The way the Mind is construct, it has the tendency to remain scattered in all the possible directions. It is composed of thoughts which in turn are nothing but packets of energy, Prana, which unless directed on a single point like a beam of laser – focused mind – will not produce anything concrete.
Mind remains in a confused state by virtue of the impressions – vasana – engraved on it due to past karmas. This unsteady nature of the mind is the reason behind meditation, one should learn to meditate to get clarity and the related calmness. Mind can remain engrossed in the haze of vasanas for ever, unless and until the bearer of this Mind realizes the importance of gathering its fragments from everywhere and binding them to a single entity, or keeping its energy focused.
Directing the entire energy that composes the Mind on a single entity or object saturates or concentrates its power, potent enough to be able to realise the true knowledge, vidya, about the purpose behind its own existence. Doing so demands a serious effort and will power. Meditation or controlling the Mind by the Mind itself and tying it down to a single object cannot be reached in one go, it is a step by step process.
let us start by knowing how to begin creating a conducive environment for the Mind to start having a taste of calming down, before it can be concentrated. We teach these techniques at our yoga classes in Mumbai, and at out yoga sessions at our farms retreat near Chandigarh.
How to Keep the Mind Focused?
Before you can actually start practicing yoga exercises to keep the mind focused condition your Mind for the same by strictly following the steps given in the sequence they are mentioned in.
- Train yourself to be alone. Whenever possible, in a day’s schedule, take out some time for being alone. Presence of someone or conscious of being in proximity of another live being can indirectly keep the Mind agitated . Rather a weak Mind would show longing for company as it’s scared of feeling helpless when alone.
- Mark a set time and place for beginning the activities toward slowing down the Mind. The place so chosen must be quiet and clean; filth attracts negative vibrations or energy keeping the Mind agitated. Stick to the time so set as punctuality is a great exercise for habituating the Mind by reverting it to the same state regularly.
- One must wear comfortably loose fitting cloths for this practice in order to be able to easily get into a pose where one can stay steady for long. The water in a shaky vessel can never be still; so is the case of Mind in the body. Any meditative posture like Padmasana or Sukhasana where one can be steady for long can be taken though Siddhasana is found to be the most suitable for the same.
- Now try to be aware of our own body; position of various limbs and their orientation in space, create a vision of yourself, get the entire attention on it. Avoid any physical movements or agitations which initially may take some time to subside. Be in this state of physical silence up till a pre set time span. forget about everything and connect to your body, create physical silence in totality.
- Once the body gets trained for being in this state for long, start training your Mind on shutting out all emotions and feelings that start surging to the surface as the body goes still. Create a state of emotional blankness by using your will power. negative or positive, both the feelings need to be neutralized to a emotional numb.
- Next you need to harmonize the Mind with your breath. Let the Mind flow with the breath: feel the surge in the Mind activity with each inhalation and the subsidizing of the same with each exhalation. Notice that the number of thoughts in the Mind are the maximum while you inhale and are minimum while you exhale. Once you are able to transpose your Mind on your breath, pulling it away from the objects of attraction of your senses gets easier.
- Now relax: evaporate out your urge to do something, speak something or think something. Feel the quietude inside you so cultivated. You do not have any desire to project your being or existence outwardly. Instead focus on the inward. Just listen! listen to the depths of your existence, make no effort to analyse or judge anything. Just be. Intensify the silence so created to the extent that you can feel and hear the blood flowing in the vessels through your own body. Maintain this state as long as possible till the mind remains relaxed naturally.
Now is when you can think of starting to exercise (practice or abhyasa) your Mind towards concentration.
What to Focus upon for a Focused Mind?
Focus can be practiced upon different things which can be either physical or just mental in nature. Focus upon the toe, nose tip, or between the eyebrows makes for the physical aspects one can practice upon to achieve a focused mind.
One can even concentrate on the images of the physical objects; concentrating upon a visualised image of the Sun while the eyes are kept closed. One can even concentrate on different parts of the body keeping the eyes shut. The main idea is to shut off all the thoughts which are not related to the object one is concentrating upon, from the mind.
