Many people assume that the goal of meditation is to achieve a thought-free, clear mind. However, many common forms of meditation actually involve the opposite. Focused meditation, for example, involves focusing intently on a certain sound, image, sensation or other object of attention.
Focused meditation can be a lot less daunting than some other forms, especially if you use a concrete physical object to focus on. You can use this object as an anchor, drawing you back into the present moment even as your thoughts try to pull you away.
This method of meditation is open-ended in the sense that there is no prescribed posture or object of focus. You can adapt it to meet your own needs. This is also useful because it can be done in a variety of settings. You can choose almost anything to meditate upon, including the waves of a river, a nearby tree, or your own hand. Wherever you are, you can sit and do a focused meditation.
To start out, choose a quiet place to sit. Find a comfortable position, and gradually relax your body to remove any stiffness. Then begin to pay attention to the object of focus you have chosen. No matter what type of object it is, you can use many senses to focus on it: how does it make you feel? What is it like to fully experience that object in this moment?
When your mind wanders to other thoughts, picture yourself touching the thought and then letting it go. Then return your attention to the object of focus. Don’t assume that you have made a mistake by becoming distracted. These moments of distraction are far from failures — instead, you should feel proud that you noticed it and brought yourself back.
There are several different categories of objects that you may choose to focus on. One example is to focus on a sound, such as meditation music, waves or nature. You can also focus on a smell such as incense, or a visual object such as a candle flame or a picture of someone special. You can use tactile objects such as the feeling of hot water in the shower. You can also focus on abstract objects, such as compassion or gratitude.
Focused meditation is wonderful for those who find other meditation techniques too loose or open-ended. It may also be an easier, more suitable form for people who easily get bored or distracted by other forms of meditation, since you can choose a unique object to focus on and use it as a way to anchor yourself. This helps avoid some common pitfalls of meditation, such as frustration or impatience.
Many of us have difficulty concentrating throughout our day. We get distracted by worries, fears, judgments and a million other thoughts. Studies show over and over that becoming more mindful of our thoughts has a myriad of health benefits, and focused meditation is a great way to do it. Focused meditation not only improves your ability to concentrate on things that are important to you, but also helps you become less attached to your thoughts and more clear-minded.