The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body [NOOK Book]


This breakthrough book presents a disarmingly simple idea: The way we pay attention in daily life can play a critical role in our health and well-being. According to Dr. Les Fehmi, a clinical psychologist and researcher, many of us have become stuck in “narrow-focus attention”: a tense, constricted, survival mode of attention that holds us in a state of chronic stress—and which lies at the root of common ailments including anxiety, depression, ADD, stress-related migraines, and more. To improve these conditions, ...

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The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body

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This breakthrough book presents a disarmingly simple idea: The way we pay attention in daily life can play a critical role in our health and well-being. According to Dr. Les Fehmi, a clinical psychologist and researcher, many of us have become stuck in “narrow-focus attention”: a tense, constricted, survival mode of attention that holds us in a state of chronic stress—and which lies at the root of common ailments including anxiety, depression, ADD, stress-related migraines, and more. To improve these conditions, Dr. Fehmi explains that we must learn to return to a relaxed, diffuse, and creative form of attention, which he calls “Open Focus.”

This highly readable and empowering book offers straightforward explanations and simple exercises on how to shift into a more calm, open style of attention that reduces stress, improves health, and enhances performance. The Open-Focus Brain features eight essential attention exercises for improving health, along with an audio CD in which the author guides the reader through fundamental Open-Focus exercises that can be used on a regular basis to enhance our health and well-being.

Dr. Fehmi writes, “Everyone has the ability to heal their nervous systems, to dissolve their pain, to slow down and yet accomplish more, to experience the deeper side of life—in short, to change their lives for the better dramatically.” At last readers can learn the techniques that Dr. Fehmi has offered to thousands of clients—the same drug-free, safe, and effective techniques that have led to remarkable and long-lasting results.

The Open-Focus Brain offers readers a revolutionary, drug-free way to:

  • alleviate depression, anxiety, and ADD

  • reduce stress-related chronic pain

  • optimize mental and physical performance

The eBook includes an audio program that provides further guidance on:

  • essential attention exercises from the book, led by Dr. Fehmi

  • how to "train the brain" to reduce stress, anxiety, chronic pain, and more

  • safe and effective techniques used in Dr. Fehmi's clinic for decades

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Alongtime clinician and researcher in biofeedback, Fehmi (with the assistance of science writer Robbins, author of A Symphony in the Brain) advances his program for learning to relieve stress by attaining what he calls open focus-a more diffuse, flexible form of attention that, paradoxically, allows one to focus better and in a more relaxed way. According to Fehmi, most of us habitually operate in a narrow-focus stress mode that results in anxiety and a host of physical problems, including digestive upsets, rashes and migraines. Fehmi draws on his experience with neurofeedback (brain-wave biofeedback) to explain how we can shift our brain waves to attain open focus. These mental techniques help you to experience your body and even your heart in a new way and change how you perceive the space around you. Fehmi grounds his plan in research and patient anecdotes showing the techniques can reduce pain and improve relationships and athletic performance. Fehmi acknowledges the results of open focus are similar to those from meditation, but even readers skeptical of Eastern spirituality may find Fehmi's science-based program useful. (The accompanying audio CD was not heard by PW). (July 10)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
“These mental techniques help you to experience your body and even your heart in a new way. Fehmi grounds his plan in research and patient anecdotes showing the techniques can reduce pain and improve relationships and athletic performance.”—Publishers Weekly

"Fehmi and award-winning science writer and journalist Robbins present a convincing argument for the effectiveness of neurofeedback in a self-help format for those who want to try the techniques. . . . This well-written book will be of interest to anyone in the alternative healing community."—Library Journal

“Based on thirty-plus years of research and professional experience, this book reveals a startling truth: how you deploy your attention in your daily life is centrally important for your mental and physical health. It also describes a breakthrough methodology for overcoming depression, anxiety, and other hard-to-manage emotional states. As a colleague of Dr. Fehmi from the earliest days of brainwave-biofeedback  research, I can trust the credibility of his reports. He is a creative and critical thinker in the field. I heartily recommend this book.”—Joe Kamiya, PhD, research psychologist at Langley Porter Institute of Psychiatry

“I’ve used the Open-Focus techniques in my work with NFL players, and I’ve shared this knowledge with other athletes and coaches. These attention exercises are applicable across all disciplines.”—Bob Ward, Director of Sports Science, former conditioning coach for the Dallas Cowboys

“The techniques described in this book can make life fuller, more enjoyable, and more productive. I recommend it.”—Andrew Weil, MD, author of Healthy Aging

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834822719
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Series: Trumpeter
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 390,720
  • File size: 540 KB

Meet the Author

A pioneer in the field of neurofeedback, Les Fehmi, PhD, BCIA-EEG, is director of the Princeton Biofeedback Centre in Princeton, New Jersey. He holds an MA and PhD in psychology from UCLA and completed his post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. An affiliate member of the Department of Medicine at Princeton University Medical Center, over the past four decades Dr. Fehmi has been active as a psychologist in private practice, a speaker, and an author in peer-reviewed journals. A certified “speed-and-explosion specialist,” Dr. Fehmi has worked with the Dallas Cowboys, the New Jersey Nets, and the Olympic Development Committee. He has also served as a consultant for Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital, the Johnson & Johnson corporation, and the Veterans Administration.

