Mindfulness and Concentration – Experience Differences
In this post I will explain some basic differences between mindfulness and concentration, both of which are required for effective meditation practice. This will be the first of three posts dealing with what mindfulness and concentration are, how to experience them briefly in a body-based activity, and how to improve them in practice. We will begin with the body mindful awareness activity as outlined below.
Introduction to Mindfulness
First, a brief introduction to mindfulness. Mindfulness brings initial, usually neutral, attention to your awareness of some object, experience or phenomenon. It also signals you when your mind has wandered off the target or object of attention. When the mind wanders, gently bring attention back to the selected object of your attention. Mindfulness skills build the foundation for concentration skills, or the sustained strong attention of the mind on an object you have purposely selected to pay attention to. Mindfulness often includes mind-wandering with gentle return of attention back to the object, while concentration often includes stronger and stronger focus and attention on the object. There is less distraction in concentration, and usually more depth to your awareness.
Body Awareness of Mindfulness in Time and Space: Now we will use your body to become aware of a mindfulness moment in time and space. While standing or sitting in a state of gentle attention, place your hands in a prayer pose or mudra. Your initial intention is to observe and maintain attention on your hands in this pose. Now take a few deep, slow, cleansing breaths and pay full attention to your prayer-posed hands in front of you. You may also become aware of the interoception of how the hands feel to your body as they touch in prayer posture. Really focus full visual-mental attention on your hands and feel the sensation of them touching. Then open up your hands and break the prayer mudra; move your hands and arms upward and outward so there is no direct contact between the hands. Make a big circle with your arms. NOTICE what this change feels like; notice what is different once you break your focused attention on your hands in prayer posture. Repeat this movement several times – from prayer mudra to opening up the hands and moving your arms outwardly and upwardly in a slow but deliberate fashion. Notice carefully the differences in awareness in the prayer mudra versus the change in hand-arm position. This is an example of impermanence in awareness of hand postures. Be aware of the tendency to return your posture to prayer mudra each time you change it from still, prayer position to open moving position up and out. Continue for a few more minutes just to be sure you notice the differences in awareness.
Body Awareness of Concentration in Time and Space: Now we will practice concentration on prayer posture. Have an initial intention to place complete concentration on your hands in prayer mudra in front of you. Remain fixed on concentrating on your hands in this posture. Each time you notice that your attention has weakened or wandered off into some other awareness, simply place a slightly stronger mental focus on your hands in prayer posture in front of you. You may also want to pay more attention to the sensation of the hands touching each other. Do not change the position of your hands; remain in prayer mudra. Notice each time your concentration has weakened or moved away, and again place stronger more forceful effort into concentrating on your hands in prayer position. NOTICE the differences between your more stable concentration here and the flow of mindfulness above in the first activity. This is a more stable and forceful level of intense concentration. It feels quite different in the body; it has a more energetic feel to it. If you are experiencing difficulty maintaining a strong intensity of concentration, it may help to increase pressure just a bit stronger – one hand against the other hand in the prayer position.
Repeat concentration on your prayer mudra a few more times, and Notice!
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness
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