How to cultivate the ability to concentrate on a single object.
“the mind is a great slave but a terrible master”
As a sage once said, “the mind is a great slave but a terrible master”; most of us live our lives at the mercy of our own thoughts.
We often fail to realise and appreciate how much misery that brings as essentially, your mind is not designed to make you happy. It is intended merely to keep you alive. It evolved over the course of millions (if not billions) of years and is governed by instincts and forces we don’t necessarily know or comprehend fully.
It is, however, possible to direct it in ways that are most conducive to our wellbeing and happiness. This doesn’t, however, happen automatically and, in fact, it takes A LOT of constant practice to achieve.
The best way to get out of that automated flow of uncontrollable thoughts that always go through our minds is practising the art of concentrating it on a single object.
This could be a physical object that you place in front of you and merely keep your attention on: that’s why, for instance, when we look at a work of art or a beautiful sunset or anything else we can get “lost” in, we get a sense of peace and relief. And for some brief and precious moments, we can just be there in the present and not pay attention to our own thoughts.
The object of focus could also be a sound: gong meditation is becoming an increasingly popular methodology, and it works by surrendering to the sound of the gong which inevitably keeps us engaged with the present moment, giving fewer opportunities to our monkey mind to distract our attention.
Even guided meditations can be very powerful, especially in the early stages of developing our practice: by focusing on the voice of the teacher or speaker, we can get progressively stronger in our ability to stay present and not allow our thoughts to direct our attention onto something else.
By far, however, the most potent object we can choose to focus on is just our own breath. This is obviously slightly trickier, to begin with as our breath is very subtle. Therefore we need to make sure we support our practice by sitting in a quiet place and turning off all electronic devices.
Once established this method is WAY more potent than any other since by focusing on our breath, we’re not just present in the moment but also, and more importantly, we’re present in our own physical body.
Think about it: how often do you stop and pay attention to your own body (other than when you’re in pain or discomfort)? We’re often disconnected with our own physicality for most hours in the day, distracted by laptops, phones, people, thoughts.
Our bodies are sending us signals and communication with our mind ALL the time without us having to do a thing however when we start paying attention to them, we develop mindfulness and move through life in a way that is more aware and effective.
Like with everything in life, practice is the key to progress.
the most potent object we can choose to focus on is just our own breath