Dr. Les Fehmi’s Open Focus method may be the best tool for improving your mind and your life that you’ve never heard of.
Last week, I wrote about Dr. Les Fehmi, one of the great pioneers of the mind, who recently passed away. I told of my early training with Dr. Fehmi, and his impact on my own approach to the mind, my clients and my life. If you haven’t yet read last week's article about Dr. Fehmi, I encourage you to do so. You can read it here, and it will provide valuable background information for what follows.
Dr. Fehmi discovered in his research on neurofeedback that getting a person to produce what he called “synchronous alpha” brainwaves results in a state in which the person is at once profoundly relaxed and highly focused, and can perform at extremely high levels with little stress to their system.
Alpha brainwaves produced in certain parts of the brain are a key component of the “flow” state or what is sometimes called being “in the zone.” Research on athletes and peak performers of all types has shown that their brains produce more alpha in certain regions of the brain than do average performers.
Dr. Fehmi’s synchronous alpha describes a state where alpha waves are being produced simultaneously at high levels throughout the entire brain, and those alpha brain waves start and end together, rising and falling together.
In such a state, the whole brain is literally working in sync with itself, and the effect is like a laser beam compared to the brain’s normal functioning like a light bulb. A light bulb wastes a lot of energy and produces relatively little light, whereas a laser uses its energy very efficiently and so can produce far more light with less expenditure of energy. Similarly, a brain emitting synchronous alpha brainwaves will go a lot further while wasting little energy.
It’s All About Space
You may or may not have an interest in exactly how brainwaves, and specifically alpha brainwaves, work. Suffice it to say that our brains create electrical impulses constantly at different frequencies. The combination of various frequencies in various parts of the brain results in different types of mental performance, emotional response and even physical feeling. You can learn more about brainwaves here.
For purposes of this article however, I want to focus on Dr. Fehmi’s second discovery – the Open Focus method, which enables you to create synchronous alpha in your own brain, without using neurofeedback equipment. Open Focus is a simple but incredibly powerful way to dissolve stress and anxiety, let go of harmful emotions, lessen chronic pain and perform at your highest possible level in whatever you choose to do.
Although Dr. Fehmi’s method is used around the world, its use should be far more widespread than it is. There are any number of self-proclaimed self-help gurus, mindfulness experts and the like with gargantuan followings whose approaches do not come close to what Dr. Fehmi’s Open Focus method can do for you.
Open Focus enables you not only to access this optimal state but to train the brain to produce it at will. So how do you do this? It’s all about imagining space.
When Dr. Fehmi was a professor at SUNY-Stony Brook, he tested numerous methods with his graduate students to get them into a synchronous alpha state. He would attach EEG sensors to their head and instruct them to visualize peaceful scenes, employ breathing techniques and many other approaches to getting into a relaxed state. Although the students were relaxed, their EEG readings showed that they didn’t produce synchronous alpha.
Finally, Dr. Fehmi asked them to imagine the space between their eyes. The EEG lit up. Instant synchronous alpha. He has since developed a whole method involving imagining internal and external space in various ways to achieve this optimal brain state.
Why space? When we imagine space, our brains produce what Dr. Fehmi called “imageless imagery.” When you visualize a clear lake or a flower, you may become relaxed. But your brain will make associations with whatever you are visualizing – associations with similar images you have seen or events from your life or a multitude of potential triggers contained within the image.
In contrast, when you simply imagine space, your brain makes no associations because it has nothing to hold onto. You are literally in the space, in the moment, and can completely let go. You quickly enter a flow state where you can simply attend to the task at hand in a relaxed, focused and centered way without distraction. What could be better than that?
An Open Focus Exercise
Try the following basic Open Focus exercise any time you want to get focused, centered and relaxed. Allow at least 15 seconds for each step. Some find it easier to record the steps with 15 seconds (or more) in between rather than try to remember them.
1. Sit comfortably, feet on the floor. Take a few moments to breath slowly and deeply, preferably through your nose.
2. Notice the space that exists behind you – from your back to the wall behind you.
3. Notice the space from each side of you to the wall.
4. Notice the space between the bottoms of your feet and the floor. Then notice the space below you.
5. Notice the space above you. Then in front of you.
6. Allow yourself to experience the space on all six sides of you – back, 2 sides, below, above, front.
7. Now notice the space that your entire body occupies. If you find this challenging, imagine a balloon inside you filling up with air, completely filling the space that your body occupies.
8. Again notice the space outside of you on all six sides. Then return to the space your body occupies. Then back to the outside space. Move back and forth from the space inside you to the space outside you a few times until you can do it easily and comfortably.
9. Next, allow yourself to experience the space inside your body extending to the space outside your body on all six sides. Allow yourself to feel the inside and outside as one continuous space as if your body has no borders.
10. While continuing to rest in this vast space that extends from inside you to the outside in all directions, notice the space between your eyes. Allow yourself to experience the three-dimensional nature of that space.
11. Notice the space that your thumbs occupy.
12. Notice the space of each finger. Then notice the space in between each finger.
13. Again notice the space your body occupies, and allow that space to gradually extend outside you to fill up the room in all directions. Then allow the space to continue to expand beyond the room as far as you feel comfortable taking it.
14. Rest in this space for a few moments. When you are ready, gently open your eyes.
When you being to notice and feel space, you will very likely notice yourself quickly become less stressed and more focused. Once you have practiced Open Focus several times, you will feel comfortable enough with it that you can apply it to your everyday life. Anytime you want to become relaxed and focused, you can notice the space anywhere inside you or anywhere in the room while in a meeting, working on a project, or any situation.
There are many, many variations on this and many ways to use Open Focus for myriad situations and conditions. If you’d like to try a range of exercises and see which work best for your circumstances, as well as better understand why Open Focus works so well, I highly recommend (in addition to the exercises offered throughout this blog) Dr. Fehmi’s books: The Open Focus Brain, Dissolving Pain, and The Open-Focus Life.
Practiced regularly, this method can literally be life-changing. It has been for me, and for so many of the people I’ve worked with over the years from all walks of life. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t use Open Focus in some form.
It is my hope that Dr. Fehmi’s work will spread very far and wide. We live in a super-stressed world that swirls around us at a dizzying pace – there has never been a time when Open Focus is needed more than it is right now.