How does one improve memory and concentration?
To every experienced meditation teacher I met in my life, a layman or a monk, I inquired with the same question: “how to improve concentration during meditation . ” And received many answers.
That is why the set of techniques and methods for improving the concentration that you see here will be impressive and detailed.
Stability of attention, concentration are important components of meditation practice. A more stable concentration will allow you to get a much greater effect and result from practice without the need to increase its duration.
Many people often rest on a certain limit, they cease to feel that the practice brings them new benefits. Then it’s time for them to think about improving the quality of meditation , that is, concentrating attention.
I studied literature, tested various approaches to improving attention. And now I’m ready to boast of success. My concentration significantly improved and, accordingly, the effect of practice increased. And in this article I’ll tell you in detail about what techniques and methods will help to achieve a better focus of attention to you.
Why develop concentration during meditation?
Before continuing the article, it is necessary to answer the question “why”, let it and it seems to someone obvious. Concentration improves the quality of meditation , allows you to dive deeper and get more benefit from meditation. Our attention is one of the most important qualities. It determines our peace of mind, our ability to achieve our goals and achieve life success, overcome ourselves, cope with our weaknesses. There, where our attention is directed, our life also goes. That is why it is so important to develop it.
When I was traveling in India, I met a person with whom the course of Vipassana Goenka was taking place in the Moscow region. He told me that he began to meditate for 4 hours a day and feels how much the effect of practice has increased. I asked him if he was trying to improve the quality of meditation. An answer followed, from which I realized that the guy had not thought about it.
Of course, the duration of the session plays a role, but you can not just lock on it. One of my personal internal “claims” to Goenki’s courses is that they do not do almost any emphasis on improving concentration during sessions . Slept students at 4 am are driven to the meditation room, where they are without any body preparation and warm-up, still sitting and meditating. Sitting sessions last up to 11 hours a day without interruption to “walking meditation.” Practitioners take a debilitating “amount”, but the “efficiency” of such practice is not so great for such a volume, especially if we compare it with the experiences of torture.
Other traditions, for example, the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, pay more attention to the quality of the session, trying to give recommendations and conditions for good concentration, and also provides for the preparation of the body for long sessions.
I believe that improving concentration is an important component of development in individual practice, no less important than increasing the duration of the session. This is especially true in times of shortage, when there is no opportunity to extend meditation. Improving the quality of meditation will allow you to feel yourself on a new level, to increase the level of calmness and awareness, to raise efficiency. You will notice that the situations that used to make you angry, now you can easily take control.
So what techniques allow you to increase the time of a clear focus of attention during practice, when the mind is concentrated, and not in the mind? From the beginning I’ll start from the most, in my opinion, effective way.
“Checks” of attention. Work on Preemption
I present to you one of the most effective ways to improve the concentration, which helps me very well.
I like to give the following metaphor that describes the features of our attention. Imagine that you took a pencil in one hand, and in another gum. You put the eraser on a pencil and pull your arm away from it, forming tension. Now you tilt the pencil a little, so that the elastic starts to slide off it slowly.
Imagine what you need, keep it on the pencil, continuing to keep it at a slope. You can notice when the elastic jumps off and each time it is returned to its place. But it is much better to follow her continuously and correct her when she has already started to slide.
You can also attend with attention when it is distracted. As a rule, people notice that this happened when they were already bogged down in their thoughts, but you can act with anticipation. It is possible to notice, when attention began to lose “sharpness”, “sliding off” from its object and, as it were, “correct” it, to translate into the initial state.
For this, there is an approach that can be used in “soft” and “hard” forms.
Hard form was described perfectly by I. Budnikov in one of his articles. It is proposed with every breath to check their attention and “correct”, “refresh”, “exacerbate” it, if it starts to “slip” . Just on the inspiration, “evaluate” your attention, and if you notice that it began to lose “sharpness”, thoughts began to appear about which your mind wanted to think, just calmly translate it into the initial position.
That is, it turns out that you follow the breath is not discrete and only post-factum, when it is distracted, but continuously and preventively check it, warning attempts to distract.
This is one of the best ways to strengthen concentration during practice, which helps me a lot, and I strongly advise you to do so.
If you feel that this causes tension, with each exhalation relax, and with each breath continue to “refresh attention.” Or you can try the “soft” version.
