Utilize the Powers of Concentration

Utilize the Powers of Concentration

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Just as the shadow follows the body, the body follows the mind. If the mind is racing in a hundred directions due to pressure, the body is also racing, even though the individual may be sitting in a chair. Have you noticed that when people talk fast and hop from one thought to another, they become more restless and fidgety and their breathing becomes faster and more shallow?

The fact that the body follows the mind goes in this way is not commonly recognized. Breathing changes our physiology. For example, if you concentrate in a relaxed manner on a pleasing subject or even a neutral subject or object, your body will start calming down and you are likely to feel relaxed. Why does concentration help?

In order to answer this question, let's consider the process that enables us to concentrate. The act of concentration has three components: directing attention to a subject; secondly, persisting with the chosen subject and, thirdly, withholding attention from other subjects. It is the action of denying access to things, sensations, noises and thoughts unrelated to the chosen focus that enables us to concentrate for longer durations. The mind has greatly helped humanity, but it has also created stress that causes much suffering, inner tension and many stress related physical disorders. Thoughts can create havoc with the body. Thoughts are not merely abstract ideas or esoteric "brain waves." Thinking is not merely speaking to oneself silently, as it is often described. Thoughts produce real chemicals and emotions. Thoughts can produce as much stress as the actual experience, and sometimes even more!

As an example try this out: start thinking about some awful, terrible thing that happened to you in the past and observe your bodily and emotional reactions. Now think about an awful, terrible event that may happen in future. Similar thoughts about the past and the future do pop up in our mind without any effort on our part.

Thus, thoughts alter our physical state all the time. Most of us don't notice it and don't make the connection between physical- chemical changes in the body and one's thoughts. These changes are ever so subtle. Also, we get so busy and involved in reacting to what we are thinking about that we rarely notice when our breathing changes, jaw tightens or shoulders stiffen. We surely notice them when these changes escalate to the level of shortness of breath, smothering, headache or stiff neck and back.

We tend to think that the sole purpose of concentration is to improve learning and performance and thus facilitate our success in life. However, when you view concentration as a way of specifically controlling and reducing negative thoughts, you may find that you can use concentration as an effective tool for stress management and mind-body health.

Use concentration to reduce irrelevant and negative thoughts. Set a goal to increase your power of concentration, not just as a means to achieve something else, but specifically to develop your ability to concentrate all the time. Well, almost all the time. Concentrate on the task at hand and when you thoughts wander, instead getting upset or disappointed with yourself, just bring your mind back to the task a hand.

If the task at hand does not require full attention, it can be highly beneficial to fill your attention with awareness of your breathing. Such an awareness of breathing not only cuts down on negative and disturbing thinking, but can also become a useful tool for stress- management. Breath is intimately linked with the mental state. When we become tense, angry or emotionally excited, our breathing changes instantly. When we are relaxed, we breathe smoothly and deeply. Therefore, you can use your breathing as your "stress meter."

Here are the seven signs that reflect mental and physical stress: shallow breathing (chest breathing); accelerated pace of breathing; jerky breathing (like sobbing or sighing); uneven breathing; mouth breathing; too long a pause from one breath to the next and when breathing becoming louder than usual. These signs are only valid when you are not physically exerting. When you pay attention to the above signs of stress, you will be in a better position to modify them and control your stress level.

These are the characteristics of healthy and relaxed breathing: nasal breathing; belly breathing; slow breathing, smooth breathing; quiet breathing, no pauses between breaths and exhalation being equal or longer than inhalation. These characteristics tend to trigger a relaxation response for the body and the mind, and also improve the ability to concentrate for longer duration.

By utilizing the powers of concentration you can concentrate your powers.

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Copyright 2000, Mind Publications 


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