Why do we find it difficult to concentrate during meditation and what can we do to improve our ability to focus?
Concentration is said to be the key to meditation. Whether we are meditating on a candle, a mantra, a verse or our breathing, the most important aspect is to focus our mind on the object of our meditation.
Why is concentration so important?
In all walks of life, concentration is a great strength. Students who are able to concentrate on their studies without being distracted by the TV or by other members of their family are more like to succeed in their exams than those who can’t do this. Likewise, those who achieve success in the business world will often speak of devotedly applying themselves to their goal and not allowing other distractions to get in their way. This may be a very worldly form of concentration, but the principle is the same – concentration is the key to success. During meditation, concentration is needed in order for us to be able to bring the mind to rest; it is this rest that brings about the peace which so many of us long for in today’s society. Swami Paramananda, author of Concentration and Meditation (Eighth Edition, Vedanta Centre Publishers 1996) states it unequivocally:
“Meditation is inseparable from concentration. When the mind has gained its full strength through singleness, it naturally becomes meditative”.
Why is it hard to concentrate?
Although we talk about modern life being busier than ever, a restless, agitated mind has been a human problem for a very long time. In the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Geeta, (Faber & Faber 1982) estimated to be written 5,000 years ago, Arjuna presses the Lord Sri Krishna for advice on how to rest his “fickle and turbulent, obstinate and strong” mind. Krishna acknowledges his difficulty:
“Doubtless, O Mighty One! The mind is fickle and exceedingly difficulty to restrain, but O son of Kunti! with practice and renunciation it can be done”.
Our minds are very active – they’re used to making plans, forming opinions, commenting on what’s going on and generally chattering away. It’s not surprising, therefore, that when we sit down to meditate we find that it’s not so easy to stop all this chatter and attend to our intended focus. We’ve been allowing our minds to wander without any form of control for years – or decades – and unless we’re very fortunate, they’re not going to just fall calm and quiet just because we sit quietly and sound a mantra.
What do we do when we find it difficult to concentrate?
The ability to concentrate is an innate faculty, not only of humans, but of every living creature. Take a look at a cat who stops still for a couple of seconds before pouncing on a mouse. It’s true that our minds can be very scattered, but we’ll usually find that there are certain activities that we do attend to with a good degree of attention – reading a book, playing a musical instrument – even watching a football match requires concentration! There are steps we can take, however, if we wish to strengthen our ability to focus during meditation:
The above steps will enhance your ability to concentrate and subsequently help your meditation.
Metta meditation is one of the most popular vipassana techniques. This insight meditation is for bringing peace and tranquility into one’s own heart and sending loving kindness, along with compassion to others.
How to Begin a Metta Meditation
While sitting comfortably with a straight posture, begin to take slow, deep breaths while keeping the eyes closed. Once feeling relaxed, focus the mind on feelings about health, well being, and happiness. Take these feelings and turn them into a positive feeling of loving kindness or friendliness. With an open heart, begin thinking kindly of yourself.
Now, in the mind say, “May I be happy,” while envisioning being happy. Remember, in order to truly love others, one must first love themselves. Continue to bask in this positive, loving environment for as long as desired until ready to end the meditation.
Sending Loving Kindness to Others
Once comfortable with sending loving kindness to yourself, it’s time to start sending it out to others. Metta can be sent to friends, teachers, or relatives, along with neutral people and even enemies. When getting ready to send loving kindness, first envision the group of people it’s being sent to in the mind’s eye, then begin to send them metta.
When choosing neutral people, pick a group of people in which no emotions are attached. In order to build skill in sending metta, it’s best not to send to enemies until skilled at sending to familiar people and neutral people. When sending loving kindness, a couple of ideas of what to mentally say are, “May these people be happy,” or “May these people live with peace and joy.”
Metta and Universal Connectedness
One might first wonder why should a person should send loving kindness to their enemies. Try to envision everyone being a part of a universal connectedness or a collective unconscious, as Carl Jung referred to it. In other words, in sending kindness to an enemy, it’s also sending kindness to yourself. The more kindness a person feels, the more compassion they can feel towards others.
