Three Ways to Gain Focus (or Has Anybody Seen My Drishti?)
This painting from a Tibetan Buddhist monastery is like a cartoon strip showing stages of a monk calming his mind through meditation training. At the bottom you see a new monk whose mind wanders so much in its own directions that it resembles a muddy elephant led by a naughty monkey. The monk is running after it. Half-way up, his mind, the elephant, has been partly cleaned up and it is the monk who is now leading it – though the monkey is still interfering by pulling the elephant’s tail from behind. Further up, the elephant is now clean and the monk alone is in charge – he is saying goodbye to the monkey. Next the monk can get the elephant to lie down and finally he can ride it. At the top the monk is fully in charge of the elephant, his mind, and is now riding down to put its powers to good use.
Well most of us, though we may have cleaned up our act, and our mind a bit along the way, probably haven’t said our last goodbye to the monkey yet. The images on the site linked above illustrate the process of developing concentration and shine (she-nay), the calm state. How do we do that and where do we begin? There are many explanations. Here are a few points that can help.
The first notion to consider is that we are not our minds. In AA we often say that our mind is our worst enemy. That may be the case at times, but I don’t think it’s a permanent condition. If it were, there would be no point to walking any path of Dharma. But we’re something, and our minds are something else. We are not our minds. We start there. So who are we? Good question for another post.
We can’t really find out who we are if we’re scattered and distracted. So we train our monkey minds to focus and relax. Not crazy, jacked up focus. Relaxed focus. It’s a special state. Thinking in this state is natural and easy. Intuition overshadows intellect.
1. We can meditate on the breath to gain focus. Begin by sitting still and silent with a straight back, eyes half open, relaxed focus. To meditate is to place our attention. When we find that our minds have drifted, we come back to the object of focus. Do this for 21 minutes every day. Twice a day. Or do it all day. Just do your best. After a while, you’ll notice a difference.
2. We can also meditate on a mantra or sound, such as OM. It’s pronounced AUM. Sit in meditation position. Inhale deeply. Exhale a long, deep OM. Inhale OM. Hold OM. Exhale OM. Be OM all day. Breathe OM in your Dream Yoga. Repeat until enlightened. Then enlighten others.
3. Since we might have to pay this month’s rent, which won’t afford us the luxury of sitting around meditating all day, it makes sense to learn to apply our concentration practice in other activities, such as walking, eating, doing dishes. How do we do it? We apply that meditative state that we learned while sitting, moving in our yoga practice or chanting OM. Embody each moment fully. Notice when that dirty elephant has run off on a tangent. Tickle your monkey. Calm your mind and relax into the essence.
As we develop our mind training, we may find ourselves further along on that trail that the image depicts. Maybe one day we’ll ride the elephant while the monkey sits in meditation on our shoulder, cracking the occasional joke.
Good luck on your path.
As always, please share this post and others. Thank you for reading. Note: I wrote this post last year for another site.