Improve ConcentrationMar 07, 2023
Are you struggling to meditate because you feel your mind is too restless? Or is it difficult for you to sit down and commit to a practice of being still, quiet and present to your inner Self for some moments? Relax about this as it is not uncommon in today's modern world of distractions and dramas to feel a little overwhelmed by a busy state of mind. Rest assured this can be overcome, clarity, focus and peacefulness may even be just a few deep breaths away.
In the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna says to Krishna, "The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind" and Krishna agrees! But although He does agree that it is difficult he also says that it is POSSIBLE.
So the restless mind is quite natural and although it is difficult at first to 'tame' it is definitely possible.
To overcome restlessness, we need to focus both our thoughts and actions, because the natural pull of the world tends to keep our minds scattered and diffused, so developing presence and focus outside of meditation is as important in retraining the brain as it is inside of meditation.
Here are some ideas to help with a restless mind.
Like any habit, whether it be of the mind or actions, we can begin making the required changes by making a strong, conscious effort to do so.
In life, give every task your full attention:
- Learning to do one thing at a time (and not multi-task or juggle) helps with mental focus and also the pure enjoyment of the task.
- When interacting with others give them your full attention and listen completely and consciously without letting your mind go off on other tangents.
- Spend time in nature, watch observe and again listen consciously. Nature has a calming effect on the restless mind when we learn to tune in to her vibration and listen.
- Learn to complete a job or task before moving on to the next, this helps us to work through and problem-solve through to completion.
- As long as we habitually skip from one activity to the next, from one train of thought to another, our restlessness prevents us from experiencing calmness, which is the doorway to true meditation, peace and happiness.
- Foods and drinks that are very stimulating to the mind, such as caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, are not helpful for better concentration, as they cause a stress response in the nervous system, so consider eliminating or at best reducing these from your diet.
Just now as I was writing this article, my desktop showed a notification for a new email. I was tempted to move over to read that email, that is what the mind does, it likes to jump from here to there, but rather I turned off the notifications so that I could practice what I preach and focus on one task at a time.
Turning off distracting notifications and silencing your phone when you want to clear your mind and concentrate, focus or find inner stillness is very helpful in today's modern world of technology and notifications.
During Sadhana or meditation practice:
- Practice a walking meditation in nature for a new refreshing experience, or as an entry into your regular sitting meditation practice
- Incorporate yoga postures, gentle stretching and some breathing or pranayama techniques into your daily practice/lifestyle
- Watch your natural breathing rhythm as this helps to slow down the breath, and simultaneously the mind
- Use visualization to create a calm and peaceful environment inside your mind
- Practice Paramhansa Yogananda’s Energization exercises to help with willpower, focus and control of your energy
- Use chanting, mantra repetition and japa to help concentrate the mind and lift your feeling centre toward a calm and peaceful heart.
It is most helpful to begin your meditation practice with some relaxing breathing techniques, such as tense and relax, equal count breathing or Nadi Shodhan pranayama to relax the body, concentrate and still the mind in preparation for your usual meditation practice.
Concentration is central to a beneficial meditation practice. Learn more about meditation and helpful techniques here.
Most importantly persevere, and never give up, spiritual perseverance in the face of restlessness will ultimately lead us through the period of effort to the final phase of inner joy and fulfilment.