When something’s not right in your world, being busy feels better than being still.
Indeed, it has been said that the most challenging task for humankind is to sit alone in a room with one's thoughts.
This solitude is what turns so many away from the concept of meditation.
It requires an inner readiness to be willing to release control, and disengage the busy thoughts to find that mental space and clarity gained from meditation.
It's so very human to cling to the illusions and distractions that keep us apart from the things that perhaps perturb us most.
What is Dharana?
However, before accessing meditation, one must learn to first concentrate and quell the busy mind's many impulses. This is known as the practice of Dharana and it composes the sixth limb in the Yoga Sutras.
Dharana is the state of intense focus before one slips into a state of mindful detached meditation.
This may sound easy, but for most, learning to focus requires a lot of consistent practice.
First, Quit Your Multitasking Habit
Concentrating on one thing at a time is an excellent place to start, but after years spent likely glorifying the virtues of "multitasking," where does one begin?
As with almost every other aspect of Yoga, it's always helpful to first strengthen one's awareness. Learning to be conscious of the many places the busy mind finds itself in any given moment is the first step to acknowledging one's ability to focus.
Studies repeatedly show that multitasking is a myth… That in fact, it's not possible to focus on multiple things at once, and instead, the brain is switching quickly from task to task to task.
Similar studies show that attempting to multitask can reduce overall productivity by up to 50 percent, and that multitasking ends up taking up to twice as long to complete tasks that would otherwise have been finished faster one by one!
Still, multitasking is a feel-good habit because it gives one the false sense of accomplishment by "managing" to carry out several things at once. Allowing the findings above to sink in for a moment might cause one to rethink this habit, even if that doesn't change overnight.
Next, Sharpen Your Acuity
After one becomes aware of the habit of multitasking, then it's possible to begin adding mental training that builds the ability to concentrate.
Concentration training is necessary in such a fast-paced world because there are many exciting distractions from devices, seemingly urgent actions, and endless to-do lists.
Feeling like one has a time shortage is something to which most of us can relate. Concentrating on one thing requires patience and an ability to tune out everything else.
One example of effective focus-building is to balance on one leg and allow the mind and body to concentrate on that one activity only.
Try This Concentration Exercise:
Standing in Tree Pose, Vrksasana, is a fantastic posture to practice this increased mental focus. Once one falls out of the pose, the focus has been lost. With daily practice, your awareness will improve over time.
Drift From Dharana to Dhyana
Once one has learned to reduce multitasking and improve focus, it is time to cultivate a meditation practice.
Another exercise that may prove fruitful for those looking to harness the mind's power is to engage in mindful visualization exercises.
Try This Visualization Meditation:
Sitting comfortably upright on the floor with eyes closed, begin to focus on the breath: Simply inhaling and exhaling. (Bonus points for acknowledging that this ability is a beautiful gift and that each breath is truly sacred!).
Once the breath is steady, consider envisioning a golden orb of light dancing along the spine in harmony with the breath. As one inhales fully, the golden ball travels down to the base of the spine.
As one exhales fully, the golden orb travels up the spine and out the head's crown into the infinite universe. Imagine the golden globe illuminating the entire mind, body, and soul as the breath eases in and out.
Focusing entirely on this visualization allows the mind to gently quiet, focus, and prepare for a blissful meditation.
What a gift this is to find such solace within, and how available this practice remains for each.
With a bit of discipline, not only can one access meditation with greater ease, but also find improved productivity and mindfulness in all aspects of life by applying a "single eye" grace to each endeavor.
With enthusiasm and bliss,
Incense Falls Wellness Contributor