12 Concentration Exercises From 1918
by Brett & Kate McKay
Art of Manliness
mind flit from one thing to another? Do you have trouble focusing
on something for more than a few minutes? Do you consequently have
a bunch of half-finished projects lying around the house, and a
dozen half-baked ideas still knocking around in your cranium, and
thus a pile of regrets about where you're at with those things and
in your life? If so, what should you do?
you went to the gym and tried to lift weights only to find your
arms and legs were weak and flabby, you'd start a program of weekly
exercises to strengthen your muscles. Well, your mind is a kind
of muscle too! And just like the muscles in your body, your brain
needs weekly exercise to tone up the strength of its focus and concentration.
What's a good workout for your noodle? Well, I discovered some interesting
concentration exercises in a great old book from 1918: The
Power of Concentration by Theron Q. Dumont, and have shared
some excerpts from the book below, along with some great illustrations
from Mr. Ted Slampyak. While some of the exercises are a little
goofy and you may look like a crazy person staring at an outstretched
glass of water, you'll have the last laugh as your concentration
power increases to Professor X levels. Use this guide to beef up
your brain, or as inspiration to invent your own concentration exercises.
Now put your finger on the side of your nose and let's get started.
Exercises from 1918
The rays of
the sun, when focused upon an object by means of a sun glass, produce
a heat many times greater than the scattered rays of the same source
of light and heat. This is true of attention. Scatter it and you
get but ordinary results. But center it upon one thing and you secure
much better results. When you focus your attention upon an object,
your every action, voluntary and involuntary, is in the direction
of attaining that object. If you will focus your energies upon a
thing to the exclusion of everything else, you generate the force
that can bring you what you want.
When you focus
your thought, you increase its strength. The exercises that follow
are tedious and monotonous, but useful. If you will persist in them
you will find they are very valuable, as they increase your powers
will be necessary to first train the body to obey the commands of
the mind. I want you to gain control of your muscular movements.
The following exercise is especially good in assisting you to acquire
perfect control of the muscles.
1: Sitting Still in a Chair
Sit in a comfortable
chair and see how still you can keep. This is not as easy as it
seems. You will have to center your attention on sitting still.
Watch and see that you are not making any involuntary muscular movements.
By a little practice you will find you are able to sit still without
a movement of the muscles for fifteen minutes. At first I advise
sitting in a relaxed position for five minutes. After you are able
to keep perfectly still, increase the time to ten minutes and then
to fifteen. This is as long as it is necessary. But never strain
yourself to keep still. You must be relaxed completely. You will
find this habit of relaxing is very good.
2: Fix Gaze on Fingers
Sit in a chair
with your head up and your chin out, shoulders back. Raise your
right arm until it is on the level with your shoulder, pointing
to your right. Look around, with head only, and fix your gaze on
your fingers, and keep the arm perfectly still for one minute. Do
the same exercise with your left arm. When you are able to keep
the arm perfectly steady, increase the time until you are able to
do this five minutes with each arm. Turn the palm of the hand downward
when it is outstretched, as this is the easiest position. If you
will keep your eyes fixed on the tips of the fingers you will be
able to tell if you are keeping your arm perfectly still.
3: Fix Eyes on Outstretched Glass
Fill a small
glass full of water, and grasp it by the fingers; put the arm directly
in front of you. Now fix the eyes upon the glass and try to keep
the arm so steady that no movement will be noticeable. Do this first
for one moment and then increase it to five. Do the exercise with
first one arm and then the other.
of the above exercises is to gain control over the involuntary muscular
movement, making your actions entirely voluntary. The following
exercise [is designed] to bring your voluntary muscles under the
control of the will, so that your mental forces may control your
4: Concentrate on Opening and Closing Fists
Move your chair
up to a table, placing your hands upon it, clenching the fists,
keeping the back of the hand on the table, the thumb doubled over
the fingers. Now fix your gaze upon the fist for a while, then gradually
extend the thumb, keeping your whole attention fixed upon the act,
just as if it was a matter of great importance. Then gradually extend
your first finger, then your second and so on until you open the
rest. Then reverse the process, closing first the last one opened
and then the rest, and finally you will have the fist again in the
original position with the thumb closed over the finger. Do this
exercise with the left hand. Keep up this exercise first with one
hand and then the other until you have done it five times with each
hand. In a few days you can increase it to ten times.
are that the above exercises will at first make you "tired," but
it is important for you to practice these monotonous exercises so
you can train your attention. It also gives you control over your
muscular movement. The attention, of course, must be kept closely
on each movement of the hand; if it is not, you of course lose the
value of the exercise.
You may think
these exercises very simple and of no value, but I promise you in
a short time you will notice that you have a much better control
over your muscular movements, carriage and demeanor, and you will
find that you have greatly improved your power of attention, and
can center your thoughts on what you do, which of course will be
matter what you may be doing, imagine that it is your chief object
in life. Imagine you are not interested in anything else
in the world but what you are doing. Do not let your attention get
away from the work you are at. Your attention will no doubt be rebellious,
but control it and do not let it control you. When once you conquer
the rebellious attention you have achieved a greater victory than
you can realize at the time. Many times afterwards you will
be thankful you have learned to concentrate your closest attention
upon the object at hand.
Let no day
go by without practicing concentrating on some familiar object that
is uninteresting. Never choose an interesting object, as it requires
less attention. The less interesting it is the better exercise will
it be. After a little practice you will find you can center your
attention on uninteresting subjects at will. The person
that can concentrate can gain full control over his body and mind
and be the master of his inclinations; not their slave.
When you can control yourself you can control others. You can develop
a Will that will make you a giant compared with the man that lacks
Will Power. Try out your Will Power in different ways until you
have it under such control that just as soon as you decide to do
a thing you go ahead and do it. Never be satisfied with the "I did
fairly well" spirit, but put forward your best efforts. Be satisfied
with nothing else. When you have gained this you are the
man you were intended to be.
5: Concentration Increases the Sense of Smell
When you take
a walk, or drive in the country, or pass a flower garden, concentrate
on the odor of flowers and plants. See how many different kinds
you can detect. Then choose one particular kind and try to sense
only this. You will find that this strongly intensifies the sense
of smell. This differentiation requires, however, a peculiarly attentive
attitude. When sense of smell is being developed, you should not
only shut out from the mind every thought but that of odor, but
you should also shut out cognizance of every odor save that upon
which your mind, for the time, is concentrated. You can find plenty
of opportunity for exercises for developing the sense of smell.
When you are out in the air, be on the alert for the different odors.
You will find the air laden with all kinds, but let your concentration
upon the one selected be such that a scent of its fragrance in after
years will vividly recall the circumstances of this exercise.
object of these exercises is to develop concentrated attention,
and you will find that you can, through their practice, control
your mind and direct your thoughts just the same as you can your
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© 2012 The Art of Manliness