By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Many Yoga instructors skim over meditation, which is the most rewarding part of a class. There are many reasons for this. Among these reasons is a belief that students cannot become relaxed. With technology as it is, are Yoga students going through withdrawal, when they unplug themselves from electronic devices? There is also a lack of knowledge about the value of meditating and concentrating in today’s world.

To understand the difference between meditation and concentration, it is necessary to know what both words mean. The normal state of the mind is one of fast-paced, fragmented thoughts, feelings, and actions. With constant stimulation from a diverse array of sources, it bounces from one idea, or reaction to another, with little rational reason.

Within the Yoga Sutras, Maharishi Patanjali points out the difference between meditation and concentration. When we consider the path described by Patanjali, we often refer to it as: “The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga.” To eliminate confusion in one’s meditation practice, Patanjali points out two critical limbs.

The sixth limb is dharana, which is, in fact, concentration for the purpose of developing complete perception (awareness). It is believed by many that concentration is a fundamental building block toward meditation. The seventh limb is dhyana, which is referred to as profound meditation or meditation on the “Divine,” depending upon your point of view and religious beliefs.

Although concentration is usually thought of as sustained attention to a given purpose, it can just as easily apply to an unintentional one. Anyone who has ever tried to concentrate on a boring lecture, while thinking of lunch, can appreciate the effort required for one to focus the mind on the task at hand.

In order to concentrate at will, however, it is necessary to train the brain to center around one thought, task, or object – for an extended period of time, without becoming distracted. When this mission is accomplished, the brain enters a state of flow and becomes quiet. At this point, the higher task of inner focus becomes possible.

Although there are many styles of meditation, the ability to concentrate is a prerequisite for all. More difficult to define than concentration, meditation – unlike concentration – takes the emphasis from the head into the heart or soul.

A person, who has reached a state of meditation, loses track of time and place, and becomes totally present to universal consciousness. No effort is required, no thoughts are necessary, and concentration changes into “being.” The frustration of distracting thoughts no longer exists, and there is no resistance.

While concentration is a step used to initiate a meditative state, the focus, during meditation, moves from a sense of separation, to a feeling of connection, with all that is. In a state of oneness with a higher power, the person practicing the meditation feels a taste of bliss and peace.

Incidences of wisdom, intuition, and synchronicity increase; heart rate slows down; brain waves change; and there is a greater connection to the higher power. In addition, there is a positive effect on physical and mental health during the intervals between meditation sessions.

It might be said that concentration quiets the scattered mind (monkey mind). Within some Yoga schools, there is a belief that during meditation sessions, the soul manages to make a connection with the Divine. With that said, meditation is a much deeper experience, in comparison to concentration.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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