The Power of Concentration – Part Two
Sharpening the needle of concentration requires practice, as everything else in life. Do you go to the gym? If you do, how many times during the week and for how long? Do you study a foreign language? If you do, how much time do you devote to it? Developing concentration is not different; training is required. Even ten minutes a day of concentration exercises will do you good.
The mind does not like discipline and will resist your efforts to discipline it. It loves its freedom more than anything else, and will try to stand in your way to master it, in any way it can. It will cause you to forget to do the exercises, tempt you to postpone performing them or make you feel too lazy. It will find many tricks to stop and disturb you, but you can and must be stronger.
You will find below, some simple concentration exercises to perform. Always remember that the choice is yours, to be a slave to the mind and its whims, or to be its master. By practicing mental exercises, it is possible to train the mind and master it, and put it in its proper place, as your servant, and not as your boss and master.
You are not the mind nor the thoughts that pass through it. Though it might be hard to accept this idea, the mind is not you, the real you, but only a tool that you use. It is an instrument, which has great value, but it has to be taught to obey you.
Most people believe that they are the mind, and erroneously believe that controlling the mind means holding themselves back and denying their freedom. They feel that controlling their mind is not natural, and that it is some sort of repression. These beliefs are not correct.
The proof that we are not the mind comes with training. Accept the idea in theory, and in time, as your control over your thoughts grows, you will know it as a fact. In reality, you, the real you, is the one mastering the mind. It is not the mind mastering itself.
Advice for Practicing The Concentration Exercises
Find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. You can sit crossed legged on the floor if you can, or on a chair. Sit with your spine erect. Take a few calm deep breaths and then relax your body. Direct the attention to your body, and relax each muscle and part of it.
I will now give you some exercises to practice. Sit down to practice for about 10 minutes, and after a few weeks of training, lengthen the time to 15 minutes.
Start with the first exercise, practicing it daily, until you are able to do it without any distractions or forgetfulness, and without thinking about anything else, for at least three minutes. Every time you get distracted, start again, until the 10 or 15 minutes pass away. You have to be honest with yourself, and proceed to the next one, only after you are convinced that you have practiced it correctly and with full concentration.
No timetable can be given, as this may be frustrating. If for example, I tell you that a certain exercise has to completed in a week, two things may happen. You may get disappointed, if you cannot get the desired concentration within a week, or you may move on without practicing the exercise correctly. Mastering the exercises successfully might take days, weeks, months and sometimes even more.
Put your whole attention into the exercises, and do not think about anything else. Be careful not to fall asleep, daydream or think about other matters. The moment you find yourself thinking about something else, stop the exercise and start again. After you become proficient, lengthen the time, and if possible, include another session in the afternoon.
Do not attempt too much at the beginning, and don’t try to perform them all at once. Go slowly, without overdoing them or tensing your brain.
If you find it too difficult, or thoughts distract you and make you think about other matters, don’t despair. Everyone encounters difficulties along the way. If you persevere and never give up, in spite of difficulties and disturbances, success will crown your efforts. Remember, even those with powerful concentration had to exercise their minds.
It does not matter if your concentration is weak now, it can be developed and strengthened like any other ability, through training and investing the necessary time, energy and earnestness.
In time, you will find out that you can concentrate anywhere, anytime, no matter where you are. You will be able to focus your mind, think and function under the most trying circumstances, while remaining calm, relaxed and collected. The reward is worth the effort a thousand fold.
Now to the exercises. Some of them may be familiar to you, and some may seem too easy to perform. Some were taken from various sources, and others were created by me.
For full benefit, it is advisable that you practice each exercise for one additional week, after you are convinced that you are practicing it correctly and with full attention.
Take a book and count the words in any one paragraph. Count them again to be sure that you have counted them correctly. Start with one paragraph and when it becomes easier, count the words in a whole page. Perform the counting mentally and only with your eyes, without pointing you finger at each word.
Count backwards in your mind, from one hundred to one.
Count in your mind from one hundred to one, skipping each three numbers, that is 100, 97, 94, etc.
Choose an inspiring word, or just a simple sound, and repeat it silently in your mind for five minutes. When your mind can concentrate more easily, try to reach ten minutes of uninterrupted concentration.
Take a fruit, an apple, orange, banana or any other fruit, and hold it in your hands. Examine the fruit from all its sides, while keeping your whole attention focused on it. Do not let yourself be carried away by irrelevant thoughts or associated thoughts that might arise, such as about the shop were you bought it, about how and where it was grown, its nutritive value, etc. Stay calm, while trying to ignore these thoughts and not be interested in them. Just look at the fruit, focus your attention on it without thinking about anything else, and examine its shape, smell, taste and the sensation it gives when touching and holding it.
This is the same as exercise number 5, only that this time you visualize the fruit instead of looking at it. Start by looking at the fruit and examining it for about 2 minutes, just as in exercise number 5, and then do this one. Close your eyes, and try to see, smell, taste and touch the fruit in your imagination. Try to see a clear and well defined image. If the image becomes blurred, open your eyes, look at the fruit for a short while, and then close your eyes and continue the exercise. It might help if you imagine the fruit held in your hands, as in the previous exercise, or imagine it standing on a table.
Take a small simple object such as a spoon, a fork, or a glass. Concentrate on one of these objects. Watch the object from all sides without any verbalization, that is, with no words in your mind. Just watch the object without thinking with words about it.
After becoming proficient in the above exercises, you can come to this exercise. Draw a small geometrical figure, about three inches in size, such as a triangle, a rectangular or a circle, paint it with any color you wish, and concentrate on it. You should see only the figure, nothing else. Only the figure exists for you now, with no unrelated thoughts or any distractions. Try not to think with words during the exercise. Watch the figure in front of you and that’s it. Try not to strain your eyes.
The same as number 8, only this time visualize the figure with the eyes closed. As before, if you forget how the figure looks like, open your eyes for a few seconds and watch the figure and then close your eyes and continue with the exercise.
The same as above in number 9 but the eyes open.
Try for at least five minutes, to stay without thoughts. This exercise is to be attempted only after all the previous ones have been performed successfully. The previous exercises, if practiced correctly, will endow you with the ability to impose silence on your thoughts. In time it will become easier and easier.
The secret of success is constant practice. The more time you devote to the exercises the faster your success arrives. Go on gradually; ten minutes at the start and in time as you gain the ability to concentrate, give it more time. When you see that you are successful, you will begin to love the exercises, and in time they will become a habit. You will be able to concentrate your attention easily and effortlessly upon anything you want to concentrate on.
Are you jogging, exercising at the gym or studying a foreign language? How difficult it was in the start? How many times you wanted to quit? Yet, after a while you started to like what you were doing. It became a habit, needing no effort to perform. So it is with developing the power of concentration.
After some of time you will start to feel differently. It will be easier to concentrate. Your mind will be calm and relaxed, and you will radiate peace into your surroundings. Things, circumstances and events that used to agitate and anger you, will not influence your inner calmness. You will experience happiness, content and satisfaction, self-confidence and inner strength. You will be able to cope more easily and efficiently with the outer world.
You will feel a new form of consciousness growing in you, bringing you peace of mind. It may come every now and then for a brief moment, but in time it will grow and fill you completely. You will be able to make the mind work for you when you need its services, in a most efficient way. You will be able to silence it when its services are not needed.
I assure you, from personal experience, that the attitude to life and the reactions to events change after starting to practice concentration. It is some kind of automatic and gradual process. You come to know many things about the mind and how it functions, and you learn to deal with it efficiently.