The vipassana technique known as metta meditation is a form of insight meditation that allows a person to further open their heart to not only accept loving kindness, but, to send it to others as well. When practiced over time, true love and compassion are achieved which projects positive energy to the collective unconscious that is said to be shared by all people.
While meditation is still fairly new to the Western world, it has long been practiced in the Eastern world. One discovery made is that meditation can help develop psychic powers. One of those powers is telekinesis which is the ability to move an object with the mind.
A very popular form of telekinesis has been spoon bending, popularized by Jack Houck. However, for now, let’s start with something more simple.
How to Be Psychic
When working on psychic development, practice is very important. In one way or another, psychic abilities involve the mind. In order to keep the mind clear, use meditation as a tool. Meditation can also play a key role when trying to learn telekinesis.
When learning how to do telekinesis, start with trying to move a lightweight object. For this experiment, use a small pencil. Place a piece of paper on the table. Put a small pencil on the piece of paper. Trace the pencil on the paper in order to track its movement.
It’s best to already know basic meditation in order to use meditation for telekinesis development. Otherwise, the following meditation may not be successful. If you have never meditated before, learn some of the basics in the articles Sitting Meditation and Breathing Meditation.
Begin by staring at the pencil. Make sure you burn the image into your mind. Now, sitting with good posture, allow your eyes to close and start taking relaxing, deep, slow long breaths. Clear your mind of all thoughts. Once you feel relaxed and focused, envision the pencil in your mind.
Using your mind only, try to roll the pencil. Visualize the pencil physically moving. Imagine part of your energy being transferred to the pencil in order to help it move. When you think you were able to psychically see the pencil move, end the meditation, open your eyes and see if you were successful.
Don’t be disappointed if nothing happened. Meditation skills and psychic development both take time and practice. An alternative to this experiment is to use a feather. Caution needs to be taken that you are far enough away from the feather that your breathing doesn’t cause it to move.
Many forms of psychic skills can be learned with the aid of meditation. Psychic meditation is a great way to try to learn telekinesis. Long practiced in the Eastern world, meditation can help develop other psychic abilities as well.
Difficult people or times in a relationship are an unfortunate part of life. The following three meditations protect from such encounters, so one feels empowered and aware instead of drained and scared.
Judith Orloff’s Heart Meditation
Dr. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and energy healer, recommends focusing on one’s own heart to boost energy, especially when dealing with difficult people.
The following adaptation of Orloff’s Three Minute Heart Meditation focuses on the beat of one’s own heart.
The heart meditation can be practiced anywhere or anytime one has a free hand. One may desire to try it during or before a conversation with a difficult person to see how the exercise changes one’s perspective on the situation.
Blocking the effects of a negative person or encounter can prevent one from feeling drained and hopeless. The following visualization invites one to visualize a protective shield between him/her and a difficult person or situation.
When the threat has passed, or when one feels in control of the situation again, breathe in the shield of light, knowing that one can exhale it again at any time when needed.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Compassion Meditation
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace advocate Thich Nhat Hanh recommends seeing a situation through another’s eyes to increase compassion and understanding. The following adaptation of Hanh’s Compassion Meditation can be practiced in two parts, focusing on one’s own feelings surrounding a situation and focusing on the difficult person’s feelings.
Try this meditation to increase awareness about a difficult or frustrating relationship. The exercise works best with a person one knows well. Note that this meditation will invite deep reflection and self-awareness that may not necessarily be relaxing, though it certainly will bring healing in a relationship.
This meditation may bring up information that is useful for personal reflection. Keeping a journal or piece of paper nearby may also be helpful.
Draining people are a part of life, but with meditation, their negative effects can be minimized.
What makes you happy? If you’re not as happy as you’d like to be, how do you decide what to do to become happier?
Though there are many things people acquire in search of happiness, you’ve probably found that new material possessions make you happier for a brief time, but that quickly fades. Psychologists call this hedonic adaptation, a fancy name signifying people adjust to new things. If something new brings a burst of happiness, it won’t last long—the newness and the happiness it brought wear off.
There is a way, though, that you can systematically decide on a course of action to find greater happiness. The things most likely to increase your happiness won’t be found on The Shopping Channel or display shelves of a store. Instead of looking around for sources of greater happiness, psychologists and spiritualists agree that you should be looking within.
