How Meditation Can Improve Concentration
Is stress preventing you from reaching your full potential? Practicing simple meditation strategies can alleviate anxiety and bring you to a state of tranquility, says author Dominque Loreau.
Develop Your Concentration: Meditate
‘Only let the troubled waters be calm, and the sun and moon will be reflected on the surface of your being.’
Rumi (thirteenth-century Sufi poet)
Create empty space around yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by noise, faces, your nearest and dearest. Create empty space in order to concentrate on a single subject, or rather on the relationship between yourself and it. You are aiming to neutralise your thoughts, your desires and your imagination.
Begin by aiming for a state of ‘non-thinking’. At first, ideas will recur: push them gently away. Erase them again and again, even for only thirty seconds. You will see it can be done. This is the first step. Yogis can remain in this state for an entire day. If you practise emptying your mind of thoughts, regularly and diligently, they will float to the surface, but their presence will be felt less and less, and they will be more easily rejected. Training yourself to meditate or control your mind is like training a muscle in the body. Patience and perseverance will produce results.
When a person meditates, they sink into a state of repose twice as deep as that of sleep. The body consumes more oxygen, the heartbeat rises, and the mind is alert. It takes ten minutes to reach this state in meditation, but six hours when asleep.
During meditation, all ambivalence, all dependence on others, all attachments, disappear completely. We feel a tremendous sense of freedom: this is the quickest and simplest path to happiness. Allow things to take their course, as if you weren’t involved. After a time, you will feel utterly detached. Meditation can be practised anywhere, even while waiting for a bus or doing the dishes. Golf is excellent for meditation, relaxation and peace of mind. A golfer once said that, at the end of a round, he felt as much at peace with himself as a Buddhist monk on the summit of a mountain. What matters is to take a moment to pay attention to your inner self. This is a source of strength found nowhere else. Meditation is not vacuous. It does not induce a state of torpor – it is a stringent mental discipline, a process by which we sharpen our conscious-ness and our powers of concentration, both of which are extremely useful in everyday life.
‘But I don’t have time,’ as someone once said . . .
The verb ‘to meditate’ (meditari in Latin) means to allow oneself to be lead towards the center. Things that have become fixed will dominate and block the mind. Take time, quite simply, to ‘be’; allow your mind to recharge in silence. From time to time, set your own image aside and revisit the sensation of being someone completely new.
There are times when we need to learn how to do nothing. Meditation helps us understand how our psyche functions. Before practising it, people are often unaware of just how many scattered ideas pass through their mind in the space of a second. These fleeting thoughts complicate our lives.
Meditation is nourishment for the psyche.
Meditation is nourishment for the psyche. It enables us to achieve self-renewal and to reaffirm the essential things in life. Running on a beach, sitting in a wood, listening to music – activities such as these take time. We can meditate – in other words, keep our mind active and mobile – when walking, sitting, standing or lying down.
The body must be silenced for meditation by adopting specific postures (yoga offers a number of options, including the lotus position, and shavasana – lying on your back on the floor, in a state of total relaxation, eyes closed). Slow your breathing as far as possible. Silence your thoughts. Refuse anything that will bring you out of your state of non-thinking.
The Zen Buddhist master Deshimaru said that thoughts should be allowed to float like clouds in the sky; he advised his followers to ‘be life’ rather than thinking about it. Meditation enhances blood circulation and memory. It obliges us to seek inner silence and to economise our words, focusing instead on internal, organic sounds, our heartbeat and breathing.
Meditate to find ‘ground zero’ in your own mental and muscular activity. Experience the sense of heat and weight suffusing your body. Express what you are feeling by talking to yourself: ‘I feel heat flowing into my body . . .’ Anchor each new sensation in words, a simple statement. Later, simply repeat the phrase to experience the sensation.
In her new book L'art de la Simplicite, author Dominque Loreau shares her practical wellness tips for creating a simpler, more balanced life.