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JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

So I have been struggling a bit with the meaning of concentration. You can find that when you think you are concentrating all you are really doing is squinting a bit, or pushing down on your breathing. You may think about it a little and conclude that concentration, becoming more focussed, is actually impossible because conscious is conscious, always 100%. There are definitely some strong arguments against.

But there are also some arguments for. When I am reading a good book or watching a good film, I become so concentrated that the rest of the world fades from my consciousness. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I become more aware, rather the opposite. Then I recall some instances of studying at University where I was trying to focus and did ok.

Possibly the best argument was one I heard that the Buddha gave, that for him it was as if “his house was on fire”. This inspired me to think back to the few times I have actually been in mortal danger: once or twice walking in the mountains when I was young and foolish, once when bungee jumping. It concentrates the mind wonderfully.

So as an experiment I started meditating on situations of peril, starting with being trapped in a burning building. It worked rather well in terms of providing fuel for concentration...

How have you worked with your concentration?


  • I think in part you can choose what to pay attention to. So when a thought comes up about a food to cook and you are meditating you can return to the breath. If later you are cooking that food and you remember something that happened yesterday you can think about it but also pay enough attention to the cooking so the food doesn't burn.

    In meditation though sometimes even though we are concentrating on the breath sometimes we totally spin out into thinking. If you are like me this is quite frequent. And then at a point you remember the meditation. At this point don't be hard on yourself "I'm meditating badly" rather in some ways the meditation happens without your control. You woke back up to being in your practice without 'making it happen'. The meditation doesn't need to be about "making thoughts go away" as that mind the tsays to do that is also part of thinking.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    How have you worked with your concentration?

  • How have you worked with your concentration?

    Attentive and focussed mind. Concentration is not body tightening as in stress inducing ... quite the reverse in optimum Buddhist understanding ...

    So for example I have done the following:

    • Elemental meditation
    • Shingon letter focus
    • Tantric deity practice
    • Concentration on mantra
    • Breath attention
    • Walking concentration/meditation

    etc. etc. etc.

    Shall we dance?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited March 2020

    @Jeffrey said:
    The meditation doesn't need to be about "making thoughts go away" as that mind that says to do that is also part of thinking.

    I’m always reminded of the ten pictures of taming the ox, the whole proces of taming the mind and coming more to a witnessing definitely has a number of stages. I doubt whether the mind is fully quiet before you’re enlightened. I certainly don’t think you can mentally ‘squeeze’ the thoughts away, grasping or strength are not the answer.

    The question of what is concentration is a little more involved than just meditation. In my studying days I would have defined concentration as the process of bearing down on the object of attention. Certainly when you look at what happens with a movie the object of attention becomes all-encompassing, enchanting, and one’s peripheral awareness ceases. I would say that concentration is the process of strengthening attention.

    What @shoshin’s video says is that during meditation we should attempt to develop the opposite, a strong awareness with a weaker focus of attention, because as they note these two draw on one resource, which we are also trying to strengthen. I tried it for a short sit, and found it quite refreshing, it seemed to clear a few things up, and while focussing in this way I had relatively little trouble with thoughts.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited March 2020

    Thanks @shoshin for the video... I’ve had a look at Culadasa’s other video’s on YouTube and have found them to be nice. A good find. And the meditation practice also seems to reduce my tinnitus, so that’s excellent.

    It’s still relatively tricky to strengthen peripheral awareness without falling back in the trap of giving attention to one thing and focusing on that. But when it goes right it gives a solid and pleasant sensation, and it is refreshing. I found this video by Rupert Spira to be helpful as well, it talks of the relaxing of attention as being a key part of meditation:

  • David_250662David_250662 Brighton, UK New

    The differences between attention and awareness is covered beautifully in ‘The untethered soul” by Michael Singer. The thinking that creeps in when meditating is natural. It’s part of the process. We are still meditating regardless. And the thoughts have no effect on anything or anybody except us. We are encouraged to let them go by standing behind the thought. Mediating this morning I just focussed on awareness by just being ‘on’. I could hear, feel and see but that was it. Like I was on standby. It kind of worked.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I think I know what you mean... the process of meditation is somewhat individual, we all look and feel slightly differently inside, and what we take the words to mean when we receive meditation instructions also varies. So you have to try a few things out inside yourself until you find a method where you think, yeah, that gave peace.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited May 2020

    One defining line in my own practice between concentration & meditation is that the former entails deliberate thought while the latter simply does not.

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