The Art of Concentration
By Gerard Bulger
At times we say to ourselves I must concentrate to finish this job , we know there are many times and situations within our daily life where it is necessary to concentrate to complete the job in hand. But how many of us really know how to concentrate, how to shutout all the distractions around us, how to be consciously aware of the task in front of us. The psychologists suggest that a man thinks of sex once every 30 seconds, which means of course he can concentrate on little else. And it is also a fact that when we do concentrate it is quite often on a subject that is no good for us and has no lasting benefits.
Yet we all instinctively know that if we are able to concentrate completely upon a subject it would be achieved quickly and with a minimum of distraction. In fact in those rare moments when we do completely concentrate time itself seems to contract, there is also an inner sense of joy and accomplishment whenever the task is completed.
Some call concentration an art and being so it can be learnt and practiced. Although the lessons and methods are fairly easy they do require a sense of discipline, but if mastered the benefits will be apparent throughout your life. Concentration also has an aspect about which most people are unaware, that is, when in deep concentration we are also connected more closely with our subconscious. This in itself can bring much understanding into our life. Many religious and philosophical practices are designed in order to stop our conscious mind being aware of the many distractions around us while contemplating, their procedures all have the one purpose of creating a deep connection initially to the subconscious and then to the higher spiritual realms. When we can fully concentrate upon a subject or a moment in time this connection opens and becomes available to us.
Closely associated with concentration is willpower. The relationship is totally dependent–without one you cannot have the other. Think of an athlete in an Olympic running final, his willpower has sustained him in his goal of reaching the final and eventually winning. But it is at that moment just before the whistle blows where he needs his full concentration, if he allows distractions then all will be lost, the other competitors and all the spectators must be blocked from his mind. There are many other situations, which I'm sure you can imagine, where both willpower and concentration are needed in equal parts.
We all have abilities and talents that we rarely use to the fullest potential, we often think if I could just concentrate that little bit more I might make a success of this particular project, although this article can barely do the subject of concentration justice, the following exercises may be a starting point from which you begin a journey of self-discovery.
We could apply concentration to each task that we performed during the day–this in itself would be beneficial, we would begin to experience an inner calm in the increasing chaotic world around us. Yet where the power of concentration can really help is when we apply it to a particular project or aspect in our life, a goal or desire that we wish to manifest. Thoughts have power, we know that when people experience fear, anxiety or worry, the body can react, hair can turn gray, hearts can stop. In equal measure thoughts of happiness and joy can light up our life. So the power of concentration can best be used on goals and desires that enhance our lives; using concentration in such a way allows us to create our own reality–we take control of our life.
There are many ways in which you can use the power of concentration; here are but a few:
- The breaking of bad habits
- Business projects especially if you are self employed
- Moral characteristics you may wish to strengthen or create
- The acquisition of wealth
- A new romantic partner or strengthening your existing relationship.
While performing the following exercises you should have steady, deep breathing, but do not exert yourself. During meditation, deep breathing helps the mind to remain still and calm. In fact a good exercise is simply to concentrate on your inhale and exhaling, while doing so you let any thoughts that arise from your mind just drift on by, do not think about them just let them go.
Take a simple thought for example health, think of yourself in full health, think of that warm glow, the relaxed feeling you have when you're feeling healthy. Try to maintain this thought for as long as possible, don't let other thoughts intrude, concentrate completely upon yourself. This is a good exercise to start with as it is not too specific, it will allow only thoughts and images about yourself to intrude upon your mental process.
Hold your arm out in front of you at shoulder height. Raise your hand slightly so you can see your fingernails, concentrate upon your fingernails trying to keep your arms steady for at least one minute. Each time you perform this exercise try to extend the concentration time a little longer until performing the exercise for up to five minutes. Do this exercise with both arms.
Take a glass of water and hold it in front of you, fix your attention upon the top of the glass. Try to keep your arm as steady as possible, concentrate upon the ripples: your aim is to see no ripples, no movement within the water at all.
This exercise can be performed by either standing or sitting. Take a piece of plain paper and draw a visible dot in the center, place the paper on the wall in front of you and concentrate upon the dot. When you are relaxed, imagine the air that you are breathing in is coming from the dot and the air you are exhaling is going into the dot. Start performing this exercise for at least five minutes and increase up to at least 20 minutes.
There is no time limit set upon this particular exercise, but if practiced on a regular basis can open your mind to its inner potential. Take a clock, one you can hear the ticking, your aim is not to concentrate upon the ticks, but upon the spaces between the ticks. As you gain experience with this exercise you may well notice that the ticks begin to dissolve in your mind and the time between the ticks becomes extended. But the longer you can perform this exercise and the deeper you can concentrate while doing it, your perception of time begins to disappear, the exercise is completed in no time at all.
It is only after an extensive use of these exercises that we begin to appreciate the benefits of concentration, like learning to ride a bike once we have mastered the Art it is something that never leaves us.