Jim Robbins is an award-winning journalist and science writer, with frequent contributions to the New York Times, Smithsonian, Scientific American, Discover, and Psychology Today. In connection with his reporting, he has appeared on ABC’s Nightline and on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

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Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction

"There is more to life than increasing its speed."—Mohandas K. Gandhi

you are like most people these days, Gandhi's warning has probably gone
unheeded and the speed of life seems to be increasing exponentially.
Many clients tell me they rush through the day—dropping the kids off at
school, zipping off to work on jam-packed freeways, frantically playing
out in their heads the things they need to do, obsessing over the
details of work or school, juggling cell-phone calls as they
drive—anxious to cram so much as they can into their lives lest they
miss something.

But many people also tell me that even when they
stop rushing about, they can't wind down. They complain of not being
able to fall asleep or feeling edgy, irritable, anxious, depressed,
restless, impatient, dissatisfied, or bored—or all of the above. They
can't relax unless they have a drink or two. During the day they have
trouble mustering the energy to focus and pay attention, and they power
up with double espressos. They have headaches, backaches, and a long
list of other chronic physical problems. Thoughts race through their
heads. And many people say they feel they are merely skimming the
surface of what goes on around them, missing out on the deeper feelings
of life's experiences.

These kinds of problems are epidemic. But
in most cases there is nothing wrong with the people who suffer them;
nor is anything necessarily wrong with their lives. Instead it is a
matter of "operator error." Everyone has the ability to rebalance and
heal their nervous systems to end these problems, to dissolve their
pain, to slow down and yet accomplish more, to experience life more
deeply, to optimize the function of their bodies and minds, to
dramatically change their lives for the better. They just don't know

The answer is simple and well within their grasp—it is accomplished by changing the way they pay attention.

I ask someone how they pay attention, they usually scratch their heads
and wonder what I mean. Most people assume they are paying attention or
not, end of story. There exists little vocabulary to describe, and
scant physiology to understand, how we pay attention. At first glance
the subject, quite honestly, seems dull.

For more than forty
years, however, I have been a student of how human beings attend both
to the world around them and to their internal world of emotions and
thoughts. Pry beneath the surface of the subject of attention, and
there is a fascinating and fundamental phenomenon that has intrigued
holy men, psychologists, military researchers, and advertising
executives for many years. And for good reason: attention is the
central mechanism through which we guide our awareness and experience
the world.

The term "paying attention" is an apt one, for too
often it is more costly than we realize. Failing to deploy our
attention appropriately can cost us dearly by contributing to a host of
physiological and emotional problems and keeping us from reaching our
full potential. The truth is that most of us go through life paying
attention the wrong way.

For the past thirty years people have
come to our workshops and to our clinic, the Princeton Biofeedback
Center, in Princeton, New Jersey, to learn one thing: how to change the
way they pay attention. Without drugs or other medical interventions,
people from all walks of life learn to reduce stress; dissolve chronic
pain; stop anxiety; alleviate depression; ease fears, shame, envy,
anger, and loneliness; and overcome attention deficit disorder (ADD),
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other cognitive
problems. The world-class executives, athletes, artists, and performers
I've worked with have learned to dramatically improve their
performance. And other health professionals have come to learn to apply
the lessons of attention to everything from psychotherapy to massage.

changes that come from learning to pay attention in different ways
aren't subtle—they have robust effects on the entire nervous system,
from our eyes to our muscles to our mind, body, and spirit. Here are
some examples:

