Monday, June 25, 2012

Nourishing Concentration (Right Concentration)

Nourishing Concentration (Right Concentration) is about cultivating the ability to focus your mind.  According to Thich Nhat Hanh, there are two types of concentration.
  1. Active Concentration
  2. Selective Concentration
In the practice of active concentration, the purpose is to cultivate the ability to focus on the now.  Staying present, you focus on what is happening as it happens and then release it as it fades away.  TNH uses buddhist poetry to show this.  One describes how a lake reflects the sky, showing an image of a bird that flies by, and then how it again reflects only the sky.  The lake is an example of excellent Nourishing Active Concentration.

When we practice selective concentration, we choose a specific thing to focus on.  This sort of concentration is about learning to hone and control our thinking.  For example, the specific focus of the technique may be our breathing or our heartbeat.  This sort of practice helps us to become better at ignoring external stimuli when studying, working, driving, or doing any other activity that should take our full attention.

TNH makes a point of telling us that the act of concentration should not be used as an escape mechanism from our problems.  Concentrating to avoid issues of conflict within your life is not Nourishing Concentration.

Nourishing Concentration leads to Nourishing Action and happiness.  We cultivate the ability to be deeply still and present in the moment or focused on our tasks.  This brings us joy and allows people to see the stability and strength within us. 

The Buddha taught many different concentrations.  One that I liked from the book was the Concentration on Impermanence.  So you practice Nourishing Concentration by being fully aware of how impermanent everything and everyone is.  TNH says that you see your loved ones as impermanent and do what you can to make them happy today.  In doing so, you free them to grow, change, and release themselves from suffering in the future.  I like this idea very much.

*This post is a piece of a larger discussion that begins with the post: Lessons from the Heart of the Buddha's Teachings.*