If you think concentrating is equivalent to meditation, you are wrong and here’s why. There are a lot of different types of meditation available in the market today, most of them commercialized and popularised by the western idea of meditation. One of them is concentration meditation.
Concentration meditation itself is not a technique but is a series of techniques. Since the introduction of meditation to the west, people came out with self-made techniques to earn quick bucks. The lack of complete knowledge, the extreme marketing, the dot-com boom all led to a type of meditation which was not even close to the ideologies of meditation.
So, what exactly is it concentration meditation? How is meditation different from concentration? What should be the right thing to do? I am going to answer all these questions in this post.
Concentration meditation: Where it came from?
In order to understand the present version, we first need to understand how it was actually. Meditation has its roots in all religions, however, the first occurrence was found in Vedic texts followed by Buddhist and Chinese texts and is mostly considered an eastern tradition.
During ancient times, meditation and other valuable knowledge were passed on from the teacher to a student. Guru played a very important part in a person’s character building. In order to introduce the concept of meditation to the students, the guru had to find an instrument of concentration to their distracted students. That instrument was sometimes a mantra, an object, a beaded mala. The purpose of this instrument was to let the students improve their concentration before getting into the meditative state.
What is the difference between concentration and meditation?
When translated into Hindi, the two terms might be equivalent to
What differentiates the two is, Dharana/ concentration is the action that you do while Dhyana/meditation is the state of being. I recently read an article on Vipassana this was explained using an analogy. the terms were explained in a very subtle way.
Imagine your thoughts are like the rays of the sun, scattered but provides the warmth needed to sustain the life. However, when the same light is passed through a lens and allowed to focus on a piece of paper, it becomes a storehouse of energy and burns the paper. In this analogy the lens is concentration and the focused light having immense energy is your meditative state and the paper is the object or the hindrance you want to get through.
We can say concentration is a prerequisite for meditation and is the predecessor of it.
Now that we have understood that concentration is required to get into the meditative state, we will talk about what are the types of concentration meditation one can perform.
Types of concentration meditation
Focus on your breath is the most commonly used phrase in yoga and meditation and I have always wondered why. I have always found the breath to be really mysterious. How a child starts breathing when he comes out of the body and how the breath leaves you on the death bead while everything else is intact. How the loss of breath can make you a lump of fat and how the existence of it and focus on it can make you Buddha. Breath is our bridge between life and death.
We breathe approximately 21600 times a day and it is our only constant companion. Also, the breath is closely associated with our moods. Our breath changes when we are angry and it changes when we are nervous or anxious. Also, since it is portable you can carry it anywhere.
1. Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed if you are a beginner.
2. Try to focus on inhalation as the air touches your nostrils and feel the warmth as you exhale.
3. Focus on the abdomen rise and sink with each inhalation and exhalation.
4. Do not try to force deep breathing. Breathe normally and focus all your concentration on the sensations when you breathe.
It is rightly said by Bhante Gunaratana on Vipassana,
“Each breath, if taken to heart, can also offer profound insights about cycles of change and impermanence, about receiving and releasing, and can affirm your intimate connection and belonging to the whole of creation.”
2. Trataka: or a focused gaze
The most common and widely known technique of concentration meditation is Trataka. Trataka is the unwavering focus on one object of attention.
In yoga, a lot of significance is given to Drishti or the gaze and is connected to the movement of our thoughts. In this technique, we are trying to make our gaze still and eventually our mind.
Beginners start with an external object of concentration like a candle flame or a black dot on a white background or any other object of significance. When one has mastered the external meditation technique, can he proceed to the internal object gazing. The object of focus in the internal method is usually the center point between the eyebrows, commonly known as the third eye. In some Taoist practices, Trataka can also be performed by looking at the petals of a flower.
1. Put the candle at a distance of an arm’s length from where you are sitting.
2. Sit in crossed leg position or any other posture you are comfortable in. All the postures are briefly mentioned in my basic meditation guide for beginners.
3. The wick of the candle should be at the level of your chest.
4. Light the candle and try to fix your gaze on the flame.
5. Do not try too hard not to blink or your eyes will soon get tired and watery. Instead, relax your eyes even if they are droopy. This will give you ample time to look at the candle flame without blinking.
6. Hold the gaze till you blink and then close your eyes to see the impression of the candle flame with closed eyes.
7. Focus on the impression and try to hold it for as long as possible. If you lose the impression, repeat the process again.
This method is not recommended to perform daily as the heat of the candle and light of the flame might trouble the retina in the long run.
Never gaze at the candle for more than 30 mins at a stretch.
If you want to perform the method daily, then replace the candle with any other inanimate object like a flower.
Another very powerful object for concentration meditation is a mantra. I have heard a lot of concerns related to a mantra, mostly regarding the religious significance and people often want a more secular version of a mantra. Transcendental meditation is one of the best seller in the meditation market because of a specific mantra was given to every person according to their characteristics. However, shelling big bucks is not everybody’s fortay and there are several better alternatives to it.
A mantra is a Sanskrit word derived from two words ‘man’(brain) and ‘tra’(let go). Something that frees the mind.
Why is a mantra so important?
Mantra creates vibration, like everything else in the world. Your body, your cells, the water inside your body and the hormones, everything has a specific vibration. When we hear something, we are sending some vibrations inside the body. Especially music, musical vibrations can change our mood instantly. The same concept is used in mantra meditation to calm the mind.
A mantra is usually a Sanskrit or a pali syllable or a sequence of syllables. The most common and secular syllables are “AUM” and “ SO-HAM”. However, some people prefer to create their own mantras in their own languages. I prefer using a Sanskrit mantra because I like the way it sounds and it also has a spiritual significance.
1. Sit in a comfortable posture and inhale and exhale deeply.
2. Inhale deeply and repeat the mantra on exhalation.
3. Repeat it as many times as you want
4. This should be followed by a few minutes in silence to feel the effectiveness.
There are several other mantras that you can use for concentration meditation,
1. AUM/ OM
3. Gayatri mantra “ Om bhur, bhuvah, svah, tat savitur varenyam || bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prachodayat”
4. Om Mani Padme Hum
5. Soham, Hamsa
6. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare 7. Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
8. Om Namah Shivaya
9. Om A Ra Pa Ca Na Dhih
1. “I am that I am”: Hebrew, God’s answer to Moses when asked for his name
2. “I change my thoughts, I change my world.”: Norman Vincent Peale
3. “I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank You”
4. “Love is the only miracle there is.”:
5. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
6. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Choose the method or instrument that suits you the best. There are also questions lingering whether music can be used in concentration meditation.I am particularly not a fan of meditation music because while music affects our state of mind, it is by no means an object to silent our mind. If you want to flow and dance and bring your awareness to the present moment, it might be a good tool. But if you want to practice Buddhist or silent meditation, listening to music while trying to focus on your breath is not a good idea. Your brain has the tendency to attach itself to the music and keeps bringing the memories attached to a particular type of music. Also, meditation is the art of making internal vibrations and feelings stronger but music is likely to be a distraction, preventing us from finding the pleasant feelings from within.
Meditation is a deep practice that has the power to change your conscience if done in the right way. Through my blogs, I am trying to simplify it for beginners. I have a complete guide for beginners if you want to kick-start your practice. Let’s look deep within and find a life full of love and purpose.
Chakshu is a US alliance certified yoga teacher, a biotechnologist and an Ayurveda evangelist. Her passion is to help people live a toxic-free life, emotionally and chemically. She loves reading self-help books. When she is not writing, she is busy thinking about life.