Concentration

There are many forms of meditation. But they all have a common foundation: Concentration. Concentration is the steadiness of attention and it is fundamental in meditation.

Before we talk about anything else we must clear something up. The word concentration can have connotations of effort and strain in daily use. It couldn’t be more false in the context of meditation. Concentration is a state of resting your awareness on an object such as the breath in an effortless way.

Being concentrated (or absorbed) on your breath is very much like being absorbed in a movie or a piece of music, both in terms of quality and how you get there. In both cases you only need to keep paying attention and at one point you find yourself focused. And it is not something you can force. It happens by itself.

In the case of a movie or music there are two conditions that make absorption possible:

1- We are interested in the content and our mind is easily drawn into it.

2- We consistently pay attention.

We can take the same attitude and apply it to the breath. In concentration meditation we observe the breath with all the curiosity that we have. We become aware of its qualities and we stay on it. The mind wanders, and we gently (without making a big deal) bring it back. That’s all. The rest is practice. And it means bringing your attention back to the breath over and over and over again. It requires great patience, perseverance and acceptance.

It is very much like training a puppy to stay in one place. Getting mad and forcing the puppy is not going to work. The only thing you can do is gently and lovingly bring it back no matter how many times it wanders off.

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