Then the mind becomes like the object itself, as mirror starts looking like the image it is reflecting through it, we all must have had experiences where we has just walked into a wall sized mirror taking the image of the passage it is reflecting as the passage itself. The mirror here becomes like the passage, similarly the mind becomes the object it is concentrating upon. Deeper the concentration, clearer will be the image reflecting on the mind.
Yoga for improving concentration power emphasises upon the neuromuscular training or physical concentration before before one attempts at a proper meditation. The exercises designed to improve focus strengthens the coordination between the central nervous system and the muscles. Physical concentration, as the first step towards meditation, is only made possible when the muscles are in perfect coordination with the central nervous system.
Trataka or Gazing as an aid to Focused Mind
Gazing at some physical object is a very effective means to exercise the eyes, and to Train the mind stay focused..
- Sit in any meditative posture, eg. Padmasana or crossing the legs like the petals of the lotus flower
- Hold a book in the right hand, extend the right hand by straightening the elbow in the forward direction
- Keep the left hand on the left knee, the body must held erect with the spine extended upwards
- Raise the extended right hand with the book to the shoulder level, avoid any movements of the hand,or the arm at this position
- Now look at any point,on the wall opposite to you or on any other physical object, in line with the farthest edge of the book, the edge of the book and this point on the wall, physical object must be in a straight line to the eye
- Fix the site on the meeting point of the edge of the book and the point further to it as decided, use the mental power to keep the hand steady so that the edge of the book and the point never leave each other
The moment this line of sight passing through the book and the point ahead of it is broken, use the muscles of the arm, and the will power to again align the two in a linear manner. Try to maintain this position till you have reached your limit, thence relax the arm and rest for a while.
This will help improve the coordination between the sight and the muscular movements, the first requisite to achieve a focused mind. Here the control over the nervous system is attempted by influencing the optic nerves via concentrating the vision on an object.
Parts of the body Training for Concentration
- Lie on your back on the yoga mat in a place devoid of any distract
- Slowly inhale from the left nostril, mentally direct the air being sucked in to the entire body, starting from the top of the head and ending at the tip of the toes
- Now take your mind to the tip of the toes, fix it their for a while, then take it to the ankles, the knees, the thighs, the anus, the genitals, the manipura chakra, the stomach, the heart, the neck, the tongue, to the palate, the tip of the nose, the eyes, the area between the eyebrows, the forehead and lastly on the scalp ( Sahasrara chakra) sequentially
- After keeping the mind on the scalp for a while start moving it back to the toes taking it to the same points in the body in the reverse order, keep it on the toes for a while then start moving the mind back towards the head following the same sequence till it reaches the navel region, concentrate the mind here for a while and then discontinue the exercise
Keep the mind fixed on each body part for a minimum of two seconds. The eyes must be kept closed while performing this brain exercise. Practice this for a minimum of 10 minutes for receiving maximum benefits from the same.
Triangle to Improve Concentration
Look at he figure as given above. Concentrate on the triangle, the arrangement, proportions and intersection points of the lines as shown. Picture the positions of the letters in relation to each other in the mind. do not allow any other thoughts to percolate in the mind other than the figure in front of you. Keep the mind on the figure till you are sure enough to be able to reproduce it as it is, with all the details involved, in your mind once you will close your eyes.
Once sure, slowly close the eyes and imagine a chalk in your hand. Start mentally producing the sketch of the triangle you had just seen on an imaginary blackboard in the mind.
Fix the mind for a few seconds on this figure. Then start writing, mentally, the alphabets, on your imaginary figure as they were placed on the real figure. In case you are unable to reproduce the exact locations of the mentioned letters do not give up and open the eyes. Try hard with your mental faculties to remember the placings of these letters.
You should only open the eyes for a second look at the figure in case all your attempts at retrieving them from your memory fail. If that happens, open the eyes, again try to mentally absorb the details of the figure, close the eyes and draw it mentally with a imaginary chalk on a imaginary blackboard as before.
Continue this brain exercise till the mental figure as drawn perfectly matches the real one. Repeat the process again, after some interval, after erasing the imaginary figure drawn by you on your mental blackboard.
Regularly practicing these brain exercises will surely help you achieve a focused mind, thus will prepare you for beginning to practice meditation.