5 Ways to Develop Concentration in Meditation
—Swami Kriyananda, The Ananda Course in Self-Realization
1. Practice Makes Perfect
Perfect peace requires perfect stillness of mind, just as the surface of a mountain lake requires complete calm if it is to reflect the sky. Only in deep concentration can you discover the hidden depths of your spiritual nature. Fortunately, concentration is like a muscle — the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. To increase your ability to concentrate, strive to make each meditation deeper than the one before. When you meditate with this kind of intensity, you will find your practice helped tremendously.
how important concentration is, people sometimes become discouraged over their inability to hold their minds steady in meditation. We need to realize, however, that completely quieting the mind is the goal of meditation, and not something we will necessarily experience right away. We shouldn’t feel surprised if we experience a sense of restlessness or rebelliousness in the beginning. Our mind, however, will learn to behave — just like children do — once it realizes we’re serious.
3. Do Something Uplifting
Paramhansa Yogananda said that most people do everything only halfheartedly and use only one-tenth of their concentration. To be successful in meditation it is essential that we concentrate with our full attention, otherwise our efforts will be mechanical, diffused, and lack power. Spiritual awareness depends on two things: the amount of energy and how that energy is focused. You can increase your level of energy and focus by commanding your mind’s attention with such practices as chanting, prayer, yoga postures, breathing exercises, and the Energization Exercises.
4. Temporary Amnesia
Try to banish from your mind all memories and plans for the future. To protect your concentration, you must first control your response to outward stimuli. With a little discipline of your body at the beginning of meditation, and with the strong determination not to move or fidget about, your body’s demands will grow weaker. After even five minutes of this discipline, you may find it easy to sit for a long period without even wanting to move. Tell your mind firmly the moment you become settled on your seat to meditate, “This is my time to meditate.” If restless thoughts try insistently to engage your attention, reassure them, “We’ll discuss these things later!”
Most of the difficulty encountered in meditation is due to physical tension. Once tension is removed by the practice of deep relaxation, one finds meditation itself becoming increasingly enjoyable.
Deep states of concentration are possible only when our life-force is interiorized, because the mind follows the direction of the flow of prana in the body. When the energy flows outward, our attention goes outward, too, while reversing it interiorizes the mind.