Though any subject has been established by means of arguments and valid authorities, still people’s minds being entirely taken up with gross external objects, any clear conception of subtle ultimate truths is almost impossible without proper faith. When there is faith, the mind can be easily concentrated on the subject to be understood; and then the understanding quickly follows.
Control of Breath
Remove the Rajas (Passionate) and Tamas (Inertness) that envelop the Sattva (Purity) of the mind by Pranayama, Prayer, Self-Inquiry and Devotion. Then the mind becomes fit for concentration. Pranayama or control of breath removes the veil of Rajas and Tamas that envelops Sattva. It purifies the nerves (Nadis). It makes the mind firm and steady and thereby renders it fit for concentration. The dross of the mind is cleansed by Pranayama, just as the dross of gold is got rid of by melting. A Hatha Yogi tries to concentrate his mind by having his breath controlled through Pranayama
A Raja Yogi tries to concentrate his mind by restraining the various modifications of the mind, by not allowing the mind to assume various shapes of objects. He does not care for control of breath. But, his breath becomes necessarily controlled when his mind is concentrated. Hatha Yoga is a branch of Raja Yoga.
Attention plays a very great part in concentration. It is the basis of will. When it is properly guided and directed towards the internal world for purposes of introspection, it will analyze the mind and illumine very many astounding facts for you. The force wherewith anything strikes the mind is generally in proportion to the degree of attention bestowed upon it. Moreover, the great art of memory is attention and inattentive people have bad memories. Power of attention becomes weakened in old age.
Attention is focusing of consciousness. It is one of the signs of trained will. It is found in men of strong mentality. It is a rare faculty. Brahmacharya wonderfully develops this power. A Yogi who possesses this faculty can even fix the mind on an unpleasant object for a very long time. Attention can be cultivated and developed by persistent practice. All the great men of the world who have achieved greatness have risen up through this faculty. It is through the power of attention that mind carries out all its activities. Attention is the basis of will-force. Therefore cultivate the power of attention.
Attention may be either subjective or internal on an idea or objective or external on any object. Throw your entire attention into whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. It is easy to fasten the mind on an object which the mind likes best. Practice attention on unpleasant tasks, from which you have been shrinking before on account of their unpleasantness. Throw interest upon uninteresting objects and ideas. Hold them on before your mind. Interest will slowly manifest. Many mental weaknesses will vanish. The mind will become stronger and stronger.
Some medical students leave the medical college soon after joining it as they find it disgusting to wash the pus in ulcers and dissect the dead bodies. They make a serious blunder. In the beginning, it is loathing. After studying Pathology, Medicine, Operative Surgery, Morbid Anatomy, Bacteriology, the course will be very interesting in the final year. Many spiritual aspirants leave off the practice of concentration of mind after some time as they find it difficult to practice. They also make a grave mistake like the medical students. In the beginning of practice, when you struggle to get over the body-consciousness, it will be disgusting and troublesome. It will be a physical wrestling. The emotions and thoughts will be abundant. In the third year of practice, the mind will be cool, pure and strong. You will derive immense joy. The sum total of pleasures of the whole world is nothing when compared to the bliss derived from the meditation.
Do not give up the practice at any cost. Plod on. Persevere. Have patience, cheerfulness and tenacity. You will succeed eventually. Never despair. Find out by serious introspection the various impediments that act as stumbling blocks in your concentration and remove them with patience and efforts one by one. Do not allow new thoughts and new desires to crop up. Nip them in the bud through Viveka (Discrimination), Self-Inquiry and Concentration. Know that you are progressing in Yoga and that the pureness is increasing, when you are always cheerful, when the mind is even and concentrated.
Mind – Its Mysteries and Control by Sri Swami Sivananda