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Friday, September 2, 2011

Practicing Concentration

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali lists concentration as one of the eight steps necessary for reaching the highest state of consciousness (samadhi). The Sutras says that the key factor in concentration is to disengage the gears of the mechanical mind from wandering thoughts and distractions of the senses so you can have total commitment to focusing on the object of your choice. The focus should be so directed and intense that mental activities form an uninterrupted flow only in relation to the object. You become so involved with the object that nothing except its comprehension is evident and identity with yourself is completely lost. This is complete integration with the object and nothing else.

A friend of mine used the power of concentration to get him through a painful, near death experience a few years ago. He was riding his motorcycle down a country road one bright sunny morning when all of a sudden an inebriated woman driving a van swerved onto his side of the road. They were both traveling about 55 MPH and when they collided head on, he was slammed into the van's grll, onto the windshield, propelled over the top and landed on the asphalt road.

Practically every bone in his body was broken. His pelvis was shattered, his leg and several ribs broken and his skull fractured. He lay unconscious for several days in intensive care with all kinds of tubes running in and out of him. The doctors said they had never seen anyone so smashed up and still alive. The gave him a 5% chance of living. Seven years have passed and he is just now beginnign to walk without a cane. He said the one thing that got him through all of the pain was his ability to concentrate on his breathing. His technique was to relax as much as possible and breathe slowly in and out concentrating on the out-breath only. On each breath out he would count up to ten and then he would start over. He said that many times he couldn't get to ten and would have to start over. But it was his ability to focus entirely on his breath that got him through the ordeal.

If you are going to practice concentration the question is; what object are you going to use? The Yoga Sutras says to focus on an object so intensly that you know the object intimately. Basically you could use a candle flame, a crystal ball or even a shoe, but are any of these objects anything you would want to become intimate with? My friend used his breath because it was the handiest and most readily object available. What object are you going to use? I'll talk about what I focus on in the next post.

To be continued.

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