Concentration is fixating your thoughts on a single idea or point.
In this article, we will outline what concentration really is, and then provide a good list of techniques and exercises from the Yoga perspective and then we will look at other perspectives for the neophyte to get started with.
Most of the works cited in this article can be found on the Free Resources page on this site.
William Walker Atkinson in Thought Culture references a writer’s bold statement about attention.
“It constitutes the better half of all intellectual power”.
The benefits of attention are many, from increased productivity, emotional management, improved listening ability, improved perception and stronger willpower and impulse control.
In three experiments aimed at answering the hypothesis, “that thus observing one’s thoughts prevents spontaneous approach reactions to attractive, impulse-eliciting stimuli.”, it was found that, “Applying the mindful attention strategy most strongly reduced impulses toward the specific stimuli studied.”
There are many more benefits to be discussed, however we wish to focus our article on the yoga perspective on concentation & the practical application of concentration.
Let us continue on to Yoga perspective.
The Yoga Concentration Perspective
“We may try the result of gathering together all the powers of the mind, and attempting to focus them on a single point.”BOOK 4
It is recommended that you read and apply the previous techniques such as PRATYAHARA, YAMA AND NIYAMA and ASANA before you begin your exercises in DHARANA.
Crowley includes the definition of DHARANA from a renowned yogi and yoga teacher, to further the readers understanding.
“Patanjali says: “Dharana is holding the mind on to some particular object. An unbroken flow of knowledge in that subject is Dhyana.”BOOK 4
So, you see here, DHARANA is the process of controlling the mind to focus on a particular object and the result of that is DHYANA which is the state in which one does not associate one thing to another thing.
Fixing your attention onto a single idea may seem simple, but it gets more difficult the longer you focus and the harder the idea you are focusing on.
Other thoughts will invade the mind, so that the object is altogether forgotten, perhaps for whole minutes at a time; and at other times the object itself will begin to play all sorts of tricksBOOK 4
We will look at the exercises Crowley mentions in Liber Evel Exercitiorum:
- Constrain the mind to concentrate itself upon a single simple object imagined.
The five tatwas are useful for this purpose; they are: a black oval; a blue disk; a silver crescent; a
yellow square; a red triangle.
- Proceed to combinations of simple objects; e.g. a black oval within a yellow square, and so
- Proceed to simple moving objects, such as a pendulum swinging, a wheel revolving, etc.
Avoid living objects.
- Proceed to combinations of moving objects, e.g. a piston rising and falling while a pendulum
is swinging. The relation between the two movements should be varied in different
The techniques do get harder as you progress, we will share some advice on how to stay persistent and successful in your training.
Please understand that in doing this practice you are supposed to be seated in Asana, and to have note-book and pencil by your side, and a watch in front of you. You are not to practise at first for more than ten minutes at a time, so as to avoid risk of overtiring the brain.BOOK 4
The student is supposed to count the number of times that his thought wanders; this he can do on his fingers or on a string of beads. If these breaks seem to become more frequent instead of less frequent, the student must not be discourage; this is partially caused by his increased accuracy of observationBOOK 4
While the Yoga perspective of attention control is really important, we will also look at other perspectives.
The first advice in training concentration is by focusing on one thing at a time.
Multitasking is praised in the modern world, but it comes with a hefty cost.
You may be able to multitask but what is the quality of your work ?
“The first role in the cultivation of the attention is that the student shall carefully acquire the habit of thinking of or doing but one thing at a time”.Thought Culture
The second advice in improving attention and concentration is fixing your attention into one object for an extended amount of time.
The legend of the evil-eye derives from the ability of wizards and sorcerers to give a fixed dead stare. This ability can be practiced against any object — a mark on a wall, something in the distance, a star in the night sky — anything. To hold an object with an absolutely fixed, unwavering gaze for more than a few moments proves extraordinarily difficult, yet it must be persisted in for hours at a time.LIBER NULL
Other methods of improving one’s attention involves being attentive in their daily life.
When you are conversing with someone, really listen.
When you are reading, read attentively.
When you hear the sounds around you, separate them and focus on them individually.
The last advice we will give regarding attention is the advice of the author of Thought Culture.
“To develop and cultivate the power of attention and concentration, (1) Analyze; (2) Analyze; and (3) Analyze. Analyze everything and everybody with which or whom you come in contact.”THOUGHT CULTURE
Attention (DHARANA) is the fixation of the mind on one idea, thought or point. The benefits of good attention are many. Benefits include; better productivity, relaxed & composed mind, impulse control, etc.
The second set of exercise were general exercises. They include;
- Focusing on one thing at a time. Avoid multitasking.
- Fix your attention on one object for an extended amount of time.
- Be attentive in your daily life.
- Analyse everything & everyone
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