Tapping the Source: Using the Master Key System for Abundance and Happiness (Sterling Publishing, 2010) updates Charles Haanel’s Master Key System, published in 1912. Tapping the Source authors William Gladstone, Richard Greninger, and John Selby have modernized Haanel’s rendition of the necessary ingredients for happiness.
The Ingredients of Happiness
According to Tapping the Source authors, the following ingredients are necessary for a person to feel happy:
How do you use this list? Though reading through it may give you ideas about things that will make you happier, the authors suggest a more certain and powerful way to select areas for increasing your happiness.
Learn Meditation for Greater Happiness
The path to finding greater happiness winds through meditation. The authors maintain that each person’s source of wisdom and energy is internal. To gain access to the natural, internal wisdom about yourself and what you need, you must first quiet your mind through meditation.
While your mind is quiet in meditation mentally examine the ingredients of happiness. Your internal wisdom will point out the areas that will bring you greater happiness. This can only occur when your mind is quiet, otherwise your ego will respond to your queries for happiness solutions with the latest marketing pitches you’ve witnessed—a new car, the latest smartphone, sparkling jewelry, a promising new relationship, or a new career.
Though the benefits of meditation are well known, many people have difficulty quieting their minds sufficiently to reap meditation’s benefits. Failing to quiet your mind while mentally examining the happiness ingredient list will sabotage this effort, too.
The authors provide an easily implemented suggestion that should enable you to quiet your mind so your meditation is pleasant and effective. Readers having difficulty with meditation due to an over-active mind can find this technique in Learn Meditation: Positive Affirmations and the Law of Attraction.
Your Secrets of Happiness
What it takes to make you happier is already within you. The secret to your happiness is to look within while meditating on the ingredients of happiness summarized in this article.
Meditation is an ancient spiritual practice, central to many spiritual traditions such as Yoga, Buddhism and Christian mysticism. This article explains the basic steps to meditation.
Any posture that is both comfortable and keeps the spine upright is suitable for meditation. Sitting postures are ideal. The important thing is that the posture is stable and can be held comfortably during the whole meditation session. Suitable meditation postures are listed in one of the links at the end of this article. Once you’ve settled in your sitting posture, begin by consciously relaxing the whole body.
The next step is to simply observe the breathing. Watch your breath as it moves through your nostrils or be aware of the rhythmic movements of your belly. Whenever the mind starts to wander and begins its habit of daydreaming, planning, recalling or imagining, simply bring it back to the breath as soon as you become aware of the distraction. Distractions will happen a lot and you may find you have recapitulated your whole day at work or relived a recent movie before you realize it.
Most forms of meditation require a meditation object. This can either be your breath, a mantra, a mental or physical image or an idea. In meditation, one concentrates on the chosen meditation object without straining the mind. Whenever your attention wanders somewhere else, gently bring it back to the meditation object. Although these moments of distraction will be very numerous, you will develop a deeper awareness of what goes on in your mind and the senses will turn inward. Find out more about meditation objects in one of the links below.
Basic Rules for Meditation
Set aside a regular time for meditation, for example 20 minutes every evening. Choose a quiet, clean and orderly place. If you wish, you can meditate in front of a little altar, a picture or a plain wall. Don’t expect immediate results – the positive effects of meditation may take some time to make themselves felt and they may be too subtle to notice immediately. Having distracting thoughts is completely normal. After all, meditation is about becoming more aware of what’s going on in your mind and not necessarily about having no thoughts at all.
Eventually, you will be aiming at extending your meditation to the whole day. This doesn’t require you to sit cross-legged for hours on end – it’s enough to continue with about 20 minutes of sitting meditation or whatever amount of time you choose to dedicate to sitting meditation. However, you should try to consciously extend the meditative state to other activities. This is done by being mindful of whatever you’re doing rather than daydreaming or allowing the endless chatter of the mind to accompany you all day long.
Meditation Brings Happiness
Meditation can become an invaluable companion in life. Rather than changing anything on the outside, meditation allows you to shift the way you perceive the world and yourself. If practiced regularly and properly, meditation can be a powerful instrument of personal transformation. It should ideally be practiced under the supervision of an experienced meditation teacher.
