The power of concentration and presence of mind
A general definition of concentration would be ‘to bring to a center’. Concentration is the undisturbed power of subjective attention over an object of consciousness; therefore concentration is the domain and the best of mind’s tools. Once mastered, concentration is called presence of mind and can also serve the purpose of focusing the Will of Mind (the power or energy of Pure Being) for a specific purpose. Concentration may be developed by practice and many methods exist in the West and especially within the Eastern spiritual traditions. One example is the meditation which focuses on the breath employed by practitioners of Buddhism and Hinduism, in fact the term meditation can sometimes have the same meaning as what in the West is known as concentration, or we could also say that meditation is the practice to develop undistracted concentration, or undistracted presence of mind. After having mastered undistracted concentration with a physical or non physical object (for example a flower or the breath), one’s focus of concentration will shift to one’s now utterly calm mind or consciousness itself, mind will be concentrating on mind itself until a state undistracted by any movement of thoughts or emotions is achieved which is then called ‘undistracted presence of mind’, or the ‘abiding in the present moment’.
In a nutshell, the whole process of concentration or meditation consists in fixing the attention upon something which can be physical, non physical, or one’s own consciousness itself and being able to hold it there without being distracted by wondering thoughts or emotions. Once mastered in practice sessions, undistracted concentration is then carried into all daytime activities and then it is called ‘undistracted presence of mind’, or the ‘abiding in the present moment’ or, as in the words of Eckhart Tolle, ‘the power of Now’.
How to develop concentration and presence of mind
There are virtually infinite possible different methods to develop concentration and presence of mind, and they all achieve the same purpose.
A simple method would be to hold the mind in a ‘one-pointed’ way upon an object of attention, which could be a material object like a flower (or anything pleasing to the eyes) or an internal non physical object like the breath for example.
In the case of the breath, one would concentrate in a ‘one pointed way’ on the inhaling and exhaling process without altering or modifying it. In case one focuses on an external object like a flower instead of the breath, one should be aware that concentration does not mean ‘staring’ at something but it consists in fixing and holding the mind, not the eyes.
By applying any of these two methods, one will very soon start noticing how many distracting thoughts and emotions can carry one away from the object of concentration. The practice then consists in gently bringing back the mind to the object of concentration over and over again, without following nor rejecting those distracting thoughts and emotions, until one is able to effortlessly direct the focalized mental power of concentration upon whatever object, concept or aim without distraction. Eventually, after having mastered concentration upon a physical (or non physical object like the breath), one will be able to train in concentration upon one’s own mind as an object. This entails ‘remaining’ peacefully present to one’s own mind or consciousness while staring into empty space, and in this case mind becomes ‘the object’ of mind‘s concentration until a totally peaceful, aware and present state of mind is achieved.
The final result of all these practices is that one is able to carry this new acquired skill of undistracted attention and peaceful undistracted presence into all daytime activities and carry out any activity or task with total accuracy and without any effort, without generating resistance to what is manifesting in the present moment.