A Master of Focus Who Showed Us How to Master Our Minds

The world just lost one of the great pioneers of the mind. Dr. Les Fehmi dedicated his life to helping people overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, and left a great legacy to us all: a singularly powerful method to transform our relation to stress and pain, supercharge our ability to regulate our emotions, and perform and produce at staggeringly high levels – in other words, a clear map to living our best life on our own terms.

Early in my ever-evolving journey toward achieving optimal mental focus, I trained with Dr. Les Fehmi, and his wife, Susan Schor Fehmi. Of all the work I’ve done, books I’ve read, people I’ve met, courses and seminars I’ve attended over many years, my work with the Fehmis was by far the most impactful.

Last week, I wrote about my first encounter with Dr. Fehmi and the life-changing technique he showed me that makes it possible to gain complete control over anxiety, and by extension any negative feeling or emotion we have.

Coincidentally (although I don’t believe anything is truly a coincidence), the very next day I received the news that Dr. Fehmi had passed away. He was 87. Dr. Fehmi was a pioneer in the field of neurofeedback research, and from his work developed a uniquely potent method that can quite literally dissolve seemingly intractable stress, melt chronic pain, and skyrocket your performance and productivity.

When I first arrived at the Princeton Biofeedback Centre to train with Dr. Fehmi, I was struck by his simultaneously warm, calm, engaging and attentive demeanor, which itself was real-world testimony to the effectiveness of his method. Since then, I have been in contact with both Les and Susan over the years, and have been awed by how selflessly they have given of themselves to their life-long calling of improving the quality of people’s lives through optimum mental focus.

My training with the Fehmis proved to be a watershed moment that has literally changed how I live my life. What I learned from them I continue to use every single day – with my clients and with myself.

Growing up, I had what today probably would be diagnosed as ADD. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the “H” part, just plain old inattention without much energy behind it.

I somehow got through classes, a music career, and even law school, all while regularly zoning out in the midst of whatever I was doing. But my zoning out came at a cost in ways big and small, and I always sensed there must be some means to overcome my life of inattention.

I tried Ritalin. It didn’t help. I unsuccessfully tried pushing through the inattention, working really hard to focus. The “muscle through” approach just made me tired, stressed, and annoyed with myself that my efforts were not bearing fruit.

Then one of our children was diagnosed with ADHD, which was severe enough to threaten to derail his schooling. But after three rounds of different ADHD medications that produced nothing but side effects, all the medical and mental health professionals would suggest was more medication. I was sure there must be a better way and set out to find it.

“This Changes My Life!”

I discovered neurofeedback, a methodology that has been around for decades and is surprisingly less well known than it should be given its proven effectiveness. Neurofeedback employs EEG to create what could be called a mirror for your mind.

Neurofeedback essentially measures your brainwaves, and through a technological interface feeds what your brainwaves are doing back to you, enabling you to adjust them based on predetermined criteria. It has proven to be a powerful method to ameliorate a wide range of conditions, from chronic pain to ADHD (the American Academy of Pediatrics gives neurofeedback its highest rating for treating ADD and ADHD) and even to more serious conditions like epilepsy. Neurofeedback is also used by Olympic athletes and top musicians because it can greatly sharpen the mental states necessary for peak performance.

After surveying several neurofeedback protocols, I discovered Dr. Fehmi’s method, his specific work with alpha waves (more on alpha waves in next week’s article), and his astoundingly effective Open Focus method that he developed directly from his neurofeedback research.

Shortly after I trained with Dr. Fehmi, I started using his Open Focus method with my clients. As it happened, my very first client was not an easy case – a teenage boy who suffered from debilitating panic attacks, some of which would last for over two hours. He had tried medication and therapy, to no avail.

I told the boy about Open Focus and asked if he was willing to try it. He was willing to try anything by that point if the panic attacks would just go away. I took him through a short Open Focus exercise. When he opened his eyes, he looked at me with a relaxed smile, and exclaimed “This changes my life!”

Indeed it did. After just a couple of months of twice-weekly sessions involving both Open Focus training and neurofeedback using Dr. Fehmi’s approach of training what he called “synchronous alpha” waves, the boy’s panic attacks were a thing of the past. When I ran into him in a store about five years later, he told me that he has never experienced another panic attack.

Since then, I’ve witnessed Dr. Fehmi’s methods dissolve long-term stress, severely reduce migraines, and dramatically boost mental clarity, productivity and performance among athletes, musicians corporate executives and other high performers.

So what is Open Focus? And what do “synchronous alpha” brainwaves have to do with how you function in your everyday life?

I’ll be taking that up in next week’s article and giving you an exercise I use with my clients that can help you dissolve stress, become more focused, and work more productively at higher levels.

If your interest is piqued and you’d rather not wait the week, I highly recommend Dr. Fehmi’s books, The Open Focus Brain and Dissolving Pain, as well as (with Susan Schor Fehmi) his soon-to be-released The Open Focus Life. If you want to improve your focus and how you function in your life, you’d be hard pressed to find a better way than to apply the teachings of this great man.