A Simple Exercise of Mental Concentration
Sit in a comfortable Yoga position (asana), keeping the back and shoulders straight, with the head up so the spinal column is vertical. Close your eyes and prepare to follow these steps:
- Relax rapidly and profoundly, from the feet upwards. Apply all the rules of relaxation.
- Adjust your respiration until it becomes calm and quiet.
- Orientate your attention on the interior, withdrawing the senses from any exterior stimuli that might distract you. Start by isolating the mind from any thought that may appear, making a short but firm effort to suspend the process of thinking (see pratyahara).
- Focus the mind upon the chosen object.
Let us closely examine the process of concentration. Empty your mind from all thoughts, then bring the chosen object into the field of attention, without allowing the mind to jump to another object or thought. If this happens, bring it back with calmness and patience. This is the only thing you should do while realising Dharana: maintain the attention on the object chosen for concentration. It is advisable not to force or to be tense. Be calm, quiet and try to focus.
You will realise that in fact mental concentration is a static process: during concentration, the mind is blocked, thinking ceases and mental activity is suspended. The only mental activity that is permitted is to bring the mind back to the object of the concentration when it loses its focus.
Focus attentively on the object of concentration: approach it with amazement and the curiosity of a child, as if you did not know a thing about it. This approach should not be rational nor intellectual, but rather you should get to the essence through feeling and intuition. Explore the object in a state of creative silence, without any goal, only waiting for impressions. Then only you and the object will exist: get into a state of continuous euphoric expectation, accompanied with a high degree of perception. Allow your being to be absorbed in and by the object. Do not try to define, to emit opinions or to understand, only be permeable to that object, looking at it as if it were for the first time. This will open you towards the object itself and will create the state of mental receptivity in which intuition (or the supra-consciousness) is able to function. By following this process, you will soon notice that surrounding objects have many meanings and messages that you usually miss. Everything becomes pure wonder, a fascinating mystery that you will gradually unravel completely. You will discover that everything is sustained by an invisible energy and that you can get to feel and control this in time.
If in the beginning you notice that this exercise fails lamentably, accept this fact as normal. Remember that in Yoga there is no useless effort. In other words every effort will be fruitful, as the wise men say “the mud is as valuable as the lotus flower it feeds”.
When you can keep the mind focused for as long as you wish without effort, it will become an extremely fine instrument for any type of meditation you would like to approach. It is as if you want to tame a wild horse. In the first attempt, it will kick you off its back. However if you persevere long enough, you will manage to bridle the horse and later it will become a valuable friend that will follow even your unspoken orders. Continuity is an extremely important factor in the process of concentration. The meditation –Dhyana- will then follow naturally, as day follows night.