Over a month ago I wrote an article entitled, Pray Without Ceasing. The title of my post was a quote from the Apostle Paul. In that post we discussed what “praying without ceasing” really meant: a form of meditation.
Since that article I have had many readers ask me exactly how to meditate and why it works. Today’s article will begin a three-part series to break down the process of meditation and exactly how it works towards the development of the soul. Some of my regular readers will have heard some of this before, but you will find a lot of new information by the time we get to part three.
To properly understand why meditation works, readers should be aware that ancient spiritual teachers discussed through matter a little different than textbooks in the twentieth century. For example, Jesus said in my father’s house (all the worlds of matter) are many mansions. By mansions Jesus was referring to different centers of consciousness that we all operate through. Few people have their consciousness centered in the higher mental planes while most of us have it centered in the lower mental and emotional planes. The point is, there are many different mansions of existence. Where the center of your consciousness resides is the room of the mansion that you live in.
Proper meditation can help move one’s center of consciousness to the upper planes, giving one access to expanded consciousness and spiritual maturation. Bread is food for the physical body; meditation is food for the soul. But meditation is poorly understood in today’s world. Part of the problem is that there are so many different schools of thought and complicated terminology that without a teacher, it’s almost impossible to understand what it truly is. I’ll try to make it as simple as possible in this post. We’ll begin by breaking meditation down into three parts. The three parts below consist of a life-time of practice and development, and they are all extremely important to understand and practice in order to attain significant spiritual growth:
Today’s post will focus exclusively on concentration. In the next two posts we’ll focus on meditation and contemplation.
Concentration is not true meditation, but it is the foundation and prerequisite. We must know that one’s true self is not the mind. The mind is simply a tool to gain experience with. Concentration is needed to sharpen the tool. Without the power of concentration, the mind is weak and undisciplined. It is a weak tool.
Conquering the five senses, of which Jesus speaks so much about, is part of concentration. If we are continually caught up in engaging external stimuli, we become slaves to it. Not only does one need to take control of one’s emotions, but one also needs to take control of one’s thoughts. It has been said that most people’s minds are like ships at sea without a rudder. The wind and the waves are your thoughts and emotions, and the ship is you. Life simply happens to you. You have little conscious input and direction. However, when someone gains the power of concentration, it’s like building a strong rudder than has the power to steer the ship even amongst a fierce storm. The true power of the soul cannot shine in the mind of the weak and undisciplined because higher more distant shores can never be reached.
It should also be pointed out that weak minds easily succumb to temptations that are many times detrimental to our spiritual development.
So what is concentration? Concentration is the ability to focus the mind on one idea or thought process—and hold it there. As a teacher, I see this as a great problem among our elementary school children. There are so many ADHD meditations prescribed every year to help quiet the minds of these children who are so influenced by external stimuli. Some of these children cannot even finish a short picture book or write a small paragraph without their medication because their thoughts are constantly steering them in other directions. It’s too bad that children aren’t taught to concentrate at young ages. The more one practices concentration, the easier it becomes. This is how mental matter works. The brain is not where thoughts originate. Thoughts originate in the mental body. Our physical brains are simply conduits. Through the power of concentrated will, one can begin to make impressions on mental matter that are more easily held in the brain. We’ll talk about why this is the case in a moment.
How Can We Improve Concentration?
Many meditation practices that are taught today are in fact concentration practices. They are a part of meditation, but only the first step. One of my favorite activities for improving concentration is focusing on the breath. This type of so-called meditation is often taught for beginners because is sets the mind up for more advanced meditation later on.
To focus on the breath, get in a quiet spot and focus your attention somewhere on your body as you breathe. For example, you may wish to focus on your abdomen as it gently moves in and out while breathing, or you may wish to focus on the wind entering and leaving a specific point in the nasal passage. Your specific place of attention is not so important; it is your ability to choose a point of attention and then keep your focus there that is more important.
Sometimes I recommend counting up to twenty or thirty as your practice focusing on the breath. Each inhale and exhale counts as one. Once you reach your desired number, simply go backwards and count back down with each inhale and exhale.
In the beginning stages, you don’t want to do this too long if you are a beginner. If your head begins to hurt or feel too heavy, lessen the time of your practice.
Along the path you are going to slam into many obstacles. Remember, the mind tends to wander. The reason this is the case is because of the past mental habits you have formed over a lifetime in the mental body. A lifetime of wandering thoughts became a habit that seemingly has a consciousness and will of its own. But don’t fret; in time your will find that you crave longer and longer periods of concentration as you begin to break down the mental habits storied up in your mental body. Breaking these mental habits allow you to develop spiritually and stay more physically healthy.
Developing the power of concentration isn’t just a prerequisite for more advanced stages of meditation. It also helps you to complete tasks and goals in everyday life more efficiently. You may find that work gets easier. You might even reach greater levels of productivity. You might not seem as tired as you accomplish tasks as well.
True concentration shouldn’t become a strain on the mind. Once you achieve some success practicing it, you will see that although concentration is an active process rather than a passive one, it shouldn’t feel like a strain because it consist of resting the mind quietly on one task or thought. As you break former mental habits in the mental body concentration will seem more like rest rather than work.
Once these mental habits are broken through developing concentration power, you will be ready for another stage of spiritual development: meditation. That will be the topic of our next post. Once we look at meditation in more depth, you will easily come to understand why concentration has to be developed first.
I am back at school so my time is limited again. Obviously some weeks will afford more blog time and some weeks might not afford any, but my overall goal is to average one to two posts a week over the long term, so if you don’t see a post for an entire week or two, it just means I will be playing catch-up the following week with two or three consecutive posts.