Traffic Control employees also work with great concentration. The controller sits in his tower monitoring each flight that takes off and lands and ensures that the time gap between flights is correct. A single mistake can prove fatal. The distance between two planes, when to turn, when to reduce speed and by how much – all this information is handled by him. This job demands immense concentration. Can a train engine driver do his job without concentration? If his attention flounders, an accident is inevitable. In fact, working in kitchen too requires some degree level of focus. However, delectable food can only be made by those women who possess a good degree of concentration. If not, being forced to eat the insipid and distasteful food will be no less than a punishment! Although, sometimes a couple is so “perfectly compatible” that the husband is as unconscious as the wife – he will be blissfully oblivious of the unappetizing and unpalatable food cooked by the wife!
I have observed that fools befriend fools; fools cannot befriend intelligent people. In the same way, an intellectual is likely to have a good rapport with someone of his own calibre. Marriage between an intelligent person and a fool is likely to end up in fights, arguments and rebukes – providing free entertainment to the neighbours! Without concentration, you cannot even run your business. You have to keep track of your appointments and meetings, or else you will lose out on business deals. Today the situation is such that even when you are meeting someone for a business deal, you need to be well versed about their likes and dislikes. You find out his favourite eating places and the ones he dislikes, his favourite drink, and even whether he has it with soda or with water! You even find out if he is interested in women, and make provisions accordingly! None of this is possible without concentration. In fact, the thefts and cybercrimes that happen are also not possible without concentration.
All possess the ability of concentration, to a greater or lesser level. But awareness, which works at the foundation, is present at a much lesser degree. Often I have noticed that some people are so deficient in concentration that they do not understand even simple things. If you tell them: go straight, first turn to the right and then to the left – they will go straight, first turn to the left instead of right and then curse you! Mullah Nasruddin was standing in the market square chewing sugarcane. A traveller asked him, “how to get to Jamal Khan’s house.” Mullah said that Jamal Khan was his childhood friend, his house was very easy to find and his instructions would get him there in five minutes. Mullah said: “Go straight from here and turn left. A little ahead you will come to a T-junction, from there you turn right and then straight ahead you will see his yellow coloured house.”
So the traveller followed Mullah’s instructions and came to a yellow house, but this was the same house under which Mullah was standing! The man said to Mullah, “You made me run around in circles. I have landed up where I started. What sort of a person are you?” Mullah replied, “I did not make you run around in circles, I was only testing you to see if you would follow my instructions. Well, right behind me is the house of Jamal Khan!”
I do not have time to waste in imparting knowledge which you are not going to utilise. If you listen to me attentively, I will instruct you further. However, your concentration level is low and you are living your life in such way that it is deteriorating. I would like to offer a bit of advice on this subject: Although there is nothing wrong in using calculators or computers, but excessive use of calculators lowers concentration. You save telephone numbers in your mobile phones but this too reduces your ability to remember numbers. Those who have crossed 40 or are in their late 30’s should definitely stop using a calculator and start using their brains instead! You need to be concerned about your brain and not only your heart. Otherwise, by the time you reach the age of 60-65, your memory begins to fail and slowly diseases like Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s can set in.
When you stop using your brain, when you stop challenging it, you can suffer from these diseases - so keep using your brain. Keep up the habit of reading as reading is very necessary. Play intelligent games like chess, which is certainly a good challenge for the mind. Chess sharpens the mind, as you have to think of a move ten times before making it and you not only calculate your moves but also the moves of your opponent. Consequently, you must keep reading something new to stimulate the brain. The more you use your brain, the healthier the neuronal network functions and your memory will improve.
Here is a tip that is surely to improve your memory: In the morning, read any phone number, or better still a verse from a scripture like Gita or Ramayana. Repeat it 3-4 times during the day and then in the evening, try to remember what you had read. Initially, you may not remember or you may forget part of it, but as you continue this practice daily, your capacity to remember will increase.