Objective Concentration Techniques
Concentration is very helpful to control the mind, which has the habit of wandering from thought to thought and object to object. The mind is unstable because it has to process information continuously and remain in a state of readiness to deal with the problems and threats present in your environment.
Since several areas and parts of the brain have to participate in the processing and work together to create the experience of perception, cognition, and awareness, the brain consumes a lot of energy and remains wakeful, active, engaged, and watchful. This mental activity, which is geared for your survival, is also the cause of mental modifications or movements of the mind. The electrical impulses that are generated in the brain cells do not subside completely even in sleep, which results in dream like experiences. Interestingly, sleep is also considered a source of disturbances in the Yogasutras.
Of course, you should not interfere with the basic processes of your mind or its ability to efficiently process information with whatever shortcut methods it finds convenient. You should not also try to interfere with its shortcut methods, unless they are interfering with your thinking and behavior. For example, you do not have to learn every day how to drive your car or drink a cup of coffee. Your brain has already mastered those functions, and you do not have relearn them every day.
However, there are other areas where your intervention is necessary. For example, for your own peace, stability, and balance, you cannot allow your mind to remain unstable or distracted. You must control it when necessary and allow it to process information according to your discretion. In either case, you must be the master of your mind. It takes time, but you can learn to control it and thereby your thoughts and emotions, with the help of objective and active concentration. The following techniques are helpful in this regard.
1. Arrest all your thoughts: This technique is useful to temporarily silence your mind and stop all mental chatter and thinking. Sit in a relaxed position, and take a few deep breaths. Focusing your attention on the spot between your eyebrows, stop thinking, and totally silence your mind for a few moments. Try to prolong the silence to the extent you can manage. In the beginning you will find it hard to silence your mind, but if you persist, you will be able to keep your mind silent for longer times. For better results, practice it in different environments, and in the presence of various distractions, so that gradually you can learn to shut your mind at will and experience momentary peace. You can also do this by prolonging the silence between two thoughts. Having the ability to silence your mind at will has its own advantages. When your mind is silent, you perceive better and discern other's thoughts with greater insight. You will also conserve your mental energy.
2. Focus upon a point. This technique will help you focus your entire attention on a single point for brief periods. To do the exercise, choose any point, or a tiny spot on a wall, a paper or a computer screen. Alternatively you can also choose any object, form or shape for the same purpose. Focus upon it with your whole attention, and do not let any other thought enter your mind. Without letting your mind wander, keep looking at the object, without thinking about it, and without letting your mind think anything else. Make sure that you remain relaxed without any stress or strain to your mind or your eyes. Keep breathing normally during the whole exercise, and keep your attention fixed on the chosen object, without letting your mind think about the outcome. If you practice it regularly, this exercise will give you immense power to divert your attention to anything you choose, or to free your mind from any disturbing mood or state.
3. Focus upon your breathing. You can practice this with or without closing your eyes. Sit in a relaxed position with your head erect, take a few breaths and start focusing upon your breaths. Do not intentionally try to prolong or alter the breathing. Just focus upon the breathing with a relaxed mind, arresting all thoughts, and letting your breath flow at its own pace. Practice the same with various distractions as in exercise one. This exercise can help you to stabilize your mind in difficult times, gain quick control over your emotions and regain your composure. It will also help you to gain insight into people and objects, and remain in the present moment.
4. Focus upon a subject: In the three techniques that we have discussed so far, you force your mind not to wander or become distracted, but remain still and focused. Technically, they are active, but negative and coercive approaches, just as people try to train a wild horse, elephant, or bull by putting it inside an enclosure. In this technique also, you will follow a similar approach. However, instead of letting your mind remain still, you will force it to focus upon a particular topic or subject and allow it to think about it until all thoughts about it are fully exhausted. You may thinking about the subject in any manner you choose, but you should not think anything else except the subject or related thoughts. For example, you can take any fruit like an apple or mango and let your mind remember as many associated thoughts, ideas, memories and concepts as possible. Focus upon its features, related fruit, different varieties that you know, taste, touch, smell, color, weight, its history, how they are grown, where they are grown, your memories of eating it on various occasions, derivative products, health benefits, and so on. If you practice this regularly, it will improve your knowledge, memory, creativity, besides opening your mind to new patterns, connections, and ideas, which you were not thinking before.
5. Focus upon a task: In this exercise, you combine the benefits of mindfulness, with active concentration, to experience oneness with the present moment and keep your attention fully focused upon the actions you perform. You can practice it with any normal activity which you regularly do, such as setting a bed, cooking food, cleaning utensils, washing clothes, dusting your cupboard, cutting vegetables, doing yoga postures, jogging, bathing, brushing your teeth or any activity that catches your attention, or fancy. Focus upon the task with complete attention, without letting your mind think of anything else, while you remain relaxed breathing normally. At the same time, keep your senses on alert and observe as closely and attentively as possible the various actions you perform. This exercise will give you the power to stay calm and in control, while you perform various tasks. It will also help you to perform your tasks with full attention and avoid problems that may arise from negligence or carelessness. However, you should not practice it when you perform critical tasks where your safety and the safety of others is involved such a driving a vehicle.
6. Use your imagination: In this exercise, you use the power of your imagination to practice concentration. You can also practice it in various environments and settings according to your convenience. However, you should do it keeping your eyes closed to avoid distractions. To begin the exercise, choose a safe and quiet place. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and relax fully. As you enter a meditative state, use your imagination or visualization to build something in your mind. It can be anything, an object, a scenery, a painting, an event, a task, any specific form or shape, a person, a divinity, a house, a vehicle, an animal, or any natural activity such as the flow of a river or a stream, the germination of a seed, the growth of a plant or the change of seasons. You must systematically build your chosen shape, event, or object, using your imagination, with as many details as possible, as if you are creating a real object in the real world. Use your imagination and creativity to stretch your mind to the farthest limits. You can even build a whole universe, a planet, or an imaginary world and populate it with different forms, objects and beings. The regular practice of this exercise can free your mind from all mental blocks, limitations, fears and judgments, and help you cultivate possibility thinking with an open mind
Despite the natural limitations to which your mind and brain are subject, you can teach them to act according to your will. You can control your thoughts and emotions and remain mindful and composed during your waking hours. These technique are very effective in this regard. With their help you can discipline your mind, control your thoughts and emotions, relax, stay in the present, think creatively, experience deeper states of awareness, respond intelligently, observe with insight, and understand other people and their behavior.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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