Improve Your Concentration Through Meditation.

A simple meditative practice designed to build concentration.

Whether you are a daily meditator or only heard of meditation from a friend, most people seem to agree that meditation can have profound effects on the body and mind. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits, from changes in grey matter volume to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.  In today’s world, with so many distractions and stimulations, a clear mind is an essential tool to use during decision making.  Most people aren’t using this tool and according to National Institute of Health data published in 2012, only 8% of Americans practiced meditation daily.  Nooflux wants to discuss a different approach to meditation, one centered around balancing calming the mind and focusing on the present moment.  When most people think about meditation, intense focus generally isn’t the first thought that will come to mind.  Many people have difficulty in starting or deepening their meditation practice because of the lack of intensity during their meditation. The mind naturally starts to wander, and the practice of mindful meditation means gently bringing the attention back into the body, and in the breath.  This lack of intensity is explained as one of the “five hindrances” of meditation, according to Buddhist tradition.

“The mind has two main functions, ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’. The way of meditation is to calm the ‘doing’ to complete tranquility while maintaining the ‘knowing’. Sloth and torpor occur when one carelessly calms both the ‘doing’ and the ‘knowing’, unable to distinguish between them. “

– Ajahn Brahmavamso

How Meditation can help develop your ability to focus

Whenever you have a deep interest in something, focus is a natural by-product.  If you are working on your breathing during your practice, you need to generate an intense desire to want to know your breath deeply.  You must yearn to want to experience your breath on every level imaginable, over and over.  That intense desire and interest will inevitably lead to a sharper focus on your practice.  Most people find this method easier to practice and just as effective when compared to traditional meditation. In focused meditation, individuals can focus on almost any object or thing that can be picked up by your senses. For instance, one can focus on particular sound, image, smell, body part, or breathing technique.  

How to Prepare for Your Practice

It’s important to go into your meditation with intention. Visualize what you want to focus working on and prepare that idea prior to your practice.

Find yourself in a comfortable seated  position and make sure you’re in an area with minimal distractions.  Put your entire attention on the selected target and calm the internal voice that will try to analyze.  Increase the intensity of your focus as you get deeper into your meditation.  Keep in mind that meditation is a skill that you develop with practice, so don’t get discouraged if your mind starts to wander. This is normal, so just remember to realize you’ve wandered off and bring the attention back into the body.  

Imagine that we are going to meditate for 10 minutes (600 seconds). Let’s visually represent your meditation as a square on a paper, filled with 600 dots. Before you start your meditation, all of the dots are blank.

Each second of your meditation can only be spent in one of three ways. Either with the object of focus (in this example, our breath), with another object (such as a thought or memory), or we can enter a “blanked out” state that is neither focused or distracted.

We can represent these with the following colors:

  • For each second you focus on your breath, you get a green dot.
  • For each second you are engaged in thoughts, you get a red dot.
  • For each second you are in a blank state, you get a gray dot.

The goal is to fill the blank dots with as many green dots as possible. The more green dots you have, the deeper and clearer your meditation feels. The more red dots you have, the more distracted and “noisy” your meditation will feel. If it is filled with gray dots, meditation is “calm but clouded”.

As your begin, your first couple practices might look similar to this:

As you practice and your focus intensifies, your meditation will start to look like this:

The goal for the meditator is to gently:

1. Decrease the number of consecutive reds
2. Increase the overall number of greens (pure concentration moments)
3. Increase the number of consecutive greens
4. Decrease the number of grays

Remember that if your meditation practice never achieves all green, that is fine.  The most important thing is striving to improve and deepen your practice.

According to the Hindu teaching of the three gunas (which are the basic characteristics of building blocks of all existence), we can say that:

  • green is sattva (purity, balance, serenity, openness, clarity, presence, awareness)
  • red is rajas (activity, dynamism, movement, agitation, restlessness)
  • gray is tamas (torpor, sloth, inertia, obfuscation, heaviness, forgetfulness)

The positive effects of focused meditation on the cognitive function

Meditation has profoundly positive effects on the executive functions. Organization, motivation, planning, and discipline are some of the most important executive functions. By practicing focused mediation, it becomes easier over time to eliminate surface distractions and strengthen the neural connections associated with executive functions. Even the working memory is improved with the help of focused meditation. The best part is that you don’t have to practice focused meditation for a long time to notice the difference. You will retain the information you’ve received for a longer period of time and you will be able to use it at the right time and in the right place. This type of meditation is also good for unleashing creativity, allowing people to consider alternative solutions and new ideas. Practicing focused meditation on a regular basis and incorporating nootropics that support your practice will help you achieve your optimal potential.