Concentration is focus of the mind, the ability to hold the awareness of your mind on one point, one place, without wavering. The perfection of concentration leads to meditation. In the state of concentration, your mind is not aware of the external environment or of other peripheral things that surround the object of concentration ie. the object you are focusing on.
Why is concentration so important?
This can be best answered by comparing your mind to a light bulb. The rays of light from the bulb go out in all directions and the energy spreads. If you stand five feet away from the bulb, you can see the light but cannot feel the heat, even though there is great heat at the center of the bulb, at the filament. In the same way, your mind has great power in potential form, but it is dissipated in all directions. The mind thinks of different things one after another, without dwelling in depth on any particular subject. Therefore, the average mind does not utilize its power.
In recent times, science has produced the laser and many advances have been made in modern technology through its use. It is a method whereby all the rays of light from a source are lined up with each other so that they go in the same direction and in unison with each other. They vibrate in harmony with each other. The original source of light need not be any greater than the light bulb we have just discussed, yet if you were to stand five feet from a laser beam source, the beam would burn a whole straight through your body. This is the difference between ordinary light and concentrated light.
Similarly, concentrated thought also has great power. It has the power of heightened perception, the ability to see more of the underlying truth behind phenomena. It has the ability to achieve great things and to do unimaginable amounts of work. A concentrated mind is also a relaxed mind. Whenever you become deeply engrossed in anything you automatically come to a state of relaxation. Concentration is vital for everything that you do in life because it prevents the mind from wandering aimlessly in all directions. Without concentration you can achieve nothing. You only need to look around you to see the truth of this statement.
Work done with a concentrated mind becomes more enjoyable. A person with a concentrated mind can do all kinds of work with great efficiency. A person who is unable to concentrate, who thinks of other things while doing the work at hand, makes mistakes and takes an unnecessary length of time to complete the task, if he ever completes it at all. He will continually think about how slowly the time is passing. He will worry about himself, his problems, his family, while he is working. Due to poor concentration there is poor application, so the work is not properly done. Therefore, concentration is essential in daily life as well as in spiritual practice.
Quality of mind
A concentrated mind is a powerful mind and a dissipated mind is a weak mind. In order to develop mental power you must first develop a concentrated mind. A dissipated mind cannot have mental power. If the thoughts are scattered, they can be brought into concentrated focus by specific concentration practices. Then your mind will become so powerful that you can influence the minds of others. You can influence your character, your health, your whole life. If you have a stomach disorder, mental disorder, breathing disorder or any disorder, you can remove it by willpower alone.
How can you develop willpower? The secret is to concentrate the mind on one point.
What is meant by a strong mind?
A strong mind is one which can carry out its own decisions. In contrast, a weak mind is one which decides one thing but does another. From tomorrow I am going to do this or that but when tomorrow comes you forget everything. You are still the same because your mind is dissipated. All the great men about whom you have read in history, whether artists, writers, musicians, politicians, statesmen, military leaders, scientists or saints, achieved greatness because of the quality of their mind. They did not become great by a freak of nature or a stroke of luck. They became great due to the quality of their mind. They each had a concentrated and hence a gifted mind.
If you want to do something or become something in your life, the quality of your mind has to be improved. If you have a low quality of mind then your performance in all spheres will be poor. If the quality of your mind is high then your performance will be correspondingly very great. To develop a higher quality of mind, you will have to analyze yourself and your aims, and you will have to give some time to the practice of concentration in the morning and evening.
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Objects of concentration
Concentration can be practiced in many ways. The object of concentration can be seen or located in any of the many centers throughout the body such as chidakasha, hridayakasha, daharakasha, in any of the chakras or in front of the body. Concentration can also be done on the different parts of the body, the physical processes, and the stillness of the body, relaxation or tension of the body. The breath is also used as the object of concentration.
Almost any object can be used as the basis for concentration. Once you have selected an object, you should use the same object in your practice day after day. The object should come to your attention spontaneously. For some people the object appears by itself in the form of a vision or a dream. This is the best form of natural selection. Other people, however, will have to find a suitable object for themselves. To assist these people, a very comprehensive list of suitable objects has been compiled. This list should give you some idea of how vast this subject really is and how many objects you can choose from. Actually the number is limitless; the following items are only examples. Go through the list quickly just to get an idea. Perhaps one of the symbols will attract you and perhaps not. Even if you do not find a suitable object in this list, it will spark off something in your own mind or imagination, so that later on the correct symbol will come to you spontaneously. This will probably happen at a time when you are completely relaxed.
Gods, Saints, People
Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, Trimurti, Sita, Rama, Radha, Krishna, Saraswati, Parvati, Ganesha, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Durga, Kali, Varuna, Vayu, Indra, Surya, Soma, Christ, Mary, Buddha, Lao-tzu, Milarepa, Naropa, Saint Francis, Swami Sivananda, Sai Baba, your guru, any other deity or saint, your father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, relative, friend, teacher or your idol.
Shivalingam, trident, shaligram, jyoti, cross, altar, cathedral window, eucharist, chalice, prayer wheel, candelabra, crystal ball, priest, icon or statue of any patron saint, tantric images, archangels, ring of skulls, conch shell, kundalini serpent, Venus de Milo, David and Medici, Perseus and Medusa.
Temple, church, chapel, cathedral, chorten, pyramid, mosque, monastery, ashram, pagoda, shrine.
Mountain, hills, valley, desert, oasis, cliffs, sand dunes, white beach, jungle, forest grove, paddy fields, orchard, flower garden, cloudy sky, rain, fog, storm, hail, tornado, earthquake, sea, waves breaking on the shore, japanese garden, lotus pond, sunshine, sail boat, well, lake, swift stream, spring, pool of water, snow, ice.
Elephant, antelope, lion, tiger, monkey, cow, deer, eagle, swallow, swan, flamingo, robin, blue jay, crow, chicken, butterfly, peacock, star fish, octopus, crocodile, cobra, dog, cat, horse, donkey, white lotus, red rose, yellow sunflower, daffodil, blue bells, orchid, cherry blossoms, lawn, coconut palms, moss.
earth, fire, water, air, ether, tamas, rajas, sattwa; Aquarius, Pisces, Virgo, Libra, Gemini, Capricorn, Sagittarius, Scorpio, Leo, Taurus, Cancer and Aries; ruby, onyx, agate, sapphire, diamond, jasper, topaz, crystal, amethyst, opal, jade, garnet, pearl, beryl; pewter, iron, gold, silver, brass, tin, copper; Moon, Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Mercury, Uranus, Pluto, Sun.
Color and form
Red, blue, green, yellow, indigo, orange, pink, black, white, purple, sunlight, moonlight, firelight, candle flame, lightning, star, hexagon, rectangle, heart, clover leaf, golden egg, square, triangle, crescent, Sanskrit beeja mantra, chakra diagram, yantra, mandala, nadis, prana.