Advertising
Advertising

Published on November 16, 2020

5 Steps to Improving Concentration for a Better Meditation Practice

5 Steps to Improving Concentration for a Better Meditation Practice

When I was a teenager, I always thought that I have a strong psyche. I have no idea why, I only felt this inner voice telling me that my mind is amazingly elastic. Just a few years later when I started with the first meditation lessons, I couldn’t believe my inability to concentrate. I was just asked to sit still and not move for 5 minutes and see what happens.

Guess what, I couldn’t last for even 2 minutes. In the second minute something inside of me just drove me crazy. The meditator who was instructing me, said: “concentrate.” I tried again but I couldn’t. I spent months trying to understand and feel the difference between concentration and meditation and to experience the moment of transition from the former to the latter. My mind was elastic, but mostly in thinking and not in concentrating, as it couldn’t stay fixed on one point.

Most of us, who are new to meditation live the cliche of going to meditation sessions—the so called guided meditation—trying to meditate by spending time in trying to stay concentrated. Then they’re confused and think that meditation doesn’t work. And worse is that they think that you can practice meditation for improving concentration—not knowing that meditation is only possible when the mind is permanently concentrated.

Concentration as a Prerequisite for Meditation

Concentration is fixing the mind on one object or subject, like when you look profoundly into the eyes of a loved one for a longer time, or when you gaze on a candle light for a longer time without thinking about anything else but the flame.

It’s one of the basic mental skills for setting goals and achieving any kind of results in life. Whatever you want to accomplish, you can get it done quicker and easier when you fully concentrate on the goal and the tasks that aim to that goal.

As the mind is this restless monkey that jumps around all the time—ruminating about the past and imagining the future on almost permanent basis (even in sleep)—it is hard to tame it and make it a tool to serve us efficiently at all times. Like the hand with its five fingers that is serving us inexhaustibly, so the mind is supposed to serve us in the same way.

The mind has only one purpose: to find the solution to any problem and to deliver happiness in the life of a human being.

Advertising

However, unlike the hand and its five fingers, the mind and its faculties and fluctuations vary in a vast spectrum of complexity. For managing that complexity, the mental skill of concentration is imperative here.

Therefore a science of how to use the mind properly has been developed—the yogic science for mastering life—called Raja Yoga. This structure consists of the eight limbs of Yoga—Ashtanga Yoga, and we will have a look at how this science takes us to achieve an optimum concentration of the mind.

The 5 Steps for an Optimum Concentration

Although it might seem like these steps are too much of a prep work for concentration, they are truly necessary, some of them indispensable. The five steps consist of:

  1. Yama—Restrain or Self Control;
  2. Niyama—Observance;
  3. Asana—Body Posture;
  4. Pranayama—Breathwork
  5. Pratyahara—Withdrawal of the senses.

Now, be aware of the fact that some of them you can skip, without including them in the prep work. I suggest all of them and I believe that most of them you already have.

Let me show you how I have mastered the prep work for getting concentrated and ready for a meditation. Try to apply this blueprint and I am sure you’ll reach a level of making your mind sharp like a scalpel. Remember, these steps that I am numbering can be achieved in a matter of seconds once they become part of you. But until this happens, it may take a while.

1. Yama—Restraint or Self-Control

The first thing I do for concentration is to restrain from generating harmful thoughts towards myself and others (ahimsa); I practice silence which is always the biggest truth to me (satya); I control all sorts of desire and my sexual energy on physical and mental level (brahmacharya); I don’t cling to worldly things in life—being free from greed and focus on the subtle values within me (aparigraha).

All this makes me get in touch with myself and in control of my surroundings; it makes me very still and quiescent.

Advertising

2. Niyama—Observances

Here, I further deepen my self-discipline by practising contentment (santosha)—appreciating everything I have, like health, proper shelter and fresh food and everything I don’t have, like sickness, anguish or hatred. Simultaneously I sink deeper in my concentration by knowing that I work on myself—learning myself better (svaadyaaya).

