The Importance of Concentration

Concentration is a focusing of the mind. And this focusing of the mind requires a focusing, or bringing to a center, of the Will. The mind is concentrated because the Will is focused upon the object. The mind flows into the mould made by the Will. The above exercises are designed not only to accustom the mind to the obedience and direction of the Will, but also tend to accustom the Will to command.

We speak of strengthening the Will, when what we really mean is training the mind to obey, and accustoming the Will to command. Our Will is strong enough, but we do not realize it. The Will takes root in the very center of our being–in the “I,” but our imperfectly developed mind does not recognize this tact. We are like young elephants that do not recognize their own strength, but allow themselves to be mastered by puny drivers, whom they could brush aside with a movement. The Will is back of all action–all doing–mental and physical.

We shall have much to say touching the Will, in these lessons and the student should give the matter his careful attention. Let him look around him, and he will see that the great difference between the men who have stepped forward from the ranks, and those who remain huddled up in the crowd, consists in Determination and Will. As Buxton has well said: “The longer I live, the more certain I am that the great difference between men, the feeble and the powerful; the great and the insignificant; is Energy and Invincible Determination.” And he might have added that the thing behind that “energy and invincible determination” was Will.

The writers and thinkers of all ages have recognized the wonderful and transcendent importance of the Will. Tennyson sings: “O living Will thou shalt endure when all that seems shall suffer shock.” Oliver Wendell Holmes says: “The seat of the Will seems to vary with the organ through which it is manifested; to transport itself to different parts of the brain, as we may wish to recall a picture, a phrase, a melody; to throw its force on the muscles or the intellectual processes. Like the general-in-chief, its place is everywhere in the field of action. It is the least like an instrument of any of our faculties; the farthest removed from our conceptions of mechanism and matter, as we commonly define them.” Holmes was correct in his idea, but faulty in his details.

The Will does not change its seat, which is always in the center of the Ego, but the Will forces the mind to all parts, and in all directions, and it directs the Prana or vital force likewise. The Will is indeed the general-in-chief, but it does not rush to the various points of action, but sends its messengers and couriers there to carry out its orders. Buxton has said: “The Will will do anything that can be done in this world. And no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities will make a two-legged creature a Man without it.” Ik Marvel truly says: “Resolve is what makes a man manifest; not puny resolve, not crude determinations, not errant purpose–but that strong and indefatigable Will which treads down difficulties and danger, as a boy treads down the heaving frost-lands of winter; which kindles his eye and brain with a proud pulse-beat toward the unattainable. Will makes men giants.”

The great obstacle to the proper use of the Will, in the case of the majority of people, is the lack of ability to focus the attention. The Yogis clearly understand this point, and many of the Raja Yoga exercises which are given to the students by the teachers, are designed to overcome this difficulty. Attention is the outward evidence of the Will. As a French writer has said: “The attention is subject to the superior authority of the Ego. I yield it, or I withhold it, as I please. I direct it in turn to several points. I concentrate it upon each point as long as my Will can stand the effort.” Prof. James has said: “The essential achievement of the Will, when it is most voluntary, is to attend to a difficult object, and hold it fast before the mind. Effort of Attention is the essential phenomenon of the Will.” And Prof. Halleck says: “The first step toward the development of Will lies in the exercise of Attention. Ideas grow in distinctness and motor-power as we attend to them.

If we take two ideas of the same intensity and center the attention upon one, we shall notice how much it grows in power.” Prof. Sully says: “Attention may be roughly defined as the active self-direction of the mind to any object which presents itself at the moment.” The word “Attention” is derived from two Latin words, ad tendere, meaning “to stretch towards,” and this is just what the Yogis know it to be. By means of their psychic or clairvoyant sight, they see the thought of the attentive person stretched out toward the object attended to, like a sharp wedge, the point of which is focused upon the object under consideration, the entire force of the thought being concentrated at that point. This is true not only when the person is considering an object, but when he is earnestly impressing his ideas upon another, or upon some task to be accomplished. Attention means reaching the mind out to and focusing it upon something.

The trained Will exhibits itself in a tenacious Attention, and this Attention is one of the signs of the trained Will. The student must not hastily conclude that this kind of Attention is a common faculty among men. On the contrary it is quite rare, and is seen only among those of “strong” mentality. Anyone may fasten his Attention upon some passing, pleasing thing, but it takes a trained will to fasten it upon some unattractive thing, and hold it there. Of course the trained occultist is able to throw interest into the most unattractive thing upon which it becomes advisable to focus his Attention, but this, in itself, comes with the trained Will, and is not the possession of the average man. Voluntary Attention is rare, and is found only among strong characters. But it may be cultivated and grown, until he who has scarcely a shade of it to-day, in time may become a giant. It is all a matter of practice, exercise, and Will.

It is difficult to say too much in favor of the development of the faculty of tenacious Attention. One possessing this developed faculty is able to accomplish far more than even a much “brighter” man who lacks it. And the best way to train the Attention, under the direction of the Will, is to practice upon uninteresting objects, and ideas, holding them before the mind until they begin to assume an Interest. This is difficult at first, but the task soon begins to take on a pleasant aspect, for one finds that his Will-power and Attention are growing, and he feels himself acquiring a Force and Power that were lacking before–he realizes that he is growing Stronger. Charles Dickens said that the secret of his success consisted in his developing a faculty of throwing his entire Attention into whatever he happened to be doing at the moment and then being able to turn that same degree of Attention to the next thing coming before him for consideration. He was like a man behind a great searchlight, which was successively turned upon point after point, illuminating each in turn. The “I” is the man behind the light, and the Will is the reflector, the light being the Attention.

This discussion of Will and Attention may seem somewhat “dry” to the student, but that is all the more reason that he should attend to it. It is the secret that lies at the basis of the Science of Raja Yoga, and the Yogi Masters have attained a degree of Concentrated Will and Attention that would be inconceivable to the average “man on the street.” By reason of this, they are able to direct the mind here and there, outward or inward, with an enormous force. They are able to focus the mind upon a small thing with remarkable intensity, just as the rays of the sun may be focused through a “sun-glass” and caused to ignite linen, or, on the other hand, they are able to send forth the mind with intense energy, illuminating whatever it rests upon, just as happens in the case of the strong electric searchlight, with which many of us are familiar. By all means start in to cultivate the Attention and Will. Practice on the unpleasant tasks–do the things that you have before you, and from which you have been shrinking because they were unpleasant. Throw interest into them, and the difficulty will vanish, and you will come out of it much stronger, and filled with a new sense of Power.

MANTRAM (AFFIRMATION).

“I” have a Will–it is my inalienable property and right. I determine to cultivate and develop it by practice and exercise. My mind is obedient to my Will. I assert my Will over my Mind. I am Master of my mind and body. I assert my Mastery. My Will is Dynamic–full of Force and Energy, and Power. I feel my strength. I am Strong. I am Forceful. I am Vital. I am Center of Consciousness, Energy, Strength, and Power, and I claim my birthright.