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Meditating on Meditation, Part 2: Concentrative Meditation

Filed Under: Health Aids at 5:08 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
CandleI have taken the first step in my meditation experiment, with the first method. The results so far are . . . well, we’ll get to those momentarily. Let’s start by talking about concentrative meditation. It is generally recommended that you begin with this type, as it is the most widely used and, apparently, the easier practice to adopt. In concentrative meditation, you sit, stand or lie in a quiet place for five- to 30-minute sessions.  During that time, you concentrate on one thing. It can be your breath, a mental image, a physical object, or a word or phrase. If you’re just starting, select your breath. This will ensure that you not only maximize the concentrative aspect but the basic meditative aspect (by deliberately practicing deep breathing) as well. Should you prefer one of the other three, choose something that has meaning for you, something spiritually significant.  As you sit, relax; breathe deeply but naturally. Pay attention only to your focal point. If a stray thought enters your mind, acknowledge and immediately dismiss it. Continue this for five minutes, eventually working up to 30 minutes, twice a day.

If you are successful at concentrative meditation, you will see numerous benefits. The most obvious is better concentration. You won’t be as easily distracted and will find that you can focus more adeptly on your daily tasks. You’ll also be calmer, more peaceful, more restful. Little problems will cause less anxiety. Your mind will be more open and tranquil yet more alert and centered. All around, you will approach life with a better outlook, but, of course, this is only if you succeed. I, sadly, have not.

Perhaps, I lack dedication, although I’ve tried every day for the last week, sometimes several times a day. I block out the noise, find a serene location, close my eyes and eliminate unnecessary thoughts from my mind . . .  theoretically. I can’t seem to get the thoughts out of my head. Every time I “acknowledge and dismiss ”, I wind up acknowledging and embracing. I’ve never come up with so many reasons to e-mail absolute strangers or already overly-harassed friends. I have outlined stories, posts, conversations – anything, really. I’ve thought of everything, except for nothing. I tried focusing on a phrase rather than my breath, but in my mind phrases lead to sentences, which lead to paragraphs, which lead to unlimited possibilities. I am truly disappointed in myself. I know that one week is not enough time to become “good” at a certain method of meditation, but shouldn’t I have succeeded in concentrating for at least five minutes? I am resolved to go home tonight and try one more time, before I move on, but I am doubtful. I can only hope that my next foray into meditation is a little less counterproductive.

One Response to “Meditating on Meditation, Part 2: Concentrative Meditation”

  1. Rick Cockrum says:

    Hi Susan,

    I know that one week is not enough time to become “good” at a certain method of meditation, but shouldn’t I have succeeded in concentrating for at least five minutes?

    After a week of practice I would be surprised if you could concentrate on just one thing for five minutes. Five minutes is a long time. A few seconds, maybe.

    In the eastern contexts in which meditation developed, especially raja yoga, concentration was the sixth step, preceded by dos and don’ts of behavior, learning to hold the body in one position, learning to breathe, and withdrawing the mind from it’s focus on the external world. All these had the effect of preparing the mind to concentrate, releasing some of the distractions that we get when we today decide we’re going to learn to meditate.

    Strange though it seems, what you are experiencing is a result of your practice. It shows that you are making progress and the mind is rebelling against changing its habits.

    If you continue, I would suggest that you don’t worry about attaining any result. Just look at it as a habit that you do, like a child brushes their teeth just because that is what you do, not because they know it will help prevent tooth decay. Paradoxically, focusing on the process and not the results will, in the long run, lead to better results.

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