Knowing also that there is a higher intelligence within me, taking meticulous care about my digestion, my respiration and the function of my mind, I surrender to it (ishvara-pranidhaana) and feel even stronger the intensity of my being (tapas).

All these observances strengthen my concentration, inwardly and outwardly.

3. Asana—Body Posture

Here, I just make sure I physically sit still and comfortable, being n’sync with my body.

4. Pranayama—Breath Control

This one is probably the pillar for each and every aspect mentioned so far and at any time.

The whole of life is concentrated at one activity only: the breathing, thus controlling the breathing is having the concentration of the mind under control.

The power behind the breathing goes beyond the skill of concentration. I devoted most of my life exploring this subject and wrote a book on it: The Life Force[1].You can acquire the book if you find this subject of importance to you.

Advertising

5. Pratyahara—Withdrawal of the Senses

This fifth step is crucial and highly beneficial. It helps balance any emotion and is a must-have for achieving an ongoing concentration. After having applied the previous four steps, I now make sure that I tune my senses within me, cutting off all contact with the outside physical world.

That means:

I see nothing but a depth of darkness behind my closed eyes that implies stillness and peacefulness of my being.

I hear nothing but the streaming of my breath and no other sound but that one can penetrate or disturb the intensity of my being—the stillness, the peacefulness and the balance created within me.

I taste nothing but the flavour of tranquility and equanimity that circulate within my whole body.

I smell nothing but the freshness of my physical, mental and spiritual energy—a freshness that is part of the world and the whole universe.

I feel no weight or tactile impression, but the softness and lightness of me, being an expression, an embossment of pure energy into an individual body with an individual mind.

Advertising

I let my senses work within me, improving my concentration without any help from the external stimuli. This is the best prep work for making concentration concentrated within every single cell of the body. Even the thought is trapped and concentrated within.

Final Thoughts

Searching for improving your concentration has one purpose: being capable of the best performance in life. It is natural that we thrive to be successful and prosperous in life. To be prosperous and successful, one must be concentrated on the particular accomplishment. And all the qualities that are needed to establish a concentrated mind are within us. They need to be well bred and well developed, in order to perform concentration as a mental skill in the outside world.

Use these five steps as a blueprint to create your own individual design for improving your concentration. Put your focus on your goals and pay close attention on how the aspects I mentioned are strongly connected with the process that makes your mind concentrated toward that goal. All this work of focusing, paying attention and creating concentration is a work of mental activities—the building blocks for an elastic and concentrated mind.

The moment these mental activities are established, you’ll be able to dwell within you and reach a meditative state of mind where all the so-far-mentioned attributes and qualities will amplify and improve your character, your intrinsic values and you as a human being in general—you achieve a perfection of personhood.[2]

Through the work of the above five steps, the mental activities slowly diminish, turning into a mental state of mind called meditation, which not only strengthens the mental activities of focus, attention and concentration as a result, but also sheds light on many deeper levels of your psyche, giving answers on all the mind-boggling questions about life and existence.

More Tips for a Better Meditation Practice

Featured photo credit: Matteo Di Iorio via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gil Teachings: The Life Force
[2] Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Japanese Zen Buddhist Philosophy

More by this author

Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

5 Steps to Improving Concentration for a Better Meditation Practice 3 Self-Help Techniques for Better Mental Health 4 Signs of Emotional Exhaustion (And How to Get Over It) 5 Techniques to Quiet Your Mind And Stay Present 12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

Trending in Mental Strength

1 10 Habits To Cultivate To Attract Positivity in Life 2 How to Fight Your Irrational Fears and Stay Strong 3 5 Simple Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude 4 5 Steps to Improving Concentration for a Better Meditation Practice 5 The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 13, 2020

10 Habits To Cultivate To Attract Positivity in Life

10 Habits To Cultivate To Attract Positivity in Life

If you want to attract positivity in life, you have to become that which you seek—positive. Positivity doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. Instead, it means that you find the good no matter what. You wake up thinking each morning is a miracle, and you interact with everyone with love and light.

