Welcome to the second installment of How to Mediate! Yesterday was Mother’s Day and mine was filled with the sweetness of my two boys as well as donuts, ice cream, and triple chocolate brownies! Spending time with them is a reminder of the need to be present in my everyday life. They are growing so fast!
Sometimes in life we find ourselves distracted by everything around us and unable to enjoy the wonder of the moment. Other times the distractions prevent us from being able to complete even the simplest of tasks….like writing a blog post. And often these distractions lead us to feel like we need to multitask to get more done. However, we’re all terrible multitaskers! What we really need is to concentrate on one thing at a time and forgo all else in order to both experience the moment in its fullest and also to accomplish the most. This is most important when we come to meditation.
Dharana is the 6th limb in the 8 limb path and it is roughly translated from Sanskrit to mean Concentration or Holding Focus. Last week we worked on turning inward and paying attention to the body and our thoughts. This week I’d like you to practice these three five minute meditations to improve your concentration.
Meditation 1 – Visual Concentration
Take five minutes out of your day and attempt to stare at this image. Do not turn your eyes away, do not attempt to decipher the image, do not do anything other than look at this line.
When you’ve finished, evaluate your success in being able to concentrate on a single image for a period of time. Did you allow things to distract you? Did your vision or your mind wander to other things? If you had trouble with this image, take a day and try again. This meditation practice is specifically designed to elicit feelings of happiness as most people imagine it to be a smile or something else soft and rounded that brings them happiness. For people who have a hard time with concentration they will often find the line moving. We will deal with those thoughts when we get to the last week of this series, but for now, just let the line be what it is to you as long as you don’t look away or forget to watch it.
Meditation 2 – Internal Visual Concentration
Each person is a different type of learner and expresser in life. Some of us are auditory, some visual, and some kinesthetic. For many people this next meditation is more difficult because it requires you to turn even deeper inward to your own imagery abilities and yet, not let those get the better of you. Once inside your head, don’t lose the image or let other thoughts take over. For the next five minutes imagine a feather.
At the end of your five minutes, tell me what your feather looked like, what it did, how hard was it to hold on to? Think about what feathers represent…..flight …..freedom…. lightness. Many people feel lighter after this meditation and free from things that have been weighing them down. Others have a hard time with holding on to their feather and it keeps morphing or floating out of their field of view. If this is you, take a day and try again.
Meditation 3 – Reverse Pomodoro
I’ve written a little about techniques like this in the past (see here, here, and here), but today we’re going to try a 5 minute meditation in order to help you focus in and concentrate on some work to get done. First, pick a project. Something that you’ve been meaning to get done. For me it’s often a cleaning task, writing a post, reading a book, checking the grotesque amount of emails I’ve amassed, or just anything on my endless list of “to do”. You’re going to need to set some rules for the next thirty minutes. The first rule is that you are unavailable to anyone else at this time. The second rule is that you can’t multitask! Pick one thing to work on…..I know it’s hard…..but c’mon…..let’s do it!
Set up your work space as you will need it when the meditation is over and the work is to begin. Stand or sit in front of it, but slightly back. Set a timer for five minutes. Take a visual run down of the area and focus your attention, visually, for a moment on where you will start when the timer goes off. Close your eyes and start the timer. For the next five minutes, pair your breath to this mantra:
For each inhale repeat the word Just or Only
For each exhale repeat the word This
When the timer goes off, begin working immediately for the next 25 minutes. When you are finished, you can again take your eyes off of the work, engage with others, and overall, just take a breath and relax. Take some time to get up, walk around, do something else and consider your concentration and focus. For many people this mantra can help you get into the mindset of staying on task. It brings you awareness that you learn during Pratyahara and helps with deepening Dharana in preparation for the next step in the meditation experience.
I would love it if you would share your experience with the 5 minute Meditations with us here in the comments or as a post on your blog linked in the comments below!