Concentration is a cornerstone of meditation. In order to raise ourselves into a higher state of consciousness, we need to stay relaxed so our energy can withdraw from outward interaction to inwardness, and for this to happen we also have to remain concentrated. This singular concentration works to bring the energy into the brain and spiritual eye like a magnet, drawing the energy up which has receded inward.
It can be challenging to continue concentrating, particularly when you are new to meditation. The mind is used to flitting from one object to the next, like a butterfly from flower to flower. We may concentrate for some moments, and then find ourselves lost in planning out dinner or teasing through a random childhood memory. When we see our thoughts have taken over and we are far away, we simply bring our concentration back to what we were doing, be that focusing on the breath or penetrating the spiritual eye.
Another way to think of it which I have found helpful is to consider that I am choosing to stay connected to what I am doing. Rather than trying to avoid letting the mind wander, I proactively keep making the choice to stay engaged. Thinking of it as a choice has more power behind it than trying to prevent the mind wandering. It is an action. Choose to concentrate. Choose to stay in the present. Choose to engage. Again and again. Keep choosing.
Every little thing we do is a choice. Paramhansa Yogananda used to say, "The minutes are more important than the years... If you fill the minutes of your life with divine aspirations, automatically the years will be saturated with them." (Side note: I find something immensely satisfying in the thought of years being saturated with divinity. I am feeling in this moment that bringing that word saturate into meditation is a wonderful idea. So often I use "fill," which gives a good visual - "fill me with your blessings" "fill them with light" - but "saturate" gives this sense of being filled deeply and completely throughout.) It is easy to move through life feeling like we are being carried along without much consideration for the fact that we actually have complete control from moment to moment, and we are constantly making choices.
I took a training course years ago when I lived in England. It was a corporate training course, of the type that focuses on soft skills/personal development rather than technical skills. One of the main points of the course was to help people gain empowerment by understanding that everything we do is a choice. I remember one man who was there who just couldn't fully get on board with this concept. The instructor was trying to stretch him to accept that even going to work is a choice, and he pushed back saying, "If I don't go to work, I will get fired, I couldn't provide for my family, I don't have a choice. Likewise, if I pursue what I really want to do, I take away from my ability to do my current job fully, which means I could lose my job, and then I can't provide for my family, so there are many things I just don't have a choice in." The instructor kept trying to get him to see that even providing for his family was a choice, but he really couldn't accept that. The fact is, though, even those things that we take for granted such as providing comfort, stability, presence, food, medicine, shelter, and so forth for our family is a choice. You don't have to try very hard in these days of internet, 24 hour news, and reality TV to see that there are many people choosing not to do those very things for those who depend on them.
All day, every day, we are making choices. Some of these choices are so ingrained in our days, being repeated at the same time, day in and day out that it may feel that it is just how things are and we aren't making conscious choices about them - brushing our teeth, going to sleep, going to work, making and eating meals, and so forth. But, of course, these things wouldn't happen if we decided not to do them. Every day of my life until a few months ago I ate three meals a day. Every day. I believed that when my body felt hungry I was required to eat. I didn't like the discomfort of hunger and felt it unnecessary to feel it. I believed the healthy choice was to stay above the level of hunger throughout the day. Within the last year or a little more I started learning more about fasting, cleansing, and intermittent fasting. I began learning about how cleansing and healthy it is for our bodies to have periods of rest where food is not moving through our system, and I began intermittent fasting. Now, most days I don't eat until late morning or lunchtime. For nearly 40 years I lived my life as though I had no choice but to eat three meals a day, and in my mind I really felt that this was the only real option. But of course each time I made and ate my breakfast I made that choice, just as when I don't make or eat breakfast now I am still making a choice.
So when we meditate, we can help bring ourselves back to active concentration by choosing to engage our focus and immerse ourselves in the moment. If we find that we've strayed, we remind ourselves to choose again to be engaged in meditation. And if we have to do that 50 times, we choose to do it 50 times. On your journey to Self-realization, there are very few greater decisions.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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