  • Mary had a twenty-year history of chronic
    physical problems, the worst of which were severe migraine headaches
    that occurred almost daily and sometimes lasted three days. After
    several months of Open-Focus training, Mary reported that the headaches
    had been reduced to fewer than one per month. She was able to take a
    new job and took up long-distance running. "I feel like the world is my
    place again," she says happily.
  • For most of his adult
    life Aaron suffered ulcerative colitis, a condition that causes extreme
    pain in the large intestine, accompanied by fatigue and loss of
    appetite. He was in constant discomfort, seldom traveled, and could
    only eat certain foods. After Open-Focus training his illness vanished
    completely, and he started traveling and eating in restaurants again.
  • Thomas
    was a trumpet player who suffered extreme performance anxiety before
    his auditions for Broadway musicals and in jazz clubs. It was taking a
    toll on his ability to make a living and ruined the enjoyment he got
    from playing. Through attention training he learned to let go, relax,
    and yet be centered in the creative presentation of his talent. His
    playing became more spontaneous and smooth. "I found I could be more
    present in the moment, which is what good music is all about," he said.
  • Tristan,
    a New Jersey mother, was so gripped by panic attacks and agoraphobia
    (fear of public spaces) that she was unable to leave her home. These
    attacks came on suddenly and out of nowhere, causing her heart to race,
    stealing her breath, and making her feel faint. She started Open-Focus
    training, and her fears and panic attacks diminished and were
    eventually eliminated.

My interest in the power of
attention began during a research fellowship in 1969 at the NASA Ames
Research Center at Moffett Field, California, when I developed a kidney
stone. One afternoon a sudden, shuddering pain, unlike anything I had
ever felt, rippled through my body and almost dropped me to the floor.
Pain medications didn’t help. Distracting myself didn’t help; nor did
creating a competing pain—bending back my finger or pinching myself.
The pain bored through everything. Several hours later it disappeared
as suddenly as it had arrived.

When the pain returned a few days
later, I tried a new tack and did something that seemed
counterintuitive: I searched out the precise location of the core of
pain in my body and gave it my full attention. Then, instead of
fighting it, which I had been doing consciously and unconsciously, I
surrendered to it. I allowed myself not only to fully feel it but also
to bathe in it and completely dive into and accept it. Immediately the
pain ceased, and a wonderful feeling of lightness took its place. The
world around me grew brighter, and I felt more present and centered. To
my astonishment the pain was gone for a full day.

The next day,
when the kidney-stone pain returned, the brightness dimmed. Again I
stopped fighting it and dove into the pain. And again the same bright,
clear feeling appeared. I formed my first hypothesis about what was
going on: A major factor in how much pain I experienced was related to
how I paid attention to it. Instead of focusing intently on the pain
and fighting it, or focusing away and distracting myself, the trick was
to pay attention in a way that put the pain squarely at the center of
attention while I remained relaxed and broadly immersed in it with
other senses present in the periphery of attention. Then the pain
became a small part of my total awareness, rather than most or all of
it, which allowed me to immerse this awareness—which is me—in the pain
and let it diffuse and dissolve.

I was astonished that even pain
this physical, this searing, could be brought under control—without
medication, without surgery—simply by changing the way I paid attention
to it. This discovery began a lifelong quest to understand the
relationship between how people attend to the world and the profound
effect that different forms of attention have on our minds and bodies.
Decades later I have learned one overriding lesson: When we change the
way we pay attention, we gain the power to profoundly change the way we
relate to our world on every level—physically, emotionally, mentally,
and spiritually.

The power of attention is no secret to the world
of Eastern spiritual disciplines and martial arts; they understood long
ago that bringing attention under conscious control is a powerful way
of mastering our internal and external realities. But our culture does
not appreciate the role of attention in healing everything from
depression to anxiety to ADD and ADHD, to myriad kinds of chronic pain
and distress, sleep problems, fatigue, sadness, isolation, and
irritability. We don’t understand the role of attention in allowing us
to experience true union. The most critical element of human experience
is relationship, ranging from deep, loving connections with other
people to feelings of oneness and union with the world. Learning to
bring our attention under conscious control is how we optimize those

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1. An Addiction to Narrow Focus 11

Exercise: Expanding Your Awareness of Visual Space 25

2. Sweet Surrender: Discovering the Benefits of Synchronous Alpha Brain Waves 29

3. The Full Complement of Attention 41

4. What Lies Beneath: Anxiety 55

Exercise: Head and Hands in Open-Focus 63

5. Dissolving Physical Pain 71

6. Dissolving Emotional Pain 79

Exercise: Dissolving Pain 92

7. Love Is a Way of Paying Attention: Open-Focus Tools for Relationships 96

Exercise: Heart-Centered Open Focus 105

8. Peak Performance 113

9. Living in Open Focus 127

Exercise: How Am I Now Paying Attention? 139

10. Attention and Psychotherapy 142

Exercise: Thinking in Open Focus 149

Exercise: Seeing in Open Focus 156

Conclusion: Thoughts on the Evolution of Attention 167

Epilogue 175

Notes 177

Index 185

About the Authors 191

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 20, 2013

    Highly recommended

    This is a must read.
    I have learned a lot.Who had thought that with some practice you can improve your life so much.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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