Harmonizing the Mind
"He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the
It is the nature
of our minds to roam about. Each new sound or change in our visual
field draws our attention. Sensations from our body tug at awareness.
Thoughts rise up from the dark into the light of consciousness, whether
we want them to or not. So when we want to be vigilant, to focus our
attention, we may find the task difficult.
Perhaps we want to pray or
study or listen to someone's concerns or sit with a sick or dying
person-to just be present with them. We want to give our full
attention, but our mind drifts. Thoughts of what else we could or
should be doing come up. A sound in the next room draws us. A memory, a
fantasy, a worry comes to mind and we are away with it. Our stomach
tells us it is time to eat. Our restless body feels like moving. Noise
from people outside irritates us, and the string of thoughts from that
emotion takes us from our vigil.
Our minds are not just one
thing. Numerous mental processes occur in our brains simultaneously. It
is as if we have a number of brains. We can be sensing, emoting,
thinking, and moving our body all at the same time. Sometimes, perhaps
much of the time, these processes are not in harmony. Our intention is
to sit down to write a letter or to read a chapter in a text book or to
pay the bills, but our thoughts are with the thing we need to do
tomorrow or what happened today or the dessert that is sitting all
alone in the kitchen. Our desire to complete our task competes with
other desires, some of which have shorter term and more gratifying
If we were able to bring
our mental processes into a focused harmony, we could accomplish more,
be more present in the moment and enjoy life more fully. Our
relationships could improve as we gained the capacity to direct our
attention at the other and lose ourselves in the interaction. We would
feel better, because harmony feels good. The peace that comes from
harmonious mental states opens us to the possibility of joy. Peace with
consciousness is a recipe for bliss.
If we are distractible, if
our minds are out of harmony, we might benefit from certain mental
practices that would improve our ability to focus and bring our various
mental actions into accord. If you made a list of the components of
such practices, you might discover that you were describing meditation.
Here are some suggestions
for harmonizing mental activity and improving focus and concentration:
Find a posture you can hold
comfortably with minimal need to adjust your position. Be still.
Reduce sensory input. Be in
a quiet place if possible. Close out or mask disturbing noise, if you
Adopt a fixed gaze. Don't
look around. Look at the object of your concentration. Or if
appropriate, close your eyes.
Breathe to focus. Direct
your attention to your breath. Let it become slower and deeper. As you
lose the focus on the breath, come back to it from time to time.
Determine your intention.
What it is it you are intending in the moment? To pray? To listen? To
read? To write? To solve a problem? To perform some other task? Remind
yourself of that intention when your mind wanders. Watch for thoughts
and emotions that distract from your intention and cut them off. Return
from each digression. Refresh your intention.
Resolve conflicts of mind
by giving up the fight and returning to your intention.
© 2005 Tom Barrett