This is the same, only here is used “verification” of attention not with each breath, but from time to time. This approach is offered by the teacher of meditation in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Gen Lamrippa, arguing that the attention can “get tired” if you check it with every breath. Therefore, he suggests that you do this from time to time, just when you feel it’s necessary, on your breath, check your attention and “correct” it, if necessary.
Personally, I’m a hardliner. I do not feel fatigue if I “check” attention with every breath. But, again, experiment and see what works best for you.
I remind you that the “checking” of attention should take place gently, relaxed, without much effort and with acceptance , like everyone else during meditation.
Clarity and relaxation
According to the Tibetan tradition, the right meditation has three conditions: concentration, clarity and relaxation . Concentration is the subject of this article, and the other two components deserve a separate detailed consideration. But here I will touch on them briefly, since all these aspects of practice are interrelated. Clarity must accompany concentration, and without relaxation the mind will not be stable.
Clarity is the ability to clearly observe the object of concentration. If you observe the sensations that arise when breathing, then they should be presented clearly before your attention and not zamyleno. I will give an example.
Some people during meditation are immersed in such a state of “half-sleep”, “drowsy oblivion” and may start to think: “here it is! I plunged into meditation! “In fact, this state is the opposite of clarity, and it does not need to meditate! During meditation, consciousness must be pure, clear and alert. If you feel that you are losing clarity, open your eyes, correct the posture and “renew” your attention with another breath, make it sharp and not dulled.
Also maintain relaxation. If you feel tension in the body during meditation, which prevents you from concentrating, begin to relax the body with each exhalation, as if mentally sending out a wave of relaxation throughout the body.
Immersion and continuity
As Viktor Shiryaev wrote about meditation: “appreciate the distance between inspiration and exhalation” . And it is right. If you follow the sensations arising from breathing, try to catch not only the sensations that arise during inspiration and exhalation, but also between them. Feelings are always and everywhere, it’s just a matter of how acute your attention is. Try to follow the breath continuously, and not discretely, only by inhaling and exhaling.
Immerse yourself in the observation process. Our brain is such a thing that he quickly gets used to everything: after a while he ceases to observe with interest the process of breathing, starting to simply mechanically mark it: “here is the breath and exhalation.” Try not to lose this interest, watch your breathing as if you are feeling it for the first time, notice its nuances, differences, catch the most subtle sensations. Western mindfulness teachers say: observe it like a curios scientist , that is, watch as a curious scientist who sees a phenomenon for the first time.
Observe the breath continuously and is submerged, and on each inspiration “update” it.
This is the most popular advice that many meditation teachers give. I also gave him a nun from Taiwan. Nevertheless, personally this method does not really help me, although someone should help. It consists in the following: on the first breath you count “one”, on the second “two” and so on until ten, and then back.
Finish when you feel that attention has more or less stabilized.
Only you need to concentrate not on the account, but not on the sensations of breathing. The bill is like bars indicating the distance along the road, they just help you, but all your attention is still on the road.
The object of concentration
Teachers in the Tibetan tradition recommend choosing a site of the body to concentrate on the sensations of breathing, depending on the “type of personality of the meditator”. If you are more of a phlegmatic, your mind calms down well, but quickly sinks into a “drowsiness”, losing clarity, then it is recommended that you concentrate on the area under the nostrils. The sensations there are more subtle and the mind as it were “exacerbated”, wakes up, concentrating on them. But if your problem is the lack of stability of attention, since your mind is more agile and restless, it is advised to keep attention to the sensations in the abdomen.
When breathing, the diaphragm moves, the stomach is inflated and deflated. These sensations are sufficiently bright and noticeable, so it is relatively easy to concentrate on them. I myself have been following this advice for a long time and I see an improvement in concentration.
Immobility of the body
Immobility of the body is also one of the criteria for good stability. Surely those of you who have tried to engage in “informal meditation” noticed that concentration on the moment “here and now” is much more difficult to maintain during, say, jogging than when we just sit in “formal” practice. This is because immobility and monotony calms the mind.
But this is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, the intention not to move, not to itch, can cause unpleasant sensations in the body, to which the mind will be distracted. On the other hand, if a meditating person succeeds in overcoming this distraction, then his concentration will be much more profound.
Compromise is to watch your movements, do not move much, and if there is a strong need to correct the body or scratch it, then do it with full awareness and observation of sensations.