Often in modern life we seek to try and do several things at once. Even if we are just doing one thing we can find ourselves thinking about something else. However Concentration requires us to focus on one object at a time. For any activity, be it meditation, sport or any time of work, concentration will help us to be more successful. To master meditation it is essential we are able to be proficient in concentration.
To learn the art of concentration there are 7 things we need to bear in mind.
1. Concentration means we keep our awareness fixed on one object at a time. We must not allow our mind to be distracted by random thoughts.
“When we concentrate we do not allow any thought to enter into our minds, whether it is divine or undivine, earthly or heavenly, good or bad. The mind, the entire mind, has to be focused on a particular object or subject. "
- Sri Chinmoy
2. When trying to concentrate it is helpful to have an object to look at. This object should be suitable for concentration. A good object would be a flower or candle. A Candle is good for concentration because we can focus on the tip of the flame. The flame also symbolises light a quality of meditation. We can begin our concentration exercise by looking at the candle and then gradually narrowing our gaze to just a tiny tip of the flame.
3. Using a mantra can help to focus our mind. Often our mind is restless like a monkey. By chanting a mantra we can give our mind something to concentrate on. It is an easier form of concentration than something abstract.
4. The concentration we want to develop for meditation is different to mental concentration. Rather than using the concentration of the mind we can concentrate from the spiritual heart. If we can feel our sense of awareness in our heart then we will not feel a mental tension. If we do feel tense whilst concentrating try to relax and use the power of the heart rather than the mind.
5. We should be patient in developing the power of concentration. If we can not concentrate as we would like we should not be discouraged. Concentration is like a muscle that gets stronger the more we develop it. What we can try and do is to concentrate for 2 mins one day and then try to increase that time in 1 minute intervals. This will give us a sense of progression. The most important thing is the quality of our exercises and not the length of time. When we practise concentration nothing else should interfere.
6. A good object of concentration is for us to concentrate on our own breathing. In meditation our breathing will be natural and spontaneous. If we can focus on our slow regular breathing, then we will help to quieten the mind.
7. If thoughts are distracting you from your concentration. Try this exercise. Feel your thoughts are separate from your own reality. Be like an observer and do not pay any attention to them. They will then lose their power. This enables you to concentrate on one thing and not get distracted by thoughts.
When we are able to concentrate. When we can keep our awareness focused on one object at a time we will be able to enter into real meditation. Meditation is not constrained by a small point of concentration. Meditation in fact embodies an unlimited expanse. As Sri Chinmoy says:
“When we concentrate, we have to concentrate on one particular thing… When we meditate, we have to try to expand our consciousness to encompass the vast sea or the vast, blue sky. We have to expand ourselves like a bird spreading its wings. "
More resources about meditation by Sri Chinmoy.