My Mt. Everest | April 2006 Newsletter

My Mount Everest: April, 2006
Merle M. Singer, Founder


“Only those who will risk going too far
can possibly find out how far one can go.”

T. S. Eliot




Focusing on a Task

This month, I’d like to talk about focus. I don’t know how many others have had the experience of doing a project (maybe paying bills, writing an e-letter, etc) and being distracted so easily. I don’t even need external distractions to disrupt my concentration; I can just happen to remember that I haven’t answered a particular email yet. Or I’ll go get a snack and start cleaning the kitchen. Or just now mentioning “kitchen” reminds me that I have a newspaper article that I put aside in the kitchen to send to my grandson. I don’t think it’s ADD or ADHD. I think I have “flabby focus.” I never knew that there are specific things that you can do to improve focus. I am using “focus” and “concentration” interchangeably so I just checked the definition in the dictionary (actual book version). I had to decide if checking a word definition was losing focus or not. I went with the research and found the two words are synonyms.

Meditation Strengthens Focus

I have been reading some books that speak about meditating. I am back to taking a yoga class about 3 days a week, and I am doing a bit of the Hsin Tao moves that I learned from Ratziel Binder ( last summer. If I mention this to some of my friends they think it’s kind of ëwoo woo’. I know it helps me lower my blood pressure. Also, I just read — and it makes sense — that all these body/mind activities help you to focus. In fact in yoga class today, at the end when we are to simply lay there in ëdead man’s pose’ and breathe, the instructor talked about resisting the urge to move at all, not even a twitch or a scratch. An itch is our mind trying to move us off point. She said if we could learn to silence our body, that it will be easier to silence our mind. She added that the whole point of silencing our mind (meditating) is to exercise our concentration muscle.

Expand the Space Between Your Thoughts

I think it is an extraordinary discovery. It justifies my taking the time to meditate (because I haven’t yet reached the higher plane of not needing justification). I love the way Dr Shelley Glickstein, (, talked about meditation at a class I took as part of some one-day seminar on non-profits. She talked about slowly expanding the space between the words you are saying to yourself in your mind. It seemed less daunting than asking me not to think of anything for 5 minutes or 5 seconds. Plus, her peaceful demeanor served as a model.

A book that I got in the Providence, RI airport to read on the plane ride home, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace by Cheryl Richardson, speaks about the balancing silence and activity, which I find an interesting concept. She goes further to make the conclusion that this will deepen your connection to the Divine.

What all these people say, each in their own way and within their own context is, that consistent practice, not perfection, is what strengthens your concentration. It’s such a simple concept, but not that easy to grasp in this world of perfection-seekers.

The 55 -Minute Hour

There is one last idea that I’d like to share about concentration/focus. I was at an Idea Incubator Seminar on Internet Marketing given by Stu McLaren. (, earlier this year. Alex Mandossian ( spoke. Alex is a marketing guru of the highest order, but the one thing he said that made its way all the way into my wee brain was about focus. He suggested that we follow his lead and create specific focused time in our lives. He uses the fifty-five minute hour — literally. He sets a quiet timer for 55 minutes. During that time, he does only his chosen activity. He doesn’t answer the phone, answer e mail, and people in his house know that if the door to his office is closed, only true emergencies are reasons to interrupt. But it’s only 55 minutes. Anyone can wait 55 minutes. I’m on a 55-minute hour right now. Then at the end of 55 minutes, you must stop; you cannot keep going. The 5 minutes are for the kids, the spouse, the phone, whatever you need it to be for. Keep repeating the process. Why not commit 1 of those hours to something important to you that you never have time for. Alex suggests that it’s a money generating project, but maybe you want to learn a language, write a book. One 55 minute segment a day will add up to 5 hours a week more than you’ve likely been doing so far. That adds up, and it’s doable. It’s also quantifiable. As the old adage goes, “Try it; you’ll like it.”