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Zen Concentration Meditation Instruction by a
Meditator - Structural Bodyworker - Part 5
CONCENTRATING THE MIND
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 --- Part 6 Part 7
by Lou Gross
School Certified Master Postural Integrator
Founder & Director of The Institute for Enhanced Performance
27 years successful Bodywork experience - Meditator since 1969
For more information & free consultations, call 321-726-9083
Concentration Focus: There are various ways to focus the mind with the breath. Some systems of yoga use breath control of various types, fast or slow, in the nostrils or in the belly, holding it for a number of counts, and so forth. This is all very scientifically worked out and very healthy to do.
In Zen concentration meditation however, our specific task is to focus the mind on each and every present moment, in the continuum of present moments of daily life as it naturally unfolds. And while we have a few variations of doing that, they all consist of watching, or following, the breath. In the last section, you just learned one that also circulates the breath.
Concentrating Your Mind in the Lower Abdomen: Now we're going to concentrate in the lower abdomen. The easiest way to focus for almost everyone, especially in the beginning, is to count the breaths. Use the numbers from one to ten, and focus a different number on each breath. There are various schemes, but one of the easiest is to start counting on exhalations and continue the count through the inhalation, paying particular attention not to lose your focus at the points where exhalation turns to inhalation and inhalation turns to exhalation.
The exhalation carries with it more physical power, and the diaphragm relaxes on the exhalation, so it's easier to start your mental attention with that part of your breath. Start with the number one, see the picture of a "1" in your mind's eye, in your belly, and if you're alone, you can even say it out loud. As with the breath adjustment, allow the stream of breath to be focused and long drawn out. As your concentration on the numbers increases, your breath will become longer and quieter.
When you inhale, your diaphragm will naturally be contracting as it pushes downward, and you should continue with the same number, focusing on it silently in your mind. At the end of the inhalation, switch to the next number, and repeat the process. Continue up to ten, and when you're through, start anew with another "one." If you're doing it out loud, it would sound like: "wuuuuunnnn, (pause while inhaling), twoooooooooooo, (pause while inhaling),..... teeeeennnnnnn, (pause while inhaling), wuuuuunnnnn, etc."
A good length of practice for beginners is 20-30 minutes at a time. Even just 5 minutes at a time is OK, if that's all you can do.
Controlling the Wandering Mind: If you notice your mind has wandered off into thinking various thoughts, and it will, just go back to the number you were on. If you forgot the number, start again with "one." And don't worry or feel self-conscious about a wandering mind. That's the NATURE of our little minds. And that's why we must do body-mind breathing techniques and other physiological practices in order to calm it down and be able to concentrate with it. What we call the mind also behaves in accordance with our energy field and body. That's why we adjust and improve upon them first.
Practice is quite simply a matter of repetition. The more you practice this, with sincere attentiveness, the greater will become your ability to focus and count clearly, with fewer random thoughts. And as this power becomes greater, it can be used more effectively in more complex daily activities, including purposeful thinking, emotional centeredness and expression, and physical athletics.
The purpose of using numbers is to give your mind something to pay attention to, and for most people, saying numbers to yourself is even more attention getting than just feeling your body and watching your breath. We use the numbers 1-10 because they're easy for almost everybody, and stimulate very little conceptual thought. When you focus on these numbers, you have only ten different things to pay attention to, one at a time, over and over, for a half hour to forty minutes.
As you try this, you'll notice how many other things your mind wants to think about. It's amazing. The purpose of this concentration practice is to develop your Mind so you think when you want, about what you want, not about when and what your out-of-control little thinking part wants. More precisely, the little mind just runs on by itself, either randomly with minor unrelated thoughts, or continuously with a compulsive chain of thoughts. As you build concentration power, other parts of your nervous system will gain strength and your will be able to stay present and attentive better.
Ten different numbers aren't "Just One Thing." But if you focus on each number and each in-out transition very closely, you'll be focusing on just one thing at a time.
Many times, our minds wander and we're caught up in the thoughts. At these times we are not aware of our minds wandering. We're part of the wandering. At some time, we all notice that our minds are wandering. And at the time you do notice it, just bring your attention and "effort" back to counting.
notice that a wandering mind corresponds to the times when your head has
dropped forward. Try bringing your head up and see what happens "inside
it." Wandering thoughts often cause heads to drop. Conversely,
non-attentive posture creates dropped heads. Periodically check your
posture. It helps.
Copyright 2001, 2002
Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved