First, what is concentration? Concentration is an ability to release one’s thoughts and emotions from all other interests and involvements, focusing them on a single object or state of awareness.
A concentrated mind often attracts opportunities for success that, to less focused individuals, appear to come by sheer luck. It awakens our powers and channels them, dissolving obstacles in our path, attracting opportunities, insights, and inspirations. In many ways concentration is the single most important key to success.
This is particularly true in yoga practice. The mind, in meditation especially, must be so perfectly still that not a ripple of thought enters it. God or Spirit, the Subtlest Reality, cannot be perceived except in utter silence. Much of the teaching of yoga, therefore, centers on techniques designed specially for developing concentration. Here are a few tips that will help you to improve your concentration in meditation:
- Concentrate without physical tension. Many new meditators, in an effort to concentrate more deeply, tense the muscles in their body. Deep concentration, however, is possible only in a state of relaxation.
- Sit longer. Your restlessness will subside the longer you sit in meditation. Even a glass of muddy water becomes clear in time, if the water is allowed to sit undisturbed.
- Consciously withdraw the energy from the body. Practice the Hong-Sau Meditation Technique; it is one of the most sacred techniques of yoga because of its ability to interiorize and focus the mind.
- Do one thing at a time. Practicing concentration in daily life will help you concentrate better during meditation.
- Concentrate with interest. When you really want something, it is difficult not to think about it! Concentrate with interest on whatever you do, and you will find yourself absorbed in it.
- Pray for concentration. Sincerity means having the support of one’s whole being. Pray for sincerity of effort in your meditation practice! If you are uncomfortable with praying to God, try praying to your highest potential.
- Practice Makes Perfect. Concentration is like a muscle — the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
- Temporary Amnesia. Try to banish from your mind all memories and plans for the future. If restless thoughts try insistently to engage your attention, reassure them, “We’ll discuss these things later!”
Visualization for Concentration
You can practice this visualization at the beginning of your mediation practice to help you concentrate.
Imagine a flowing brook. Let its crystal waters sweep away your remaining restless thoughts. If any stray impression enters your mind, toss it lightly into the flowing waters, and watch it dance swiftly away.
As your mind becomes still, practice calming the senses also, one by one:
Concentrate on the sense of sight. Imagine a mist descending over your outward vision, releasing your attention for contemplation of the divine light within. Remember, it is because of people’s attachment to the sights of this world that they fail to behold the heavenly scenes within.
Next, concentrate on the sense of hearing. Withdraw yourself from the thought of earthly sounds. Feel those sounds merging into the rushing water of the brook, dissolving themselves in its steady murmur.
Gradually let your concentration shift to the sounds you hear in your inner ear-preferably, so yogis say, in the right ear. Imagine the voice of infinity speaking to you through the inner sounds.
Next, concentrate on the sense of touch. Feel that the surface of your body is not your skin, but an aura of light surrounding your body. Expand this aura. Feel as if, with every outgoing breath, you were gently inflating a shining balloon of radiant light.
Now, reach out in all directions around you with finger-rays of light. Touch, feel, and explore the greater reality of the Spirit around you. Try to sense behind everything the subtle presence of divine consciousness.
Finally, concentrate on the senses of taste and smell. Feel as though you were drinking great draughts of peace and happiness from a crystal chalice at a fountain of eternity.
Offer up the energy of your senses to your higher Self. Ask your higher Self to fill you with it’s bliss.
The deeper you go in meditation, the more your energy will withdraw naturally from the outer world of the senses. It will awaken you to the infinitely more wonderful world of the Spirit within.
When you find your mind becoming freed of restless thoughts, mentally build a dam across the brook that you first visualized. Watch the waters slowly rising, until they become a large lake.
Gaze calmly into the mirror surface of this lake. See reflected in its water the blue sky. Expand your consciousness into the overarching heavens. Feel, in infinite space beyond our earth’s atmosphere, the vast calmness of Spirit.
Stilling the senses is one of the best ways to rise above body-consciousness. Stilling the mind and the emotions is the way to enter the kingdom of Spirit.