We are focusing this session on the last of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Wise Concentration, it is the pinnacle of this progressive succession of steps. Encapsulating and integrating the previous seven steps, providing a clear path towards liberation from suffering and enlightenment.
Here’s how Wise Concentration encompasses the preceding seven steps pertaining to our Yoga practice. The 1st step, we need to concentrate and focus our attention to the body, energy and mind to develop Wise Understanding of what our objective is today in our practice. Why did you come to practice? What do you need? What is important to you? Extending this understanding beyond the practical needs, by concentrating, one gains insights into the impermanent, interconnected, and self-less nature of existence, – understanding not just who we are, but what we are.
The 2nd step of the Eightfold path requires a strong and clear Wise Intention, to develop a focused and tranquil mind, heart and body. Set an intention for practice. This intention aligns us with the wisdom gained through the 1st step, as we recognises the importance of cultivating a calm and centred heart-mind and body to overcome suffering.
Through Step 3 Wise Speech, Step 4 Wise Action, Step 5 Wise Livelihood, we deepen our concentration, as the mind becomes more disciplined and through practice, we clear the lenses of perception over the mind, heart and body. This leads to greater control over one’s thoughts, emotions and actions, supporting the development of ethical conduct, reducing impulsivity and reactivity which promotes being present in practice as well as in daily life. To communicate clearly, to make wise choices aligned to what is most important and to live well.
The practice of concentration requires diligent Wise Effort and perseverance which is the 6th Step, drawing the mind back to the chosen object of practice to overcome distractions and hindrances. In practice we build a lot of Prana, known as life force energy and having a concentrated mind focused on what is important, our intention and a clear path to where we want to go takes effort to keep on track.
Wise Concentration is intimately connected with the 7th Step, Wise Mindfulness. Mindfulness is an essential component of practice, as it involves the non-judgmental awareness and clear comprehension of what is being experienced on the lenses of the body, energy and mind in the present moment. Awareness, Wakefulness, being presence supports concentration, helping to maintain focus, naturally becoming more settled and absorbed physically, energetically and mentally.
So, this just highlights how all these steps are interdependent and mutually reinforcing in the goal to lead us skilfully to freedom, peace and fulfilment.
Some key steps to practice Wise Concentration in a Yoga practice is first:
- Schedule the time to practice and create a clear area, so it is easier to manage.
- Make sure each pose is steady and comfortable, YS 2.46 Sthira and Sukham.
- Steady the eyes, Dirsti which means eye gazing. Not staring, expand the peripheral vision, notice the perimeter of the eye and take in it all, yet nothing at all. Is one technique to concentrate. Just wakefully witnessing.
- Or close the eyes to lessen the external distractions and focus on internal practice.
- Ujjayi Pranayama
- YS 2.47 The practice is to concentrate becoming more meditative as you focus your attention on an object. The Yoga Sutras offer these objects to focus on; YS 1.34 Breath Awareness YS 1.35 Sensation YS 1.36 cultivate light to heal, see and transform
Our mind will naturally wander away with thoughts and distractions. When this happens, gently and non-judgmentally bring the attention back to the chosen object. This process of redirecting the mind is a crucial aspect of developing concentration. With regular practice, the mind will become more settled and focused on the chosen object.
As you progress, you will experience fewer distractions, and your concentration will deepen, leading to one-pointedness of mind, in Yoga this is the doorway to Samadhi. Consistency is crucial in developing Wise Concentration and it is said that what is experienced as a result, is a deep state of calm equanimity, fully immersed in the absorption of moment by moment oneness which frees you from suffering opening to the rapture of joy, peacefulness and love that pervades one’s experience. This is said to be the result of practicing the Eightfold Path which guides practitioner towards liberation and enlightenment.