Do you have a hard time concentrating, focusing your mind on a task? This is no surprise considering the sound-bites and quick fixes that are promoted in our culture. We have been taught to value multi-tasking; we have learned to strive for accomplishment of many things – albeit on a superficial level.
The good news is that we can actually teach ourselves to concentrate. Try this. Choose an object, any object, upon which to focus your mind. Some examples are: gazing softly at a picture, a holy object, a candle flame or water. Or with eyes closed: centering awareness on peaceful music, a prayer, or on one’s own breath. It doesn’t matter what we choose as long as it’s something that interests us on some level. Then, we simply focus our awareness on the object of concentration. Let the awareness be tranquil but alert.
This takes practice and patience because we are not used to sitting quietly and making an effort to concentrate. The mind will wander. This is completely natural since the mind was created to think just as the eye was created to see and the ear to hear. Whenever you notice that the mind has wandered away from the object of concentration, simply draw it back to the object. That’s the point of this exercise: to notice when the mind has wandered and then bring it back. No fuss, no worries.
How long should you spend on this practice? If you’re new to it, just try for five minutes at a time. Then, with continued practice, you will find that you can stay with it for longer periods of time.
The act of continually returning to the object of concentration gradually trains us to become more concentrated in all the activities of our daily life. The effects will be felt in our work, our home life, friendships, etc. We learn to take one thing at a time as it comes to us. A sense of peacefulness gradually informs both our inward and outward lives.