Positivity means having an optimistic attitude. When you have this, you step forward in confidence in anything you do. You see possibilities, not problems. You see opportunities, not obstacles.

Positivity has its benefits, too. According to Mayo Clinic, it largely has to do with stress management, reduction of depression, and increasing life span. You will cope better, be more prone to live healthier, and come out stronger from any situation.[1]

But sometimes, it is easy to find yourself feeling negative if things don’t go your way. Positivity doesn’t downplay the hardships of life. Instead, it helps you build resilience and bring up others around you. When you are positive, you are saying “yes” to life and receiving so much more than you would have otherwise.

Positivity in life starts in your mind. Think positive thoughts, and you will attract positive energy. Breathe in the possibilities and positivity, and breathe out the limitations you perceive you have. Then, you will find yourself a new person.

Here are 10 ways you can attract positivity in your life.

1. Give

Giving makes you happy and healthy, according to the Greater Good Magazine. It is also highly contagious![2] What you give, you get back.

There are many ways you can give. You can support someone, reach out, listen, be kind, choose to show up for something you believe in, care about a cause, make a difference in some way, donate, teach, change a life, give a compliment, lead others, spread awareness, and motivate others to do good.

Giving is about anything that you can do to make someone’s life easier or reduce an ailment experienced by many. By giving in any way, you can find positivity everywhere because you are taking part in creating it. Change the world.

Advertising

2. Believe in Yourself

If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Start to see your good qualities and attributes, even making a list of them.

What about yourself do you want to change? What has improved? If you can see any progress or make goals about yourself, you have the ability to do anything. If you underestimate yourself, you will play small. But if you see the potential in yourself, you will become positive—and others will see it, too.

If you can’t believe it, act as if you do. Stand tall anyway. Good will come to you eventually because you’re ready to receive it.

3. Forgive

Holding onto resentment can be very detrimental to feeling positive. It’s very unhealthy to remain unforgiving. Yet, forgiving does not mean “allowing.” Instead, it means learning to “release.”

You do not hold onto the negative feelings anymore, so you can heal. And you also can forgive yourself for anything in your life that you hold onto. Blaming yourself is a part of being human. Everyone does it and engages in negative self-talk. But if you forgive yourself, you can learn to start over.

Some days, you will be able to forgive yourself and others. Other days, not so much. It can come and go in waves. However, it’s your intention that matters. If you intend to forgive, you may receive healing.

Even if you can’t always muster it, just having the intention is enough. You will feel better afterward. So, if you can’t forgive, remind yourself to just intend it. You may feel forgiving eventually.

4. Gratitude

Some people would do anything to have what you have. Your younger self may be relieved at the point you have gotten yourself into.

Gratitude is a mindset, and it can bring positivity to your life. Make a list of what you have. What around you can you feel appreciation for? Can you recognize the good despite the bad? That can make you stronger.

Advertising

When you can set down the burdens and look at the beauty of things, you will have a new mindset—one of positivity. That is something no one can take from you. So, just be here—be present, and be still.

Practice mindfulness. Notice what you normally neglect. Then, things will feel okay again.

5. Let Go of Expectations

What expectations are you holding onto about yourself and your life? Are you living in a “should” mindset? Are you constantly thinking about what you should be doing and where you should be versus appreciating where you are right now?

This does not mean lowering your expectations. It just means letting go of expectations—expecting the best but not needing it to look a certain way. In this, you find freedom from negative thinking and fear-based living.

When you can set yourself free in that way, you can let go and let yourself live. Maybe things don’t always work out. Expect setbacks sometimes. But know that that’s part of learning and growth. Stay open, and positivity will flow through you.

6. Look for the Silver Lining

Is there something good that has come out of a difficult situation? Can you see the stars in the night sky? If you can, reach for them. That light has to do with gratitude and also persistence in seeing the positive in things.