There are different ways a person can practice mindfulness meditation. For this guided meditation, the focus is on food. After all, who doesn’t love food!?
The Power of Meditation
Paying attention and focusing on all five senses is a great way to improve a person’s concentration. To begin this meditation, wash your hands. See the washing of the hands as getting rid of any negativity of the day. While preparing the food, focus only on the food.
Notice the colors, the scents, and the textures of the food. Not only can mindfulness meditation increase awareness, it can also increase a person’s memory and help with concentration. This is why it’s important to stay focused on the food.
While preparing the food, think about who the food is being made for. With each step of washing, chopping, and stirring, envision the food fulfilling each individual at the table with love. Listen to the sound of the food as it’s being prepared, focusing on the freshness of the food. When presenting the food, do it with making the food on the plate look beautiful.
Vaastu Tip for Meditating With Food
Vaastu is the ancient Hindu practice having to do with placement.
While preparing food, it is suggested that it is best done while facing east. The reason behind this is? The east is associated with the sun. Think of this as a way to bring harmony to the food.
Before taking the first bite, look at the colors of the prepared food. Do they bring about any emotional response? Take a moment to relax your mind. When ready, take the fork and pick up the first bite. Notice how much food is on the fork. Is there excess food falling off the fork? Be sure to take small amounts of food and eat slowly, paying attention to each bite.
What does the texture of the food feel like? How does it smell? What kind of flavor does the food have? Is it sweet, sour, or spicy? Are you eating slowly enough to appreciate the flavor of each bite? All too often people eat way too quickly and don’t bother to fully appreciate the taste and flavor of the what they’re consuming. Eating should be about enjoyment.
From time to time, put the fork, close the eyes and think about all that is being experienced. Think about the work and love that went into creating the meal and the enjoyment that is being experienced by all whom are eating it.
Mindfulness meditation is all about slowing down and experiencing everything one does with each of the five senses. People are in such a hurry these days that they forget to slow down and experience some of the most simple and enjoyable things in life. Learning how to experience all aspects of things in life can lead to better focus and concentration in school, the workplace, and around the home.
There is no way to truly teach meditation. The most one can hope is to properly facilitate the process, model a proper environment and note techniques aimed at allowing learning to occur from the act of meditation itself.
Listed below are a few simple suggestions designed to help begin the discipline of a meditation practice. (The ideas in this article are indicative of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta approach to meditation and yoga.)
Practice Meditation on a Regular Basis
By creating and sticking to a regular daily meditation time, the mind begins to expect the practice of meditation and will start calming before the sitting begins. This is important because the mind likes to jump around and any assistance in aiding the distraction is welcomed. Preparing the mind to slow and settle will provide a head start in the initial struggle for peace.
Create an Area for Meditation Purposes Only
It is recommended to set aside an entire room for meditation purposes only. If this is unlikely, create a portioned-off section, one that is used solely for meditation. This will keep the area free from other vibrational disturbances. Pure, calm energy is important, because the mind can attach to any external intrusions. The area should have a nice smell, incense or fresh air, and an image, visible to the practitioner, that invokes a sense of well-being. As taught by Swami Sivananda, as meditation is repeated, the powerful essence created by the meditation will stay in the area – making it a restful refuge for the practitioner to visit during times of duress.
Begin Meditation with a Ritual
Command the mind to be quiet for a specific amount of time before mediation begins. The intent is to lose stressful connections to the past, present and future. Then begin with a prayer, a movement, a chant, or a mantra, aligning the mind to something held sacred.
Use Conscious Breathing throughout the Meditation Practice
By regulating the breath and placing awareness on the inhale and exhale, it becomes easier to detach from initial mind chatter clambering for attention. It is advised to begin with about five minutes of deep abdominal breathing. This doses the brain with oxygen. Then relax the breath to an easy, yet conscious, inhale and exhale lasting the duration of the practice.
Mental Ease and Meditation
Allow thoughts to wander at first – it is natural for the mind to jump around. Forcing stillness will exacerbate the process. Ease the thoughts, focusing on an object, symbol, or mantra. And if the mind persists in scattered motions, simply watch it – attempting not to judge. Simply observe.
