“I really want to meditate more deeply, but I have a hard time concentrating.” This is a complaint we often hear from devotees. The mind seems to be programmed to be restless. A recent study by Microsoft showed that in the last thirteen years the length of time people can concentrate has decreased on average from 12 to 8 seconds. In fact, the study claimed that the typical person now has less ability to concentrate than a goldfish! This is partly due to the pace of life in modern times, and is made worse by media and social media consumption, technology, and multi-screening.
Obviously, meditation is not the only time people need to concentrate. Work demands it; family life demands it; and in fact we can’t be a success in anything without concentration. Avoid multitasking: It is really only rapid shifts in concentration, and trains the mind to be restless. Do one thing at a time, do it with all your attention, and do it well. After you concentrate for a period of time, stop and take a rest.
It is a two-way street, of course: As better concentration helps our meditation, so too can meditation help develop our ability to concentrate. The need for concentration in worldly pursuits is an excellent reason for even worldly people to develop a meditation practice.
Here are nine ways to increase concentration during meditation:
1) Start your meditation with a strong determination to concentrate. If you don’t consciously intend to concentrate, you won’t. This means you must leave problems and plans outside your meditation room. Always begin with a prayer to God and Gurus. With their help everything is possible. Without their help, nothing is.
2) Begin with breathing techniques that calm the breath, and the mind will follow. A good way to start is with a few rounds of regular breathing: Inhale, hold, and exhale for the same count.
3) Tense and relax your body several times to overcome subconscious tensions. Then keep the body absolutely still. A friend of ours plays a mental game: “Nothing can make me move.”
4) Bring your total focus to the point between the eyebrows, the center of stillness and concentration. Look into the light there. It is very helpful to visualize your guru, especially his eyes. If you are receptive, his God-consciousness will seep into your very soul.
5) Listen to the sound of AUM. It will help calm and center you.
6) When the mind wanders, bring it back. Do this quickly, before restlessness has a chance to build momentum.
7) Be patient. Concentration waxes and wanes. If you stay at it, your meditation will get deeper.
8) Engage the heart. With the deepest love possible, invite your guru to take charge of your life. If doubts or restless emotions try to grab you, burn them to ashes through the intensity of your devotion and a deep desire to be a channel of Divine Mother’s love to everyone.
9) Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Chanting is half the battle.” Chanting is a great help at the start of meditation to open the heart and focus the mind. It is also a way to refocus when the attention on deep meditation begins to fade. Here is a chant that helps deepen concentration. Meditate on the words; they are a lesson in themselves.
Without meditation, mind, hither, thither wand’rest thou.
Adorable Him! Search Him out in secret now.
Floating on the breeze of bliss, in the chariot of sky,
Peering into His eyes with thy diving eye,
Thousand petals’ nectar drink! Drink and drink, drink!
With cosmic mighty Om, deeper do thou sink.
In divine friendship,