After studying and practicing yoga daily for the last few months, it has become clear to me that developing mind control/mental concentration is one of the most important practices you can add to your daily routine. By doing so, you will be able to get the maximum physical, mental and spiritual benefits from your yoga/meditation practice, as well as become extremely efficient and successful in your day-to-day life among other unexpected benefits. Perfecting concentration is not something one can achieve overnight. As with exercising the body, the mind responds to rigorous training in the same way that muscles do. Therefore, just like anything you take on in life, persistence, commitment and determination, will bring the highest level of results.
One of the first things you learn in yoga is that the mind, left to its own devices, is full of thoughts in which man has no control. If you’ve ever sat in meditation and observed this process, you’ve already been introduced to the challenge of controlling the mind. This constant wandering of the mind not only makes it difficult to concentrate on the things that are important to us, it also makes it difficult to believe that we have any real power in managing the outcome of our life (health or otherwise) given the importance of our thoughts in our ability to prevent/overcome illness as well as make our life goals and dreams come true.
However, the good news is that it is possible to master the mind and develop it as a conscious instrument, which will improve your life substantially in unimaginable ways. The first little tidbit to remember is that you (the real you) is not your mind or your thoughts. You have them, but they aren’t who you truly are, which is why you are able to witness them and work with them. In other words, the mind is not mastering itself; you are the one mastering it. From this perspective, it’s much easier to see that mind control is a very possible and attainable goal of immense value. However, it takes patience and consistent effort to be successful.
There are many exercises to train the mind. The ancient yogis practiced what is called the Sabhavi Mudra. In this exercise, one places a three dimensional object such as a ping pong ball, spoon, geometrical shape, symbol, etc. a few inches from the ajna chakra or the third eye (the space between the eyebrows in the middle of the forehead). You can either pin it on the wall and sit in front of the object or you can prop your hand on your knee to keep the object positioned steady in front of the third eye. The next step is to study the object in great detail. Once you feel you’ve memorized the object, close your eyes and try to picture it as clearly as you saw it with your eyes open. At first you likely won’t be able to create a mental picture of the object at all. But with time and practice, the object and all its minute details will begin to appear as clearly in the mind’s eye as that of the physical eye. As the visual memory improves, you’ll begin to have control over your mind in ways that weren’t possible before. Perfected mental concentration, insightfulness, attention to detail, heightened intuition and a more advanced yoga/meditation practice are all potential long-term benefits from this exercise when performed on a daily basis.
Other techniques that allow you to exert self-control and measure progress include:
- Second Hand Watch: Focus only on the tip of the second hand on watch without paying attention to the other elements. Hold it for as long as you can until your mind wanders. Practice bringing the mind back to the attention on the second hand.
- Counting Seeds: Toss a handful of nuts or seeds onto a table and practice counting them without touching them. Again, when the mind goes, bring the mind back and start again until you can count all of the seeds accurately.
- Ignoring the TV: Put on an attractive TV show or movie in the other room and try to ignore it and focus on something else.
- Visualize Yourself: Look at yourself in the mirror with your eyes open. Then try to visualize yourself in another part of the room as if you were someone else.
These are just a few techniques but there are many others like them. Try to stick to the same technique and not change of the object too much if you are practicing the mudra. It’s better to practice daily for a short duration, then practice for longer periods of time and then give up within a few weeks. Those who master these practices develop a new form of consciousness that allows them to achieve and understand things that once seemed impossible, so try not to give up. As with any training you set your mind to, the rewards far outweigh the effort required. Nonetheless, it is also important to not take yourself to seriously and remain detached from any particular outcome so that you are able to stay with the practice long enough to start to see results.