The object of focus for meditation should be something that relates to you or speaks to you. To choose a specific object to focus on helps the mind have something to ‘latch’ onto. This will help eliminate the myriad of distractions that are constantly happening in your life every moment.
Have you been curious about starting in meditation but are struggling with keeping your mind focused on one thought? When you are meditating are you finding yourself thinking about doing laundry or how cute Jennifer is in your math class? A distracted mind is a sign of a weak mind. We use meditation to work out and strengthen our minds.
Using a specific object to focus on, with your eyes open, helps to train your mind to stay concentrated and focused on a particular task. From a practical self-improvement standpoint, concentration and focus are generally agreed upon as a positive character trait.
Furthermore, these two traits (concentration and focus) are necessary as you dive deeper into the realms of meditative practice. Such as astral traveling.
To keep it simple, the object of focus for meditation should be whatever relates best with the student. This practice, of choosing an object to meditate on, is called Dharana (da-ruh-na). Dharana is the ability to bring the concentration of the mind to a single, finite point. The object chosen can be any object but it is good to try and choose something that is spiritually refreshing when engaging in the practice intentionally. What I mean to say is that it would be better to choose a burning candle as opposed to a piece of trash. However, the practice of Dharana will allow you to fully concentrate on your focus of choice.
Focus and Concentration
What are these things? What do they mean? How are they different? Why do they matter?
Good questions, padawan! To be technical, the term focus relates more laterally (breadth/range/coverage) whereas concentration is purely about depth.
So… focus, is where you choose to look. Concentration, is how deep you look. Do you see the difference? As a farmer, you deeply focus on the proper place to plant the seed into the earth. Then, you concentrate on that spot with water and nutrients long enough to bring the plant into fruit and bloom!
This is why concentration and focus are so important. When you begin anything new it is important to 1.) Have a good place to start And 2.) Know how to dig deeper and deeper.
With anything you try, focus will help you find the best place to start. Concentration will allow you to take it to a level nobody has ever seen before.
Before practicing Dharana it is good to learn how to sit properly so you don’t hurt yourself. For example, a full-lotus posture can actually be quite dangerous for a new student to attempt without proper guidance. I was unaware of this danger and actually did hurt my knee in the attempt and the injury lasted for 5 years afterward.
So. Be careful! It can be beneficial to familiarize yourself with our Beginner’s Meditation Handbook which is full of all sorts of useful tips and tricks for sitting postures and breathing exercises.
I also highly recommend a good meditation cushion for your practice. Or you can even do it yourself! The meditation cushion will not only make you more comfortable but also hold space in your home as your “meditation space.” If you are looking to personalize your own meditation space then I would recommend using our guide to Useful Meditation Gear that will help generate a personalized space for you!
How to Practice
As we dive into the steps of this concentration practice you may also wish to follow along with a guided meditation for your first experience. You can follow along with this guided object meditation video for your first time:
Otherwise, let’s break it down step by step!
Step 1: Choose an Object of Focus
Again, this object can be anything. But, try and choose an object that you feel will help further you on your path to enlightenment. This could be things with a magical nature to them like the flame of a candle, or the flow of a river. It is generally better to choose something of a positive nature than something that may be inherently negative like waste or decay.
But again, the important part here is to simply choose an object that you wish to focus on and concentrate!
Step 2: Choose a Position to Sit or Lie
You may choose to sit or you may choose to lie down. Either way is fine for meditation. It is, however, important to remember that if you are lying down you are telling your body “I am going to sleep.”
So if you do choose to lie down …don’t fall asleep!
Step 3: Focus
Now that you are positioned properly with your object it is time to focus in and concentrate. Tune in to the sensations of your chosen object. This includes sights, smells, sounds, tastes, or even touch sensations that may arise. Hone in on each of these.
What color is it? What smell does it relate to? Does it cause a taste in your mouth? How does this object affect you, now? Focus on these concepts, but freely. Do not try to figure them out. Just allow these concepts about the object to be present while you meditate with an empty mind.
Be aware of these concepts. Then forget them. And focus on the object.
Step 4: Balance Your Gaze
Remember to keep your gazed balanced on the full object. Relax your gaze if you find yourself staring too intently at one specific detail of the object.
For example, if you are looking at a tea kettle you may become very focused in on the blue, paisley flower petal of the design and suddenly realize…you are no longer focused on the tea kettle. You are focused on this little paisley flower petal! You have become distracted!
Relax your gaze.
Step 5: Return to the Object
As you meditate on the object you may find your mind begin to wander. This is perfectly normal, so do not become frustrated. Gently remind your mind to return it’s attention to the object you have chosen. Train and refocus your mind to pay attention!
Return your attention to the object. You may find yourself thinking of different events of the day, past or future events, or remember that you have to do laundry. When you become aware of these thoughts as a distraction from your current purpose, just return your attention to the object.
Repeat this process as many times as possible. A lifetime would be preferable.
And remember! When your mind becomes distracted and you return your attention to the object…this is not equivalent to failing the practice!
You are training your mind to become stronger so each time this happens…think of it as a single rep in a set of a workout routine. Each time you return your attention to your object…you just completed another rep. And you just became a little more mentally tough.
Step 6: Relax
Now take a moment here to close your eyes. Lie down if you are not lying down already. Lie there and just focus on your breath gently rolling in and out of your lungs. Lie here and rest for about 5 minutes or until you are ready to return to your day to day activities.
Remember to practice your meditation every day! Lack of consistency is the #1 bane to students of meditation.
What if you were to go to the gym once on Tuesday but then next week on Wednesday and Thursday? Then the next week you REAAALLY get it and go every day Monday – Friday. Is this going to be the most effective? Probably not. Why?
A large amount of energy is actually wasted when you summon a massive burst of energy to complete a task that required half that amount of energy. Also, the more times you practice something the better you will get at it. You will find minor nuances in the way that you’ve done a thing before 100 times and change it – for the better!
This is the beauty of consistency. Consistency allows you to truly concentrate and build upon the foundation that you set today with your initial meditation. It is like how Warren Buffet spoke about compounding knowledge: “Read 500 pages every week. That’s how [wisdom] builds up, like compound interest.”
Compounding means that the desired value (in this case, wisdom and enlightenment) will increase consistently, but also exponentially, due to your understanding of the practice from previous experiences.
I’d say that we have now explicitly covered what the object of focus for meditation should be! Now, you should be able to choose an object and meditate on it effectively. Remember, the results achieved will be directly equivalent to the amount of work you put in. Your results will mirror your consistency and how diligently you are working on improving your focus and concentration.
So work hard! Work every day. Get a good meditation cushion for comfort but also to serve as a subtle reminder to meditate.
Meditate well, my friends.