The mind fluctuates and runs hither and thither and it is very hard to find peace and focus unless you have practiced. It is important to practice and train that mind to concentrate, gather the energies of all of that disorganized thinking and train it to focus on one thing.
In sanskrit the concept of concentration is called Dharana defined as the holding steady, fixing of the mind on something, the art of “binding the consciousness to a single spot.” This is the 6th stage in the 8 limbs of patanjalai’s Raja Yoga. It is my number one starting point for meditation and from there all else flows in a single fluid stream.
The fluctuating mind is often referred to as a drunken monkey mind, doing its chat chat chatter. Totally true of my mind that loves to be chronically busy and engaged and exploring which leads to a tendency to be scattered, too quick and unfocused. The task is to learn to hold the mind still because once you master the art of holding it still all the benefits of the practice and art of meditation are yours.
Swami Satchitananda writes about trying to practice dharana with a rose. “As you look at the rose,” he writes, “the mind will try to go somewhere. The minute you begin, the mind will say, ‘Ah, yes, I remember she sent me a rose like that for my last birthday.’… And then, ‘After that we had dinner. Ah, it was the best dinner. Then we went to the movies. What was that movie? King Kong?’ It will all happen within two minutes. Even less than two minutes. So, on what are you meditating now? Not on a rose, but on King Kong.”
When people say they have tried but simply cannot meditate they are usually having a failure of the ability to hold the mind in steady concentration. Remember that our minds are like a drunken monkey flying from thought to thought. In this precursor to meditation the idea is to accept these thoughts but let them go, watch them dissipate, save them for later..simply do not dignify them with any attention at all. Be a witness to those thoughts but not a participant.
Concentration gets easier as you practice it. So keep practicing even if you start with two minutes a day. Try these:
1. Watch the breath flow in and out. Listen to it, feel it, see where it goes. In and out. Start with 2 minutes and extend to 10. As thoughts appear, basically tell them to chill, ignore them, let them go and go back to watching the breath.
2. Mantra Practice: Om is a simple mantra practice. (listen and learn here). You might also try the more complex Sa Ta Na Ma practice (listen and learn here) that keeps not only mind but fingers active. Thoughts might appear here too and you may even realize you are no longer chanting your mantra. Just laugh at yourself and go back to your practice. Again start with 2 minutes and build up to a longer practice.