Concentration meditation is the focusing of the mind upon a single subject. Through this attentiveness, the mind is united with the present moment. The subject that is chosen for attention will differ according to the meditation style, but the objective of sustaining a focus remains the same. The intention is to cultivate an un-distracted and undivided attentiveness. The subject that is chosen serves as a steady anchor, a lifeline amidst the swirls of thoughts, images and sensations. It is a place to continually and gently return to each time you become lost or entangled in the streams of activity that pass through your mind. The sustaining of the focus upon a single object requires both perseverance and patience as you are faced again and again with the habitual wandering of the mind as it departs into past and future. It is not willpower or striving that enables you to penetrate this habit but practice, consistency and the right spirit of dedication and acceptance. Any attempt to resist or push away the thoughts that arise will only increase their intensity. A gentle but consistent returning of the attention to the selected focus is the way to bring the mind to calmness.
Concentration focus subjects:
Mantra meditation employs the use of a particular sound, phrase, prayer or affirmation as a point of focus. Traditionally, you can only receive a mantra from a teacher, one who knows you and your particular needs. Transcendental Meditation (TM) espouses the practice of mantra meditation. If you choose to meditate on a sound, you can create your own mantra - silently or audibly repeating the word or phrase that is calming to you, such as "Om", "peace", "love", or "joy". Affirmations also work: "I am relaxed" or "I am calm and alert" are good. Think "I am" as you breathe in and "relaxed" or "calm and alert" as you breathe out. Once you have chosen a mantra, do not change it. You can recite a meaningful prayer, bible scripture or affirmation. Using a tape of chants or listening to a relaxing piece of music are also options.
Imagery or Visualization:
This involves visualizing an object such as a flower, a meadow, the ocean, a clear sky, a calm lake, a blank movie screen, or a chosen deity. Any object can be used; pick an image that gives you a relaxed, quiet feeling. With your eyes closed, visualize that image until you experience a quiet feeling. Then gently let go of the image - let it dissolve - and let the quiet feeling remain as long as you can. Go back to your image as often as you need to in order to remain still. Be careful that you don't get so involved in the image that your mind gets carried away by memories and perceptions associated with that image.
You can also focus on one of the body's chakras, or centers of primary energy, for your meditation subject to enhance the energy associated with that chakra. The Saturn chakra is at the base of the spine and is the source of dormant or coiled energy. The Jupiter chakra is behind the lower abdomen and is the source of creative energy and passion. The Mars chakra is behind the navel and is the source of action energy. The Venus chakra is behind the heart and is the source of compassionate energy and emotion. The Mercury chakra is in the throat and is the source of communication energy. The Sun chakra is on the forehead between the eyebrows and is also called the "Third Eye". It is the source of perceptive energy, unclouded thinking and intuition. The Thousand Petalled Lotus chakra is at the crown of the head. It is the source of enlightenment energy, bliss and self-realization. Placing crystals on a particular chakra will further enhance the effectiveness of your meditation.
This involves using the breath as a point of focus such as observing the breath as it is without changing it in anyway. You do this by observing every nuance of the breath and each sensation it produces: how it moves in your abdomen and torso, how it feels as it moves in and out of your nose, its quality, its temperature, and so on. Though you are fully aware of all these details, you don't dwell on them or judge them in any way; you remain detached from what you're observing. Or you may mentally think "in" while being aware of the breath coming in the nostrils and "out" while being aware of the breath leaving out of the nostrils. Then shift to simply observing the breath, noticing its own natural rhythm and its movement in your torso. By using earplugs you can increase your concentration on the sound of your breath.
Another way to observe the breath is to count it. Breathe in for 3 to 7 counts and breathe out for the same length of time. Another way to count breaths is to count breathing cycles. Inhale normally and then count on the exhale. Count up to 4 then start over. Or count the breaths from one to ten and then start again. Do this by inhaling and mentally counting one, then exhaling and counting two. Begin again when you reach ten.
This involves focusing on a physical sensation such as how hot or cold your hands feel, or on a particular emotion or any area of discomfort you feel. Whatever you choose remains your point of focus for the whole practice. Observing a physical sensation - becoming keenly aware of all its intricacies and yet remaining detached - can be more challenging than observing the breath.
Mindfulness meditation is slightly different from concentration practice although it does hold within it an element of concentration. Where concentration practice is exclusive, focusing upon a single object while excluding other aspects of your experience, mindfulness meditation is inclusive. Your body, mind, feelings, mental states, perceptions, sounds and sights are all equally embraced. Whatever is happening in any moment invites the application of mindfulness meditation without judgement or preference. Mindfulness is concerned not with just thinking about the present moment but also with the intention to understand what is actually taking place beneath your concepts, thoughts or ideas of what is occurring. In mindfulness meditation the focus of attention will shift in accord with the moment-to-moment changes that occur in your experience.