Meditation is easily the most effective way of enabling one not only to face life’s challenges, but to overcome them. The deep power of concentration that comes through daily meditation enables a person to resolve an issue in minutes perhaps, where, otherwise, he might have fretted over it for weeks.
Concentration means being able to free the mind from all objects of distraction — including one’s own thoughts and emotions — and to direct it toward a single object — whether reposing it in a single state of awareness, or directing it toward a single goal.
To many people, such mental control implies effort. And so it does, of course, in a sense. In another sense, however, they are mistaken. For as long as one tries to concentrate he will not be able to concentrate really effectively.
Deep concentration is possible only in a state of relaxation. Where tension exists, whether physically or mentally, there is a separate commitment of energy, like the stray strand of thread that refuses to enter the eye of the needle. If, for example, the brow is furrowed in worry, or if the jaw or the hands are clenched, these are signs that this much energy, at least, is not being directed toward one’s true objective.
That is why the best way to develop high-powered concentration is to practice meditation regularly.
Many people mistakenly believe that meditation amounts to a kind of escape from reality — an avoidance of one’s worldly responsibilities. Actually, meditation is easily the most effective way of enabling one not only to face life’s challenges, but to overcome them.
The deep power of concentration that comes through daily meditation enables a person to resolve an issue in minutes perhaps, where, otherwise, he might have fretted over it for weeks. Even more important, where the will is concerned, the concentration that comes due to regular meditation generates with perfect naturalness the strength of will that is necessary for success in any undertaking.
The physical seat of the will is located at the point between the eyebrows. That is why, when a person wills something strongly, he often knits his eyebrows.
In meditation one is taught to concentrate at that point, since this is also the seat of concentration in the body. The more frequently and deeply one focuses the mind at that point, the more powerful his will becomes.
Another important point in developing concentration, and therefore will power, is inner clarity: crystal clarity of reason and feeling. Meditation is a great aid in the development of such clarity.
Muddy thoughts and feelings produce chaos, both inwardly and outwardly. Inner confusion is the antithesis of concentration. Inner clarity, on the other hand, is almost the definition of concentration.
When the mind is clear, one naturally addresses issues one at a time. It is equally true to say that, by limiting oneself to doing or thinking about one thing at a time, one finds that the mind, in turn, gradually develops clarity.
Concentration, I said, involves, on the negative side, the practice of shutting out of the mind all distracting thoughts and impressions. It isn’t easy not to think about a thing. Try telling yourself, for example, completely to avoid thinking about icebergs. How often, in the normal course of a day, does the thought of icebergs even occur to you? Never, probably, unless you live in arctic regions. Yet, if your mind is not practiced at concentration, the mere resolution not to think of icebergs may be sufficient to cause you to think of nothing else!
To develop concentration, then, it is more important to focus positively on one thing at a time than to avoid thinking of other things.
Try to become absorbed in one thought at a time. No one can do many things at once and do them effectively. Leave then, for the moment, every other issue except the one on which you’ve decided to focus your attention. Don’t strain: Be relaxed. Be interested in what you are doing. Become absorbed in it.
When people go to the movies, they may find themselves becoming effortlessly absorbed in the story, simply because it has awakened their interest. Focus your mind like that on everything that you do.
Years ago, I and several friends were thinking of buying a building. At one point one of our group said, “I have the realtor’s number.” She held out to us the slip of paper on which she’d written the number. The conversation shifted temporarily to another topic. Fifteen minutes later, we finally decided to telephone the realtor.
“Let me get that number again,” this friend said, taking out of her pocket once more the slip of paper.
“It’s —.” I told her the number.
She gazed at me in amazement. “Why, you hardly glanced at that number! How could you possibly have it memorized?”
“Really,” I replied, “it’s very simple. I didn’t have to study it. All I did was look at it with concentration when you showed it to us.”
My friend, afterward, tried following this suggestion in similar situations, and found that it worked infallibly.
Whatever we do, we should train our minds to do it with one-pointed attention. That doesn’t mean striding grimly through life like a Man or Woman of Destiny. All it means, quite simply, is to be interested and involved in everything we do.
Do one thing at a time, and, as you do it, give it your full attention.