“The mind, in meditation must be so perfectly still that not a ripple of thought enters it. God, the Subtlest Reality, cannot be perceived except in utter silence.”
-Swami Kriyananda, The Ananda Course in Self-Realization
Perfect peace requires perfect stillness of mind, just as the surface of a mountain lake requires complete calm if it is to reflect the sky. Only in deep concentration can you discover the hidden depths of your spiritual nature. Fortunately, concentration is like a muscle-the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. To increase your ability to concentrate, strive to make each meditation deeper than the one before. When you meditate with this kind of intensity, you will find your practice helped tremendously.
Concentration Is a Work in Progress
Knowing how important concentration is, people sometimes become discouraged over their inability to hold their minds steady in meditation. We need to realize, however, that completely quieting the mind is the goal of meditation, and not something we will necessarily experience right away. No one expects to master the guitar the first time he plays, and this is true for meditation, whose very mastery reveals Infinity to us. For countless lives we have allowed our minds to run free and undisciplined, like unruly children. How do badly behaved children act when you try to discipline them? They rebel, just as the mind does when we first try to meditate. So we shouldn’t feel surprised if we experience a sense of restlessness or rebelliousness in the beginning. Our mind, however, will learn to behave-just like children do-once it realizes we’re serious.
Meditate with Interest and Energy
Paramhansa Yogananda said that most people do everything only halfheartedly and use only one-tenth of their concentration. To be successful in meditation it is essential that we concentrate with our full attention, otherwise our efforts will be mechanical, diffused, and lack power. Spiritual awareness depends on two things: the amount of energy and how that energy is focused. You can increase your level of energy and focus by commanding your mind’s attention with such practices as chanting, prayer, yoga postures, breathing exercises, and the Energization Exercises. These practices generate a strong flow of energy, which then can be used for meditation.
Meditation Tips for Concentration
Swami Kriyananda offers the following suggestions on concentration from his book, Rays of the One Light:
The devotee, to protect the candle flame of his concentration from the gusts of restlessness, must try to banish from his mind all images, all worldly scenes, the words of others, the remembered episodes in his life, all thought of physical pleasures, his plans for the future. Nothing must tempt him to stray from his fixed purpose while his soul calls to God.
To protect his concentration from sensory invasion, he must first control his response to outward stimuli. He should train his will not to respond to sensations of heat or cold, comfort or discomfort, restlessness or fatigue.
With a little discipline of the body at the beginning of meditation, and with the strong determination not to move or fidget about, the body’s demands will grow weaker. After even five minutes of this discipline, one may find it easy to sit for a long period without even wanting to move.
Most of the difficulty encountered in meditation is due to physical tension. Once tension is removed by the practice of deep relaxation, one finds meditation itself becoming increasingly enjoyable.
Again, with a little mental self-discipline at the beginning of meditation, one finds it increasingly easy to remain without thought.
Tell your mind firmly the moment you become settled on your seat to meditate, “This is my time for God.” If restless thoughts try insistently to engage your attention, reassure them, “We’ll discuss these things later!”
When True Concentration Comes
Yogananda said, “[While] directing your conscious mind from the material world, you must realize…that effort is not enough…You cannot withdraw your mind successfully from anything unless you withdraw your energy also.” Deep states of concentration are possible only when our life-force is interiorized, because the mind follows the direction of the flow of prana in the body. When the energy flows outward, our attention goes outward, too, while reversing it interiorizes the mind.
Bharat Cornell is the director of Ananda’s Meditation Support site, www.ananda.org . He has taught and practiced meditation for over 35 years. Bharat is authorized by Swami Kriyananda to give Kriya Yoga initiation, the most advanced meditation technique brought to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda. He has lectured internationally for many years, and is the author of the highly acclaimed Sharing Nature Books, which have been published in 20 languages.