Many of us have noticed that when we try to focus on a certain issue, subject or phenomenon, most often our mind would not stay with us, wandering about to things we sometimes barely become aware of.
However, do not despair, as an adequate mental practice may solve this problem.
Focus is a special, disciplined form of attention, which implies a contraction in the field of attention, so that there is no interference of the irrelevant stimuli, which usually distract us. Our whole consciousness is now directed in one direction only, or in other words we are focused.
The benefits of a great power of concentration in the daily life are obvious:
You will be able to perform your duties more rapidly and effectively, and also to keep in mind more details associated to them. Most of the mistakes people usually do are caused by the lack of attention while performing a particular action.
Through practice you may train your mind to be more clear and insightful, regardless of the action itself. Thus you create the conditions for the mind to go back inwards, to the true source of existence, the divine Self, Atman.
You can learn to focus through practice, just as any other thing. Just as focusing is essential in meditation, training your attention to concentrate on one object only is the optimal way to attain great concentration.
EXERCISE TO ENHANCE THE CAPACITY TO FOCUS
Take a common word, for instance “tree” or “water”. Write it down on a piece of paper and then write the first word associated to the one you chose and that is associated to it.
Come back to your first choice and write down another word related to the first, return to the first one and so on, until you run out of related words.
After this, stick with the initial word, keep it in mind, and focus on it, without thinking about it. Continue the exercise for at least 15 minutes once a day, for a month in a row. By the end of the month, you will surely notice a greater capacity of mental focus.
BREATH – THE SIMPLEST “OBJECT” TO FOCUS UPON
1. The first essential step in the practice of meditation is concentration. The mind has to have an object to focus upon.
Whenever your mind “runs” away from the object you chose to meditate upon (be it because of boredom, unwanted thoughts, or tiredness) you have to bring it back gently, but firmly.
You can meditate on absolutely anything. Nonetheless, especially in the early stages of meditation it is recommended that you chose a simple and/or rhythmical object of meditation. Such an object is your breath. The breath is simple, and rhythmical, permanently getting out and then in, up and down, flux and reflux.
Moreover, the breath cannot be associated to a particular person or characteristic. It is the sustainer of life, vital to our existence, and still people have become so accustomed to it, they hardly pay any attention.
2. Find a quiet place and stay there, either in an asana or on a chair, important is to have your spine straight and the head on the same line with the spine.
Focus on your breath and keep this concentration steady, without any interruptions for as long as you can, refusing to let yourself be distracted by any thoughts or exterior events.
Perceive the air you inhale, the short break between inhalation and exhalation, the air you exhale, and the short following break – this time between inhalation and exhalation.
Do not intervene in the natural rhythm of the breath, let it flow by itself, and notice how it becomes more and more tranquil as your body and mind relax in meditation.
If you are beginners in the practice of mind focus, make the session last 5-10 minutes. Try to make the sessions daily and at the same time. After several weeks of practice, extend the time allocated to this issue to 15-20 minutes.
However, do not push things too much before their time. Meditation is not about forcing yourself, it is about being at peace with yourself and although it has certain connections to a kind of rigor, it has more to do with flexibility than rigidity.
CAUTION: It is also important that you realize that until you reach a certain degree of mastery in meditation, thoughts and emotions out of control will cross your meditation.
Do not be frustrated and do not pay much attention. Let them go through you, without allowing them to disturb your inner peace and focus. Do not fight them in an attempt of casting them away, but let them move through you.
Regardless of their apparent importance, do not hang up on them, and do not allow them to “flow” from one into another, distracting you in this manner.
Nonetheless, even when you realize you have been distracted, return to your meditation firmly, but gently. This gentleness is important, as your mind will never obey any “harsh” command, but will always go with the flow of a gentle direction.
Pay attention to your breath, be patient and avoid negative thinking. A wandering mind only proves an acute need for meditation, so that it finally calms down.
It is an indication of how little control you have over your mind at this point.
The key is the gratitude for that part of your consciousness that has signaled your distraction and that made it possible for you to return to your meditation.