Lesson II - Concentration
In this lesson we shall consider the second step in methods of meditation, namely, concentration. After spending five to ten minutes in the practice of relaxation, we are ready to begin our exercise in concentration. To be still in body is not enough; real stillness is to be still in mind. We shall center our attention upon the word "omnipresence." Let us see how long we can hold our thought steadily focused on this one word without allowing our attention to wander. We shall now concentrate steadily and unwaveringly upon the word. When we seek to hold our thought upon one subject, we find thoughts upon many subjects—thoughts from all over the world—flocking into our minds. We endeavor to banish these intruders, only to find their place taken by other unrelated thoughts. When we become aware that our thought is wandering to other things we bring it back and try again, and yet again, until our mind obeys us and remains centered upon the word that we seek to hold in steady, undeviating thought.
This is a drill in shutting out from thought everything but that upon which we would concentrate. Thus we train our mental muscles to obey us as we have trained the nerves and the muscles of the body to obey our word of command. Faithful and persistent practice in concentration will bring the reward of a trained mind that will obey the commands of the conscious self.
We are learning that concentration is a law of mind that may be applied in every circumstance that requires definite and controlled mental action. Man is so complex that he finds many desires clamoring within him for expression, but he has received the power of choice. He must decide whether he will blindly follow every impulse or choose only thoughts and desires that are constructive. Oftentimes man has to exercise the power of his will so that his determination will not yield to the old habit of allowing moods to govern him. If left to itself the mind constantly shifts its attention; hence the need of training it by concentration to obey the will.
The determined focusing of our attention consists in selecting the subject for concentration and then ignoring all other subjects that may clamor for consideration, until the power to concentrate has been so fully developed that one can exclude all that would distract. Do not let failure discourage you; instead make every failure a stepping stone to victory; refuse to be defeated in your purpose. This lesson calls for unremitting practice.
Some persons say, when they turn the application of this law toward accomplishing spiritual results, "I cannot concentrate." Why can they not spiritually concentrate? Because they have never trained their minds to a sustained spiritual exercise. They may have used the law of concentration to achieve material gain but the necessity for using the same law to gain spiritual efficiency has not occurred to them.
For many years business and religion have been separated, but we give praise that men are coming to see that both hinge upon one law which is necessary to each if satisfactory results are to be obtained. This law—the law of concentrated mind action—is universal in its application.
Concentration is a very easy thing. It is practiced every day by every one of us. Men or women, while giving special thought to problems that arise in their business, can so concentrate their minds upon whatever they have to do that they will not be conscious that people all about them are talking; they concentrate on the problem that they have in mind, to the exclusion of all else. The housekeeper concentrates upon what she is doing, and the result is a perfectly ordered house, deliciously prepared and healthful food, and an atmosphere of peace. The artist, be he musician, sculptor, or painter, concentrates upon the ideal that he has in mind until it takes definite form and is reproduced in a great composition, a splendid piece of sculpture, or a wonderful canvas. What one has done, others can do.
A person should not be discouraged if he falls back occasionally into old mental habits while he is training his mind to give obedience to his will, but he should renew his effort until his command over his thought forces becomes second nature and concentration is almost involuntary.
In the allegory of creation God said: "Let them [man] have dominion over ... all the earth" (Gen. 1:26). Man has exercised this dominion in many ways, but he still has to gain dominion over himself. Today man is awakening, within his soul, to the fact that he is not in full control or dominion over himself, and he is beginning to train his mental forces so that he may come into the fullness of this dominion. God has been called the great mental substance of the universe.
Meditation offers a simple and effectual means which, if put into practice, will be of immeasurable assistance in enabling man to gain dominion over all the powers and forces within him, ultimately resulting in peace and harmony in himself and in his world.