What is meditated “on”, if anything, is an individual choice. What works perfectly for one, may not be right for another. This may take trial and error. Be patient with the self.
Begin the meditation practice working within 20-minute increments and then extending to longer periods of time. Once meditation becomes a practice, information meant uniquely for the practitioner is made known during and after the process of meditation.
Although meditation is simple, it is not easy. Avoid getting discouraged when the mind refuses to obey the initial commands. This discipline takes practice. It is said that when one meditates for only one half of an hour, on a daily basis, peace and strength become powerfully present in life. Meditation opens the door of trusting one’s innate wisdom and peaceful focus – something that all can benefit from in this fast-paced and seemingly crazy and chaotic world.
What is Soto Zen Meditation?
There is nothing special or different about Soto Zen meditation. It is not something weird or esoteric. It simply involves being still within, and allowing one’s real self to emerge from beneath the jumble of thoughts and emotions that usually fill an individual’s mind.
How Can One Practise it?
How can someone be still in this way? There are various techniques, but in Soto Zen Meditation the practitioner simply sits. The physical sitting position doesn’t really matter very much. Sitting on a zafu or meditation cushion using one of the lotus positions is traditional if the person is comfortable that way. But sitting on a chair or stool is fine, and often more suitable for western meditation practitioners who are not used to sitting in crosslegged psoitions for long periods. The eyes are kept open, and meditators usually face the wall. The technique is not to concentrate on anything, but instead to simply observe one’s thoughts or emotions, and come back to sitting still.
What About the Mind?
What about thoughts? When they arise, the practitioner tries to simply let them be. He or she doesn’t try to push them away, but does not try to hang on to them or actively ‘think’ either. It’s a little bit like sitting on a bridge watching the traffic going by. It is not necessary to try to stop the traffic, but one doesn’t have to get in there and try to speed it up or change it either. Thought is a natural process, and the meditator is not trying to do anything unnatural. Instead, the person is simply trying to be themselves as they truly are.
So What Comes Next?
In the beginning, meditation can seem very difficult. The practitioner may feel as though he or she has more thoughts and emotions than ever before. Time may appear to pass exceedingly slowly, and he may feel uncomfortable or downright miserable – worse than before he started! But all these feelings should be treated in the same way as thoughts, by not being held on to or pushed away, but simply accepted for what they are. When the meditator finds that he has started following his thoughts, ie thinking, it is best not to worry about it. Just by noticing what is going on, one has already begun meditating again. So the person shouldn’t get upset about it, but just come back to sitting still.
And What Can it Lead to?
This may all sound boring or pointless. But out of this simple practice, many things in one’s life can change. The details vary for different people, but simply keeping up a regular practice means that in time life becomes more peaceful, fulfilling, and natural. One feels calmer, more content, and less inclined to violent emotional swings for no good reason. In fact, it’s amazing what a few minutes of looking at a wall every day can do for one’s peace of mind!
When life gets busy, it’s easy to feel disconnected, even uprooted from one’s own life. The following nature meditation is designed to connect the individual with his or her self again by imagining the body as a tree, swaying in the breeze.
After practicing the tree meditation, one will feel grounded and connected again to nature and the self. This exercise is highly recommended after a stressful day or event, any time that one feels disconnected.
Preparation for the Tree Meditation
Drinking some water beforehand may relax the body and prevent distractions. Minimize interruptions by silencing the pager or cell phone. Explain to family members or roommates the need for privacy, and carve out some space to relax and be.
Directions for the Tree Meditation
One will need comfortable feet and ten to twenty minutes of uninterrupted time. Spend thirty seconds to a minute stretching the body and focusing on the breathing before beginning.
Meditation Suggestions for Daily Life
The tree meditation may be useful to reconnect with one’s body as well as mind and spirit. It could be practiced during cold weather when one misses nature, or at any time one desires a relaxing escape from the present.
A shorter version of the tree meditation might also be practiced in the midst of a stressful situation or encounter. Take a deep breath and imagine the roots connecting the body to the earth. Even though stress may be high, that stress does not have the power to uproot and disconnect the individual from his/her own life.