How to Practice Focused Meditation
Have you noticed what happens when you sit down to meditate? The first thing you will notice is that countless thoughts crowd into your mind and you are unable to concentrate on any one thought. Even if you force yourself to think on one subject you will find that within seconds your mind has wandered off on a tangent. This is an experience faced by all beginners. Let us find out how to practice focused meditation and how it affects us.
Concentration is Essential for Meditation
Success in meditation depends on how well a person can concentrate with a single focus on a particular subject or ideal. Meditation begins where concentration ends. The purpose of concentration is to focus the attention upon a small field of mental vision. In meditation you try to keep that clear vision but extend it over a larger field and into the depths and heights of thought which you have not been able to reach clearly before.
Many people fail in concentration because they make the mistake of trying to grasp the mental image firmly. It is the same as when you close your fist tightly over a handful of sand and it escapes between the fingers. However, if you open out the fingers and just hold the sand in your relaxed palm, the sand does not flow out but stays on the hand. Attention without tension is what is required.
Concentration and meditation must always be practised without the slightest strain. Control of the mind is brought about by constant, quiet, calm practice and avoiding all agitation and excitement. A relaxed body is essential to achieve a single focus and concentration of the mind.
Exercise 1: Observing Your Breath
Sit in comfortable upright position in your chair, or cross-legged on a cushion. Any posture which will allow your body to balance itself so that you will not have to make any effort at all to remain in that position. Close your eyes and sense your body, scan it for any tensions and release them. Take a deep breath and hold it until you cannot hold it any longer, let it go. Notice how good it feels to let your breath go.
Now gently focus on your breathing. Notice how it comes and goes without you having to do anything. Observe the quality of the breath, its length, long or short breaths, and its duration without trying to control it. Notice how it affects the body. When you inhale the abdomen expands as the lungs fill with air. There is tension. When you exhale, your body relaxes.
You may have noticed that as you watched your breathing, you automatically tried to regulate it in some manner. Now step aside mentally and simply observe your breathing without interfering with it. The mind will generate thoughts about your breathing as you observe it. That is all right. The mind will also naturally wander and think about other things. When you notice you are thinking thoughts, think to yourself the thought, ‘That is all right.’ Then let your attention return to your breathing. Every time the mind wanders off, gently bring it back to rest your attention on your breath. Simply practice the willingness to have your attention remain peacefully focused on your breathing. That’s meditation.
- A Simple Form of Meditation
Regularity rather than duration is the key to success in meditation. Even the simplest form of meditation will help in becoming centred, peaceful and alert through out the day. Read on for some important do's and don'ts when practicing meditation.
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Exercise 2: Listening to the Echoes in the Mind
Take a single word, like chair, and say it silently to yourself. As you do so, listen to what it sounds like in your mind as you say it. Listen carefully and you can hear the word echo in your mind. Notice how many repeating echoes you can hear of the word chair before it fades away.
You may have heard it a few times, or many times. Perhaps you also noticed the intriguing fact that it became hard to tell if you were hearing an echo or were listening to yourself repeat the word. Listening to the echo has both the qualities of listening to something and thinking something. It is like listening because you have to be receptive. It is like thinking because it is concentrating on a process happening in your mind.
Listening to a word echo in your mind is a way to allow your mind to think the same thought over and over without forcefully trying to focus on one thought. The thought repeats itself as long as you are willing to listen to it. When your mind takes your attention to other thoughts, all you have to do is think the original word again, and be willing to listen to it repeat itself. This is an indirect approach to a goal that cannot be reached directly. It is meditation.
Guided Meditation with Eckhart Tolle
The Effects of Focused Meditation
Practicing focused meditation has many effects on the body and mind of a person:
- The body slows down.
- Breathing becomes more regular.
- The heart rate and blood pressure decreases.
- There is a general relaxing affect.
- The body’s immune system becomes stronger.
These are some of the physical effects of meditation. There are many things that happen at the inner levels of our being. The practice of meditation also results in brain growth.
Constant, quiet, calm practice means regular periodical practice continued for sufficient time to be effective. The results of this practice are cumulative. Little result is seen in the beginning but perseverance will result in a lot later on. The quality is more important than quantity. It must be practiced a minimum of once every day and up to three times per day if it is of short duration. It should always be done before relaxation and pleasure, not afterwards and as early in the day as practicable. Some strictness of rule is necessary, and this is best imposed upon us by ourselves.
As we learn more about the nature of the mind, its potential, its capacities, the power of thoughts and what they mean to our life, we will gain in confidence. This confidence in oneself is also a great help to success in concentration and meditation.
- Mind and Memory Training by Ernest Wood. The Theosophical Publishing House Ltd., London, 1974.
- Edgar Cayce – Modern Prophet, Four Volumes in One: Edgar Cayce on Prophesy; Edgar Cayce on Religion and Psychic Experience; Edgar Cayce on Mysteries of the Mind; Edgar Cayce on Reincarnation. Gramercy Books, USA, 1990.
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