How many times during the day do you look at what you need to do and your mind can’t concentrate on just the task at hand? There seems to be too many things pulling your attention away or you are too easily distracted by constant assault of our thoughts and of our inability to calm them down. How many times do you start reading a book or an article only to be distracted and need to reread that same sentence or paragraph over again? Or you are in a conversation and realize you didn’t really hear what the other person said?
Our mind is constantly undergoing change, constantly bombarded with useless and unimportant thoughts that waste our time and energy. Sometimes we find they seem to actually take over our life. Think about this situation, you are trying to study or prepare for an important presentation. You sit down to read the report. After a while you hear voices and you are distracted, you get curious and listen to what that conversation is about, then you bring your attention back to your report. Later, you get restless in your chair and you get up to walk around or you may turn on the radio and listen to some music. You continue reading, later you remember something someone said and you start thinking about it, maybe even obsessing about it.
You look at the time and realize an hour has passed and you really haven’t accomplished much in preparing for that report. In fact, you probably need to reread what you have just read.
This is the restless mind, or a lack of concentration. Now what do you think you could accomplish if you could focus your attention, to become mindful of your surroundings, your time and your efforts.
Just as learning any new skill it doesn’t happen overnight, it does take practice but there are a few exercises you can do to help achieve this goal. It doesn’t need to be undertaken forcefully or with effort, and it can be fun. If practiced with a positive attitude, optimism, with joy and understanding, concentration will bring great results.
Here are just a few tips for concentration practices.
- Find a place where you won’t be disturbed. Get comfortable, because you know, if you’re uncomfortable, or have an itch, you can’t concentrate. Most people find a comfortable chair.
- Take a few calming breaths and relax your body. Concentrate on relaxing your body from head to toe. Actually I like to start with my toes and work up. I actually tell my muscles to relax. Yes, I talk to myself.
Practice this for about 10 minutes. After a few weeks you can extend the time to 15. Like any new skill we start in small steps. It’s important you start with this first exercise and practice only one at a time until you are able to do it without getting distracted or without thinking about anything else, before proceeding to the next exercise. It may take days, weeks, or longer. It doesn’t matter. We are working on concentration and mindfulness.Put your whole attention into the exercises, and do not think about anything else.
Be careful not to fall asleep, daydream or think about other matters. The moment you find yourself thinking about something else, stop the exercise and start again. If you find you are having difficulties, don’t give up, everyone has problems at first. Our minds race at times. But persevere, with practice comes success.
Some other concentration exercises others have suggested are:
Counting words in a paragraph, then counting again, to make sure you counted correctly. Do this mentally and not with your fingers.
Count backwards in your mind from one hundred to one.
Count in your mind from one hundred to one, skipping each three numbers, that is 100, 97, 94, etc.
Choose an inspiring phrase or word or just a simple word or simple sound, and repeat it silently in your mind for five minutes. When you can do this more easily, increase the time.
Personally, my favorite, is examine an object. This can be a fruit, a flower, anything. Hold it in your hands. Examine it from all sides, keep your attention focused solely on it. Don’t let yourself get carried away by irrelevant thoughts. But only on that object. Then close your eyes. Try to see it, smell it, and visualize the color, maybe the taste. Keep it well defined in your mind’s eye. If it becomes blurry, open your eyes and look at it again. Continue the exercise.
You are focusing your mind, you are becoming mindful.
There are many other exercises to learn concentrate, but just as you learn to jog, exercise at the gym, dance or learn a new language. There are many different approaches and methods to learning. It can be difficult or it can be fun. I prefer fun, I prefer to try to make it a habit. I also like to make things easy as possible. Relaxing and examining objects works best for me to still my mind.
Everyone learns differently. You find what works for you by trying different methods, which practice becomes second nature to you, which one, is the easiest for you to master . It could be meditation or just as easy as becoming mindful of an object. The more you do it, the more you will be able to make the mind work for you in its most efficient way and you will be able to silence it when you need it to be quiet. You will become mindful, your concentration is stronger, and your attitude and reactions to people and events becomes calmer and more peaceful, because you are in control