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Calm the Inner-ADHD: Where the Eyes go, the Mind Follows.

Ever wondered why we use the same word "Focus" to describe the eyes as the mind.

Johann Hari, author of Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention - and How to Think Deeply Again says "The truth is that you are living in a system that is pouring acid on your attention every day, and then you are being told to blame yourself and to fiddle with your own habits while the world's attention burns."

There's an old yogic saying "Where the eyes goes, the mind follows".

Astoundingly, th literaure also points to the eyes as the very tool for maintaining focus.

“We live in a gap between what we know we should do and what we feel we can do.” ― Johann Hari, Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention - and How to Think Deeply Again

Perhaps the most revered of all human qualities, the application of our minds IS the fundamental moment-by-moment unit of our ability to perform.

Whether to expanding our literacy on a topic, increasing the quality or quantity of output, or improving our ability to interact with others, attention forms the basis on which development grows.

In this 4-part series of posts, I aim to bring the science of published papers to the art of paying attention.

There will be a short mini practice for an embodied understanding of the relationship between eye gaze and attention, and a final practice for integrating this post with your own goal set.

Read on to discover how to use your gaze to regulate your attention, find solutions and better perform in life and your relationships.

The Psychology of Pupil Dilation

Pupil dilation essentially responds to our interests.

Generally speaking, the wider the pupil, the more distracted we are.

The tighter the pupil, the more we are focused.

This makes good sense when we consider that the pupil is actiing like blinkers to the horse.

But did you know that when you're looking for a solution, your pupils hone, and once you've found that solution, your pupils widen again? (Jósza, 2010)

You may notice this yourself; after a period of intensive emails, you are naturally inclined to relax your gaze out the window.

Check out this fascinating graph from: Eye Tracking in User Experience Design, 2014 The lowest point is the point where the solution was found.

Just as the mind hones from broad to specific, diverging and converging, the eye really is the window of the soul...searching for answers through expansion and contraction.

Given that gaze can be deliberately controlled, this fact alone can transform the level at which you are performing!

It's called biofeedback; The intentional use of our physiology to influence our psychology.

Most yogis will have used a drishti (sanskrit for eye gaze) during balancing postures. Drishti is an integral part of yoga therapy for treating ADHD.

If you suffer from distraction, procrastination, avoidance or overwhelm try this mini practice to notice the immediate improvement in your attention. The red line below offers an inflow dristhi.

With your curser, or a pen, follow the red line below from start to finish. To set the pace, inhale when the line goes up and exhale when the line goes down.

Notice an immediate improvement in focus. This is because you used a sustained gaze point to hold your mind steady for a few breaths.

When you were breathing in, your pupil was opening. When you were breathing out, your pupil was closing. This incredible synchronicity is the focus of my next post.

When the line goes up, it is the pupil opening to take a bigger picture.

When the line goes down, it is the pupil honing in toward a possible solution.

At the lowest point (around 2mins 34 secs) the actual solution is found.

The pupil then opens back up ready for the next problem to solve.

So, how does this translate to performance?

It shows that any one of us can influence our performance in any given moment with the intentional use of our gaze.

Too bored, scattered, overwhelmed or distracted, and we can hone our gaze to stimulate focus. This is call con-vergence, and for moments you are "driven-to-distraction", use it. It will keep you associated with the present moment, rather than "zipping off" in avoidance. It will also help build tolerance, an essential virtue to addressing trauma, or facing our weaknesses.

Too tense, anxious, frustrated or fixed on the otherhand, and we can lift our gaze to broaden the scope. This is call di-vergence, and provides immediate relief when needed. It will also help restore the nervous system, rather than depleting it, an essential practice for burnout. Indeed, the number one criteria for a Mediation Retreat is a view; a place to rest open the gaze. It's certainly true that during rest times on retreat, participants love resting their gaze out over the ocean; the swell and fall is mesmerising.

“In situations of low stress and safety, mind-wandering will be a gift, a pleasure, a creative force. In situations of high stress or danger, mind-wandering will be a torment.”

The real beauty of yoga practices such as dristhi, however, lies in the finely-tuned practice in every day living. The subtle use of the many synchronized parts of my whole, including breath, gaze, posture, tone and attitude to act from my circle of influence in small to large ways.

Practice Suggestion:

Write down a goal you're working on at the moment. Don't overthink it. Just jot it down sweetly. Now let your eyes glance down this page once more, jotting down the words that jump out at you. These are the words on which your pupils constricted. These are your "solution words". Now, note of the ways these words connect to your goal and finally, rewrite your goal as a positive affirmation.

Eg By placing my gaze directly on the audience intended, I take micro-steps toward my goal to package and tour The Burnout & Trauma-Care Clinic down the East Coast by Christmas (not a deliberate Product Placement, but well-timed none-the-less)

In my next article, we look at how the pupil changes even within a single breath cycle (soooo cool!).

Until then, please leave a line or two so we can all learn better together.

I'm a Somatic Naturopath, Body-Worker and Yoga Therapist with a Masters in Public Health and an interest in Transition for Transformation. You can email me directly at

Lift your sights high and commit to the task here in front of you. With a vision and presence, the rest, is dot-to-dot drawing.


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