What’s the biggest benefit of self-awareness? How does awareness alter your mind?
Dandapani’s book The Power of Unwavering Focus explains that your orb of awareness doesn’t simply experience your mind—it also slowly reshapes your mind, for better or for worse. This means that if you direct your awareness intentionally, you can shape your mind as you want so you can be more focused.
Continue reading to explore how this process works so you can reap the benefit of self-awareness.
Step 1: Energy Follows Awareness
Dandapani explains that your energy naturally follows your orb of awareness. He says that everyone has spiritual energy flowing within them. This energy flows toward whatever part of your mind you’re currently inhabiting with your orb of awareness. This happens whether you’re intentionally directing your awareness to a specific region of your mind (which is how you’ll fully experience the top benefit of self-awareness) or letting your environment direct your energy while you’re distracted.
|Hindu Traditions of Guiding Energy|
In describing a spiritual energy flowing through you at all times, Dandapani is likely drawing on the traditional Hindu concept of prana—an energy that pervades all things in the universe, including your mind. Understanding this concept will contextualize Dandapani’s theory within traditional Hindu beliefs about energy guidance.
In Hinduism, prana is a life force that creates motion and change in the world. Prana is conscious, and so in Hindu cosmology, all things have some degree of consciousness through prana. While Dandapani recommends guiding your prana by directing your awareness, many traditions in Yoga and Hindu meditation encourage you to direct your prana by controlling your breath. According to these traditions, controlled breathing moves your prana into balance, calming the body and focusing the mind. Some Yoga practitioners maintain that breathing techniques will increase the flow of prana to your conscious mind, thus increasing the energy flow toward your orb of awareness that Dandapani describes.
Step 2: Energy Nourishes and Grows Regions of the Mind
According to Dandapani, your energy that follows your awareness also nourishes and grows the region so that it becomes more powerful. You can think of the different regions of your brain like muscles that get stronger with exercise. Every time your orb of awareness directs energy into a region of your brain, it’s getting exercise. The regions that you spend the most time experiencing with your orb of awareness are the ones that grow the most.
(Shortform note: Though based on Hindu practice, Dandapani’s ideas about the mind mirror scientific understandings of neuroplasticity. Researchers in neurology assert that the brain’s structure changes in response to its activity. This happens because the brain is made up of connections between cells called synapses. The brain gradually strengthens synapses between frequently used cells while eliminating synapses between rarely used cells in a process called synaptic pruning. This supports Dandapani’s view that your awareness nourishes regions of the mind because focusing on an activity will trigger and strengthen certain synapses over others.)
Step 3: The Regions You Nourish and Grow Exert a Pull on Your Awareness
Dandapani states that as you nourish regions of your mind via your awareness, these growing regions will begin exerting a pull on your awareness. Think of it like a magnetic force that grows stronger every time you visit it. This pull makes it easier for your awareness to return to these regions again and again. Over time, your awareness will start spending its time in regions that exert the strongest pull.
(Shortform note: Some neuroscientists assert that frequency isn’t the only—or even the most important—factor in determining the places your awareness habitually spends most of its time. They argue that habits of mind are also largely shaped by reinforcement. Reinforcement occurs when an activity results in some kind of reward. When the brain experiences any kind of pleasure or satisfaction in an activity, it will naturally remember the reward and feel motivated to return to the activity. Therefore, your awareness may want to return not just to the places of your mind that have been most nourished, but also the places of your mind that have yielded the most rewards.)
Conclusion: How Awareness Reshapes Your Mind
Once we put all of Dandapani’s steps together, it becomes clear how your awareness reshapes your mind in ways that can make you more focused or more distractible. Let’s compare two scenarios to see the difference focus makes in the long term.
Scenario 1: You’re sitting at a computer trying to get your work done. You guide your orb of awareness to the region of your mind that allows you to apply yourself to your work. The region may contain motivation, skills, or job-specific knowledge. When your orb of awareness travels there, your flow of spiritual energy experiences the region, allowing you to get your work done. Your spiritual energy also grows and nourishes this region. Next time you sit down to work, this region will exert a pull on your orb of awareness, making it easier for you to focus again.
Scenario 2: You sit down at your computer to work, but your environment distracts you. You open YouTube and begin watching entertaining videos instead. Your orb of awareness is now pulled to the region that enjoys being entertained by videos. Next time you sit down to work, you will feel your awareness pulled magnetically toward this region in your mind, making it harder to focus on your work and easier to keep watching videos.
(Shortform note: In Deep Work, Cal Newport offers a helpful exercise to train your brain away from needing distraction: allowing yourself to feel bored. He explains that people often seek out distractions to alleviate the discomfort of boredom. This too, becomes a self-reinforcing habit. By avoiding boredom, people weaken their ability to handle boredom in the future, making themselves more distractible. However, tolerating boredom can be extremely difficult. Some studies have found that people find boredom so intolerable that they will self-inflict painful electric shocks just to break up the monotony. By letting yourself build up a tolerance for boredom, you’ll improve your ability to focus.)