The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go. -Atiśa
One of the first ways I learned to focus my mind was a simple yet powerful meditation that is well documented here.
Over time I have adapted it slightly but for the most part it remains a very simple yet effective way to begin the process of traveling down the eightfold path of Buddhism. Here’s how to begin your own journey down the path of Right Concentration.
1.Choose an object of concentration. The flame from a candle is very convenient for two important reasons. Firstly fire tends to hold our attention. Most people are mesmerized by fire. Who doesn’t love sitting next to the campfire, while watching the flames dance along? Secondly a candle’s innate symbolism is that of inspiration and goodness, both important precepts. With this being said, the object of concentration can really be anything in front of you, so don’t let the absence of a candle stop you.
2.Place the object at eye level and sit down with a straight back.
3.Begin to bring awareness to your breath. Inhale and exhale slowly and gently.
4.Once you are aware of your breath, focus on a small part of the object. In the case of a lit candle, you could focus on the tip of the flame. Continue to be aware of your breath while you focus in on your object of concentration.
5.As you breathe in, imagine the essence of the flame enter you through your heart and as you exhale imagine some of your essence exit through your forehead, just above your brow. Continue to focus on the flame and imagining the cycle. In through your heart from the candle, out through your brow, returning to the candle.
6.As you become more accustomed to this practice, begin to deepen your awareness to the oneness you share with your object of concentration. Imagine that the cycle of your breath with the object allows for a shared existence with it. This idea will open your eyes to the oneness we share with everything around us.
In preparation for this post, I’ve been practicing this method and I’ve noticed a few things that I might not have known before. Firstly, the more I slow my breath, the more intense my concentration becomes. Once in a while I’d even stop my breath, and would notice a corresponding surge in one-pointedness. Secondly, the shower provides a convenient moment to practice this meditation. Whatever object I would focus on, as I settled in, I would notice the seemingly endless water droplets. These small details in turn, helped me strengthen my focus.
Play around with this practice. Remember not to take yourself too seriously. Yes, thoughts will invariably arise. Just notice the thought and then return your focus to your breath and the object. Start with just a few moments a day, and increase the time as you become more adept. Have fun, and please share any comments or experiences below.