The second step in Raja Yoga is what is known as Dharana, or Concentration. This is a most wonderful idea in the direction of focusing the mental forces, and may be cultivated to an almost incredible degree, but all this requires work, time, and patience. But the student will be well repaid for it. Concentration consists in the mind focusing upon a certain subject, or object, and being held there for a time.
This, at first thought seems very easy, but a little practice will show how difficult it is to firmly fix the attention and hold it there. It will have a tendency to waver, and move to some other object or subject, and much practice will be needed in order to hold it at the desired point. But practice will accomplish wonders, as one may see by observing people who have acquired this faculty, and who use it in their everyday life. But the following point should be remembered. Many persons have acquired the faculty of concentrating their attention, but have allowed it to become almost involuntary, and they become a slave to it, forgetting themselves and everything else, and often neglecting necessary affairs. This is the ignorant way of concentrating, and those addicted to it become slaves to their habits, instead of masters of their minds. They become day-dreamers, and absent-minded people, instead of Masters. They are to be pitied as much as those who cannot concentrate at all.
The secret is in a mastery of the mind. The Yogis can concentrate at will, and completely bury themselves in the subject before them, and extract from it every item of interest, and can then pass the mind from the thing at will, the same control being used in both cases. They do not allow fits of abstraction, or “absent-mindedness” to come upon them, nor are they day-dreamers. On the contrary they are very wide awake individuals; close observers; clear thinkers; correct reasoners. They are masters of their minds, not slaves to their moods. The ignorant concentrator buries himself in the object or subject, and allows it to master and absorb himself, while the trained Yogi thinker asserts the “I,” and then directs his mind to concentrate upon the subject or object, keeping it well under control and in view all the time. Do you see the difference? Then heed the lesson.
The following exercises may be found useful in the first steps of Concentration:
(a) Concentrate the attention upon some familiar object–a pencil, for instance. Hold the mind there and consider the pencil to the exclusion of any other object. Consider its size; color; shape; kind of wood. Consider its uses, and purposes; its materials; the process of its manufacture, etc., etc., etc. In short think as many things about the pencil as possible allowing the mind to pursue any associated by-paths, such as a consideration of the graphite of which the “lead” is made; the forest from which came the wood used in making the pencil; the history of pencils, and other implements used for writing, etc. In short exhaust the subject of “Pencils.” In considering a subject under concentration, the following plan of synopsis will be found useful. Think of the thing in question from the following view-points:
(1) The thing itself.
(2) The place from whence it came.
(3) Its purpose or use.
(4) Its associations.
(5) Its probable end.
Do not let the apparently trivial nature of the inquiry discourage you, for the simplest form of mental training is useful, and will help to develop your Will and Concentration. It is akin to the process of developing a physical muscle by some simple exercise, and in both cases one loses sight of the unimportance of the exercise itself, in view of the end to be gained.
(b) Concentrate the attention upon some part of the body–the hand for instance, and fixing your entire attention upon it, shut off or inhibit all sensation from the other parts of the body. A little practice will enable you to do this. In addition to the mental training, this exercise will stimulate the part of the body concentrated upon, for reasons that will appear in future lessons. Change the parts of the body concentrated upon, and thus give the mind a variety of exercises, and the body the effect of a general stimulation.
(c) These exercises may be extended indefinitely upon familiar objects about you. Remember always, that the thing in itself is of no importance, the whole idea being to train the mind to obey the Will, so that when you really wish to use the mental forces upon some important object, you may find them well trained and obedient. Do not be tempted to slight this part of the work because it is “dry” and uninteresting, for it leads up to things that are most interesting, and opens a door to a fascinating subject.
(d) Practice focusing the attention upon some abstract subject–that is upon some subject of interest that may offer a field for mental exploration. Think about the subject in all its phases and branches, following up one by-path, and then another, until you feel that you know all about the subject that your mind has acquired. You will be surprised to find how much more you know about any one thing or subject than you had believed possible. In hidden corners of your mind you will find some useful or interesting information about the thing in question, and when you are through you will feel well posted upon it, and upon the things connected with it. This exercise will not only help, to develop your intellectual powers, but will strengthen your memory, and broaden your mind, and give you more confidence in yourself. And, in addition, you will have taken a valuable exercise in Concentration or Dharana.