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From Intellect to Intuition - Chapter Five - Stages in Meditation
Concentration is, therefore, the power to focus the consciousness on a given subject and to hold it there as long as desired; it is the method of accurate perception, and the power to visualize correctly, being the quality which enables the Thinker to perceive and know the field of perception. Another word for concentration is attention, that is, one-pointed attention. It is interesting to note what Father Maréchal says in this connection. He points out that

"attention is a direct path to full perception, to hallucination, or, more generally, to belief... It brings about an at least momentary unification of the mind by the predominance of one mental group... But this 'mental unity,' realized to some degree in the phenomenon of attention, is also the sole subjective condition which, we have seen, accompanies always the true or false perception of the real."
- Maréchal, Joseph, S. J., Studies in the Psychology of the Mystics, page 90.

The question may be asked, what is the easiest way to teach oneself to concentrate? One might reply, in the words of the French proverb: "Le meilleur moyen de déplacer est de remplacer;" - "the best way to eliminate is to substitute," and one way that may be employed is to utilize what has been called the "expulsive power of a new affection." To be profoundly interested in some new and intriguing subject, and to have one's attention focused on some fresh and dynamic matter will automatically tend to make the mind one-pointed. [107]

A second answer might be given: Be concentrated in all that you do all day every day. Concentration will be rapidly developed if we cultivate the habit of accuracy in all the affairs of life. Accurate speech would necessitate accurate attention to that which is said, read or heard, and this would necessarily involve concentration and so develop it. True meditation is after all an attitude of mind and will grow out of an attitude of concentration.

The objective, therefore, of all our endeavor is to train the mind so as to make it our servant and not our master, and to cultivate the power of concentration preparatory to true meditation work. The earnest student, therefore, will carry this close attention into the affairs of everyday life and will thereby learn to regulate his mind as an apparatus for his thought.

Let me emphasize here the necessity of a constantly concentrated attitude to life. The secret of success can be expressed in the simple words: Pay attention. In talking to people, in reading a book, in writing a letter, let us steadily focus our thought on what we are doing and so gradually develop the capacity to concentrate.

To this cultivated attitude there must be added definite concentration exercises, carried forward each day, with perseverance. This involves the fixing of the mind upon a particular object, or a chosen topic for thought. To this succeeds a process of steadily and quietly learning to abstract the [108] consciousness from the outer world and exoteric conditions and focus it at will on any subject.

The regular unremitting work of daily concentration gradually overcomes the difficulty of control and brings about results which might be enumerated as follows:

  1. The reorganization of the mind.
  2. The polarizing of the man in his mental, instead of his emotional vehicle.
  3. The withdrawal of the man's attention from the sense perceptions and his learning to center himself in the brain. Most people, like the animals, use the solar plexus.
  4. The development of a faculty of instantaneous concentration as a preliminary to meditation.
  5. The capacity to focus the attention unswervingly upon any chosen seed thought.
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