Arjuna’s Arrow is a story from Hindu mythology about the greatest archer of all time. The tale’s true title is Arjuna of Mahabharata, and this epic tells the story of an archer who, when he focused on a target, would always hit his mark.
Arjuna had razor sharp focus, and his teacher, Drona Archarya, was the greatest teacher who ever lived. Drona had many students, but Arjuna was the one who excelled the most in archery. According to the tale, one of Drona’s other students criticized Drona for favoritism, and Drona responded by challenging all of the students to take part in an archery contest. He asked them all to try to hit the eye of a wooden bird.
His first student tried, called Yudhistar, tried the shot, and said that he could see the sun, the clouds, and the trees when he aimed at the bird. He missed the shot. The second student, Ashwathama, tried the shot and could see the bird, the branch on which the bird sat, the mango near the bird, the leaves, and other surroundings. He also failed the shot.
Arjuna was the last to try the shot. When asked what he could see, he replied that he saw the eye of the bird. He did not see the tree, the branch, or even the bird. He saw nothing but the eye and hit his target. The moral of the story surrounds Arjuna’s focus and how it made him great.
Using Arjuna’s Focus in Your Life
Being focused and entering a “flow state” can greatly improve productivity, but it is not always easy to achieve that level of focus. Research shows that setting clear goals and being able to achieve a high level of focus helps with both the enjoyment of a task and with the performance of that task.1 Of course, reaching that focused zone, and staying there, is not easy. Indeed, one of the secrets to staying focused is taking regular breaks. A study conducted by the University of Illinois found that brief diversions from a task can help a person to be more focused on the task when they restart it.2
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There are limits to this focus-increasing option. Too much task switching can be counter-productive3, but using breaks judiciously can help to recharge your mental batteries.
Meditation, Relaxation, and Arjuna’s Arrow
The secret to Arjuna’s success was that he was able to empty his mind and think only of the task at hand. Clearing your mind like that is a skill that few people possess naturally. You can learn how to clear your mind through meditation. Indeed, a large part of yoga is focusing on breathing slowly, and emptying your mind of stresses.
Many people find that using essential oils can help with relaxation, and also with getting into the state of mind where they will clear their heads. If someone meditates regularly, and always uses the same blend of essential oils when they meditate, then the scent will prepare their mind for that focused state.
There are many essential oils that can be useful for improving focus and mental clarity. Peppermint, lavender and rosemary oil are all popular.
Peppermint oil has been found to be useful for improving memory4 and cognitive performance. Rosemary has been found to help to improve cognitive function in the short term in elderly people5, although since the research focused on those who already had minor cognitive impairments, it is unclear how much benefit it would have on someone who was generally healthy and performing well.
Lavender, meanwhile, has been found to be useful for reducing anxiety.6 This makes it helpful for improving focus for those who are struggling with looming deadlines, stressful jobs, or difficult tasks. Being able to quiet anxious thoughts makes it easier to focus on the task at hand.
Arjuna is blessed with spiritual vision, and his adventures include far more than just shooting arrows. The epic has a lot to teach us about spirituality and about the Hindu culture. Some scholars call Arjuna the Hindu Achilles, although it may be fair to make the comparison the other way around.
Whether you are interested in taking a spiritual path, and using meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises to improve your focus, or you are simply looking to make some changes to your lifestyle and working environment to boost your productivity, you can learn a lot from Arjuna. Clear your environment of distractions, and try to clear your mind as well. It may take some time to learn how to get into the zone, but once you find what works for you, it will get easier and you will enjoy bursts of genius, creativity, and productivity that you had previously not been able to unlock.
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