Mindfulness, A Short Series: Establishing a Concentration Practice

Author: Bennett Nott

Establishing a concentration practice requires four simple ingredients.  First, a quiet place.  A place that is free of distractions and out of the way enough to ensure no interruptions.  Free of traffic, phones or other sources of distraction.  This should be a place you feel safe in and provide you with a sense of peace and quiet.

Second and of great importance is nonjudgmental attitude.  There is no finish line in concentration practice.  You are not trying to win a race and there is nothing wrong with you if your mind keeps wandering when you’re trying to focus on one point.  In fact, when your mind wanders off it presents you with the opportunity to redirect your attention to the one point.  Similar to repetitions an any exercise regimen. 

Third, a mental object, the single object which becomes the anchor for your attention.  The object to which you return your attention to each time you notice it has wandered off to any other thoughts, feelings, sensations or perceptions.  Your mental object might be a word or phrase, a visual object like a candle or it may be the flow of your own breath.  The breath is a powerful anchor for staying in the present.  If you choose a word or phrase to repeat mentally to yourself it should have some meaning of significance for you that connotes safety or compassion.

Finally, correct posture.  A posture that promotes alertness and relaxation.  Sitting either on a cushion or in a chair with the spine aligned straight up and down.  This can be done by pushing the lower spine forward which causes the upper spine to draw back.  This facilitates the expansion of the lung field and enables the muscles of the upper back, shoulders and neck to relax.  Breath can be through the nose or mouth.  Breaths should be even cadence with the outbreath extending slightly longer than the in breath.