If you are new to meditation, then you may think that all types of meditation are the same thing and they merely have different names. The truth of the matter is there are three main groups of meditation. These are:
- Concentrative Meditation
- Open Awareness Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
With Mindfulness Meditation the subject concentrates on an object, so there is undoubtedly focused meditation involved, but it also includes looking at inner thoughts and even external distractions and all with a feeling of calm serenity.
Open Awareness Meditation is similar to Mindfulness Meditation, but with this type of meditation, there is no requirement to concentrate on an object. Open Awareness Meditation is purely being mindful for the entire meditation period.
5 Focus Tips for Learning Concentrative Meditation
Because Concentrative Meditation involves casting your focus on ‘something,’ then keep in mind that the object can be a real physical object, or it can be a sound or an internal image. Here are five tips for the kinds of things you can focus on:
- The sunset (physical object)
- A word or phrase (an audible mantra)
- A word or phrase uttered silently in your mind (an inaudible mantra)
- An image in your memory such as a tree, the ocean or any peaceful image (an imagined object)
- A lit candle (physical object)
Having one of the above forms of focus for your mind to concentrate on is a personal choice. Perhaps try out a few if you have never tried Concentrative Meditation before and then settle on the one you prefer.
How To Start Concentrative Meditation
The usual posture is on a cushion with your legs crossed, but if this is not possible for you, or if it’s uncomfortable, then you can certainly opt for a comfortable chair instead. The effect will be the same.
Focus on the object that you selected from the five mentioned above, and then breath in and out through your nose. With each in-breath and out-breath through your nose, concentrate on those sensations. Listen to the sounds your breathing makes. Be aware of how the air feels as it enters your nostrils and leaves your nostrils. Notice how your chest rises and falls with every breath that you take.
It is very typical for distracting sounds, thoughts, and feelings to try to break your concentration. With each type of distraction, acknowledge it for a second, and then focus back entirely on your breathing sounds and sensations. Repeat this action for every single kind of disturbance that creeps into your mind.
If you have chosen a physical object to focus on, then your eyes will be open, but let your eyes relax as you focus on your selected object. Continue to gaze at the object and continue to concentrate fully on your breathing sounds and sensations. If you have chosen a mental image, then you can perform all the above with your eyes gently closed.
Don’t Expect Instant Success
Like anything worth doing in life, Concentrative Meditation takes practice. Don’t expect instant success. At first, you’ll find that the distractions seem stronger than your will to concentrate. Other thoughts will compete for your attention. External sounds will compete with your ability to focus on the sound of your breathing. Other bodily distractions such as a random itch on your leg or arm will try to fight for your attention. All these are very normal and the more you practice, the better you become.
If you choose to gaze at a physical object, then aim to merely look at it, rather than staring at it wholeheartedly. This type of gazing is a problematic aspect to explain, but if you imagine how you’d feel looking at something while in a light trance, then that is the state to try to attain. It’s observing the object but serenely. If your eyes begin to water, then momentarily close your eyes and still see the object in your mind. Then open your eyes slowly and continue to gaze at the object once again.
If you decided to use an audible mantra such as a word or phrase, you might wonder what word or phrase to use. There are no fixed rules to this, and you can use any word or phrase (or sound) that you prefer. The ideal sound should be short, so avoid anything too lengthy. You also don’t need to make your chosen sound all the time but keep it available for when anything distracts you. Once you feel that you are distraction-free, you can remain silent once again.
What Will I Achieve by Practicing Concentrative Meditation?
There are many claims made regarding this question, but the best achievements (in my opinion,) are significantly improved concentration abilities which help tremendously at work and for learning. The other equally vital benefit is a much more relaxed ‘you’ as you’ll become much less caught up in the day-to-day anxieties from which you used to suffer. You will also find a much deeper level of patience than you used to have. In fact, your greatly improved patience will change so much that others will see the change in you. Give it a try; it’s worth it!