“The essence of many meditation techniques is learning how to turn your attention inward.” — Guru Tua
It’s a simple concept, but the most straightforward techniques are often the most profound. Please take a few moments to read about it, then try this simple technique for yourself. Your attention directs awareness, which helps the consciousness shift gears. It’s easiest to close your eyes, but you can certainly learn to keep this connection when your eyes are open.
The Essence of Meditation Techniques
“The inward journey is the experience of higher states of consciousness. These states exist beyond waking, dreaming, and sleeping. It is a journey into the transcendent. Hence, an experience of awareness and existence outside of time. When you are ready, it may also include a journey into other realms and landscapes. This is the Shamanic Journey.” — Guru Tua
Learning How to Turn Your Attention Inward
Bringing your attention inward is the step that makes most internal meditation techniques possible. It’s a fundamental skill of meditation, and these are some basic tricks that help you focus attention. When we close our eyes, our natural tendency is to fall asleep. So, we must use one of two basic techniques to keep this from happening.
“All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.” – Adyashanti
First, we can sit up. When the spine is erect, we have more of a tendency to remain awake and alert. Another method we can use when laying down is to engage the mind with sound and imagination. This second strategy is the essence of the Shaman Journey, or what some call Guided Meditation. Rebranding the Shamanic Journey makes it more marketable in the West. Here, the sound of a drum keeps the traveler from falling asleep.
These two techniques teach you how to turn your attention inward while minimizing the active mind’s interference. Another complementary process is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation has both a seated and moving component. And, the moving element in this process is the internal aspect of Forest Bathing.
We “miss” this opportunity because of our active minds. Our culture reinforces the idea that we must always do something productive. So, we train the mind to be in control. We forget the importance of inner solitude.
Controlling Your Two Brain Systems
If you want to learn how to focus inward, you need to learn how to control the two main brain systems that control the bandwidth of attention. We have both involuntary and voluntary systems. (1) The involuntary system is fast and intuitive, the voluntary system is slow and uses logic and reason.
You’d think that the slower aspect of common sense and reason is where the control lives, but you’d be wrong. It is the faster intuitive mind that is in control of all involuntary systems, which includes the network in the brainstem as well as the limbic region and the amygdala. These are our primitive brain systems, sometimes called the reptilian or money brain.
These involuntary primitive systems regulate everything from heart rate and breathing to the release of a host of hormones and enzymes. Because Ego controls personality and instinct, these have direct links to this primitive aspect of the brain.
If you can learn the techniques that help you control the involuntary systems, then you can control attention and awareness.
Here again, you probably think you can use reason to control the mind, but you’d be wrong. It’s actually much easier to access the control, though directly controlling the body like breathing. The other access point for control is by “guiding awareness” rather than attempt to force it.
Meditation which uses a mantra is one of the most efficient ways to gain control of attention. Studies show that even after practicing short periods of simple meditation techniques improve attention control, reduces stress, and also increases the quality of sleep. (2) It’s no wonder people who practice meditation for years become accomplished thinkers. When you can control attention and awareness, you are more in command of your intellect.
Students and managers who practice a short 1 minute exercise before a problem solving exercise were three times faster at reaching the correct solution than those who did not use the 1 minute meditation exercise.
You can learn this exercise in less than 1 minute and it will serve you a lifetime. Here it is.
First, bring your attention to your breath. When we focus on our breath, it moves our attention inward. You don’t want to alter the breath; learn to observe it. Now, watch the body. Once you can monitor what’s going on with your physical body and your normally automatic breath actions, you can take it down another level.
Now, as a bonus, bring your imagination into play through the use of creative visualization. Picture your spine as a highway filled with energy. And then radiate this energy to all parts of your body. While you are doing this, keep observing the body and breath. It’s the easiest way to bring the silence of meditation into motion.
“Meditation has become a big part of my life these days. It’s more about taking some moments for yourself to deep-breathe and focus your attention inward. This has really helped me because, as a perfectionist, I used to think that if I couldn’t meditate on my idea of the perfect way, then it wouldn’t work. I now meditate even if it is for three minutes while I’m sitting in the car. Every little bit helps to slow the system.” — Renee Marino
Seated and Moving Meditation Techniques
When people are discussing meditation, they think of someone sitting crossed leg, but this is only one of several kinds of meditation. We’ve already given you the first 1 minute meditation technique. There is a whole range which includes seated and moving forms.
The ability to control awareness and attention directly applies all forms of moving meditation. For instance, Tai Chi is a system where one learns to transfer energy from the internal to the external. It is a way of expanding observational awareness.
When done correctly, you bring internal energy through the body. When we learn techniques for moving meditation, the natural tendency is to focus all our attention outward, but this is only half of the process. So, we are not grounded or connected. As the movements become automatic, we must learn how to turn our attention inward while in motion.
Almost all meditation techniques require some level of inward focus. It makes us present and helps to shut off both the inner dialogue and the outer world. Learning how to turn your attention inward is an essential life skill. All we need to do is remember to do it.
“By connecting with the present, we turn our attention inward, away from all the chaos and activity, and experience our eternal, unbounded nature.” — Deepak Chopra
(1) Thinking, fast and slow by, Daniel Kahneman, 2013: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL26208390M/Thinking_fast_and_slow
(2) Meditation: Process and effects: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895748/
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