Concentration Exercises:
Developing Mindful Attention

On this page, youíll find a series of practical, highly effective concentration exercises to help you develop your powers of concentration and achieve laser-sharp focus in your thinking.

For maximum effectiveness, try to practice these concentration exercises for brief periods at intervals throughout the day. The exercises are designed so you can do them almost anywhere, even if you have only a few moments available. You might be at your desk, or riding in a taxi, or just out for a walk -- but by taking advantage of the techniques youíll find in this workbook, you can turn previously unproductive time into a powerful resource for sharpening your mind.

One word of caution, however: because the Awareness Training exercises require your complete attention, you should not perform any of them while driving or while occupied with any other task that demands concentration.

By making these exercises a part of your daily routine, you can enhance your performance -- and your enjoyment -- in every area of your life.

Concentration Exercise #1: Visual Object

Begin this concentration exercise by directing your attention toward something that interests you at this moment. It can be a physical object, like a flower or a candle, or it can be a mentally visualized object or color.

Because of its calming effect, the color blue is often recommended as a starting point. You can simply visualize the sky, or you might place a piece of blue cloth or paper in front of you.

Now, rest your eyes on the color, and relax. Just sit and be fully present with the color or object. If your attention wanders, return it to the image before you.

Focus more on the quality of your concentration than on the length of time youíre able to stay focused. Begin with only a minute or two...then take a brief break...then return your attention to your chosen object. Continue alternately focusing and relaxing for ten to twenty minutes.

Be sure to focus on the quality of attention. The quality of concentration is more important than the quantity of time that you put in. Increase the length of time you focus only as the strength of your concentration grows. Donít compromise the quality of attention for the quantity of time.

As your training continues, youíll feel your concentration acquiring a laser-like intensity, then gradually increase the time that you focus your attention.

Concentration Exercise #2: Natural Object

Many of us have touched a state of deep concentration during times in nature. Watching the sunrise, sitting by a flowing stream, gazing upon a flower, a cloud, or raindrops on a still pool, our minds become clear, quiet, and deep. The chirp of crickets, the sound of breaking waves, or a babbling brook wash away our agitation and leave us calm and collected.

  1. Select a natural object or process.
  2. Attend to it wholeheartedly.
  3. Open yourself to let it come in to you, and receive its light, sound, vibration, and life into yourself.
  4. Open your heart and mind to embrace and be pervaded by it.
  5. As you watch, listen, or feel this natural phenomenon, enter into a deep, quiet communion with it. Allow its essential nature and hidden qualities to reveal themselves intuitively.

Concentration Exercise #3: Walking

Much of our time in a day may be spent walking. This technique can help us to use walking as a means for developing concentration.

  1. Count your first five steps.
  2. With the next step, begin at one again and count up to six steps.
  3. With the next step, begin at one again and count up to seven steps.
  4. Continue counting in this way until you reach ten.
  5. Now begin again, counting your steps from one to five.
  6. Repeat the entire sequence up to ten steps as many times as you like.

If you lose track at any point (and you most likely will), begin again at the cycle of five steps. Note that if you begin on your right foot, the cycles ending in five and six steps will end on the right foot. Those ending at seven and eight will end on the left foot. And those ending at nine and ten will end on the right foot. This pattern will reverse with each full cycle.

[Adapted from the booklet "Awareness Training: Exercises for Mindful Attention" by Joel and Michelle Levey]

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