change, creativity, feelings

Step 211: 5 Ways to Improve Concentration

“Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose.” ~ Eknath Easwaran

A lot of people want our attention. Take a walk stroll through Times Square without any sense of urgency, and your mind will start spinning with the dizzying number of companies and brands who ask us to pay attention to them amid the chaos. In New York City, distraction takes up residence in every nook and cranny. We spend a lot of energy and time just trying to focus. I’m sure residents of other cities have the same challenge. Not an impossible task, though certainly a difficult one.

The list below details 5 things that help me focus amid the turbulence of New York. I first moved to New York at 22, left, came back, didn’t last long, left, and came back again. In this 3rd stretch, I have lived here for over 3 years – a personal record of staying put in one city. Recently, the winds of wander have come knocking. While in Florida on vacation, I actually contemplated packing it all up (especially since I no longer have that many belongings), and heading for new pastures, even if not necessarily greener ones. Then the Universe, did a funny thing – it made it very difficult for me to physically get home from vacation. Absence, even short and fleeting, always makes me long for New York. The Universe has a deep wisdom and a wicked sense of humor.

5 ways I stay focused here in New York:

1.) Yoga helps. Really. I have a bias here because I am a yoga instructor. Though I got into yoga to reduce stress and anxiety. It gave me the lovely and unexpected side effects of increased creativity and the extremely ability to focus when needed. I don’t use yoga, nor do I teach yoga, to help someone balance all of their weight on their pinky while up in some crazy balance pose. I use it to decompress, and that works for me.

2.) Meditation helps, too. I hated meditation for a long time. I actually thought the whole idea of it bore a striking resemblance to The Emperor’s New Clothes. I spent many years as a critic of meditation without ever giving it a fair shake. Then with my yoga teacher training, I had to have a daily meditation practice as part of the program. Even for just 5 minutes. That regular practice did the trick. Now I have a meditation buddy from my yoga training – we don’t meditate together. We just check in with one another each week to keep one another on the meditation path. No I actually feel the effects of meditation, even during moment of increased stress. It taught me how to calm down and gave me a pathway to a peaceful, restful mind.

3.) Choose your neighborhood wisely. I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. People ask me why and my answer never wavers. I like to go to crazy, but I don’t want to live in. There are far cooler, more happenin’ neighborhoods, no doubt. The restaurants in my neighborhood are decent, I have a Whole Foods and a branch of the public library around the corner, and live very close to two huge parks. That meets my requirements. I also live alone on a high floor and have some outdoor space in a quiet building. Those two things remind me just how lucky I am to live where I live. Crazy lives a short cab or subway ride away – good enough for me.

4.) And choose your friends even more wisely. About a year ago, I gave up on negative people. I had a lot of them in my life. People who never get to happy and cannot be happy for others. I serve as blood-in-the-water to those types of people because I have an extraordinary flair for listening to hard luck cases that want no help or improvement. Now I focus my time on those people in my life who give me more energy than they take, people who create and dream and grow. It had made a world of difference.

5.) Get a coach or therapist. The old joke goes that everyone in New York goes to therapy because we are all extraordinarily screwed up. Truthfully, everyone, everywhere can benefit from therapy. We all have issues and challenges and an unbiased opinion really, really helps. I see a social worker who acts more as a life coach than a therapist. If you want his name, I will gladly referred you. He helped me to gain more confidence and pursue a life that excites me. I also recently interviewed Will Meyerhofer, a lawyer turned therapist, for an upcoming freelance piece. He works on a sliding scale and has oodles of integrity and talent. Check him out at

What did I miss? What helps you stay sane in this crazy world?