Practice is called “practice” because it is just that. The mechanism by which yoga and meditation practice work on us is repetition despite fluctuating desire and facility, and this repetition is called practice. And you’ve no doubt heard and experienced that the point of showing up day after day, desire or no, and despite how easy or hard it is on any given day, is that we are practicing for life.
Meditation is described in yoga by the sixth and seventh of the “Eight Limbs” described by Patanjali. Dharana and Dhyana together describe meditation: concentration + focus. Concentration is the ability to stay present to the field of awareness, while focus is the ability to select and moderate that field. Focus, put simply, is the ability to choose your object of meditation while concentration is the ability to remain with it.
Dear Hubs and I often refer to one another’s quirky abilities – you know, the character traits and capacities that can be endearing or annoying depending on how you relate to them – as special secret super powers. Organizing and focus are two of mine.
Any superhero will tell you that their super power can also create their biggest problems, and is usually the repository for the bits of experience they want to avoid. So how can a mere mortal avoid the pitfalls of special secret super powers if the chicks and dudes of flight and steel can’t avoid them?
So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised the other day when my laser focus and persistent concentration were revealed to me not as super powers, but the armor with which I gird myself and fend off the demands of body and home.
When the mix of focus and concentration is out of balance, it’s pretty easy for me to catch myself using these capacities to live in my head rather than whole body and to snap at people who ask me to change the range or object of my focus. When Dear Hubs came in to ask how I’d like to be served breakfast, I’d become so absorbed in my focus that I snapped (not a proud moment, to be sure).
The object is only valuable for what it reveals about the field of awareness in which it resides.
Using my special secret super power as a shield from the world, I was so far in my head I had ceased to feel hungry, notice my posture and breathing or respond to the person I admire most in the world as the wonderful human being he is.
The balance of focus and concentration is part of what I need to practice when I arrive on the cushion or mat. My personal tendency is to fall into over focus, which can be a sort of spiritual bypassing, when we use our practices to escape the world rather than find equanimity in it.
How do the components of meditation show up in your day-to-day world? Have you ever noticed that you “leave your body” during your day-to-day life? How do you use what you learn on the mat and cushion to adjust how you relate to your work and love?
- Meditation Research: Meditation leads to better Multitasking, QiGong alleviates Chronic Fatigue Symptoms (karahpino.me)
- Yoga and Meditation – An Ancient Answer to Modern Day Stress (everydayhealth.com)
- Want to Find Some Peace? Meditate, Baby! (lightworkersgifts.wordpress.com)
- Integrating the Sutras of Ashtanga Yoga (ccccchange.wordpress.com)