You just have to believe that there is always good in this world. You may not see it right away, but it is there. Look for the silver lining. Instead of thinking, “This negative thing exists in my life.” think, “I am the positive person this situation needs.” Then, you will change it all around. You are the silver lining.

7. Surround Yourself With Positivity

If you’re surrounded with positivity, you too will start to let it seep in and become positive! Positivity in life involves being surrounded by positive people and things.

Is there anything in your life that is holding you back? Maybe it’s a toxic situation or relationship. Maybe it’s your own mental traps where you fall into a rabbit hole of negative thinking. Whatever is spiraling out of control, if you fear you cannot change the situation, it’s time to change yourself.

Advertising

Step outside of yourself and your life for a moment. Do you see the possibility of looking outside the box or even destroying the box? If you decide that you will not allow certain things in your life anymore, you will let in the right things. Surround yourself with positivity, and you’ll become the person you are meant to be.

8. Stay Healthy

It’s time to evaluate your daily habits. Are you drinking enough water? Are you eating healthily? Are you getting exercise? What about your mental health? Are you talking to someone about your feelings? Are you doing some sort of cathartic activity to let out negative energy? The list goes on.

Staying healthy starts with taking care of yourself. Self-care shouldn’t be a chore. So, find activities you enjoy doing. In negative situations, do what is called “radical self-care.” This means spending time with yourself doing what you love as much as you can.

Sometimes, you need to separate yourself and find some joy. Instead of spending your time scrolling through social media, go outside and breathe in the fresh air. You never know what can happen once you make a positive choice.

Little things have a ripple effect to turn into big things. All it needs to start is with one action. Face what you can and cannot control, and do what you can because all your choices matter.

If you feel sluggish, eat more veggies and do some cardio. If you feel lonely, make plans with someone. You see, there is always something that you can do to stay healthy.

9. Smile

Smiling activates the amygdala, and that releases neurotransmitters that make you happy![3] This is something that can change your life. You cannot have positivity in life if you can’t even do a simple smile.

Just by smiling, you “trick” your brain into thinking happy thoughts. When you smile at someone else, they are more likely to smile too—also making them happier. Smiling doesn’t just spread positivity, it also makes you more attractive to people and therefore, more social.

It seems like such a small thing because it is, but it has a big effect. You can draw in the right thoughts and the right people just by smiling. Who knew you had such power?

Advertising

10. Think Positive

Of course, the way to feel positive is to think positively. Thoughts inform feelings. You have primary emotions or natural reactions to an event. Then, you have secondary emotions that stem from a belief about the event that happened.

For example, if you fail a test, you may think, “This makes me a failure.” But it’s just a setback. True resilience is utilizing positive reframing to tell yourself that you are not defined by what happens to you.

Often, people blame themselves for bad situations. If you had been robbed, would you blame yourself or the other person? The obvious answer is the other person. Yet, you tend to also blame yourself. You may think, “If only I had been smarter or somewhere else, this would have never happened.” This creates a buildup of negative emotion.

Just by releasing the wrong thoughts, you can burst the positive ones. That’s why thought is so important. This is also a practice done in cognitive behavioral therapy.[4]

How realistic are your thoughts about a situation? Is there evidence for your thoughts? What is a new thought or belief that would be more realistic?

By challenging your thoughts, you can become more positive. Once you learn to manage your thought patterns, you can start to see something important: No matter what happens, you have the choice to think positively.

Conclusion

Positivity in life keeps you focused, motivated, and happy. It stops negative thoughts from taking over, and it leads you to be all that you can be.

Maybe now you can give yourself permission to be positive. After all, it’s a choice that is up to you. You decide what you do with this one life. Are you going to live it facing down or looking up at the sky?

More Tips to Maintain Positivity in Life

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress
[2] Greater Good Magazine: 5 Ways Giving Is Good for You
[3] Ladders: The science behind why smiling can literally make you happier
[4] Psychology Today: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Read Next