The Eightfold Path: Right Concentration

In this series about the Buddhist ‘Eightfold Path’, I would like to share my thoughts about how very simple concepts and ideas about how we live our lives can be of direct benefit to our spiritual lives. More importantly, in this forum, how it ultimately will benefit our health and wellness. The ‘Eightfold Path’ is not a series of steps to take like in a recovery group or AA/NA type environment. This is why I am addressing each of the eight ideas out of order, per se. Each of the eight ideas, when thought of in practical terms, can be of great benefit in our daily lives. This article will focus on the concept of 'Right Concentration'.

All about the breath

Right concentration relates directly to the idea of mindfulness that we all are so familiar. The ability to improve our focus and concentration can begin through meditation or concentration exercises. Learning to improve focus and concentration while at work, home, grocery store, dinner date and all the other activities in our lives, is a little more difficult, so it is best to start in a quiet, relaxed and calm space. Meditation posture can take almost any form you are comfortable. There is no need to sit in full lotus position and contemplate the universe. The important thing is to be as relaxed and calm as you can be. The fact is, the development of concentration comes when we are not being bombarded by all of the thoughts and worries our lives seem to hold. The ability to improve our concentration and focus may actually hold the secret to removing some of the chaos that we often experience. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of concentration oriented meditation, it is very simple. You get into a very comfortable position, whether it be sitting, standing or other (depending on the person) and you concentrate only on your breath. As you do this, you will notice that thoughts about your life, your family, your obligations, your worries, your illness..will inevitably pop into your head. This is where the concentration piece comes in. The goal is to address the fact that you had whatever thought it was that you had and place it aside. You are to focus on breath only. Breath is the most basic of all life functions and the focus on the breath can be most grounding. By practicing this type of exercise, you will find, with practice, that your ability to concentrate will improve.

Focus on the issue at hand

With an improved ability to concentrate and focus, you may find making decisions, retaining information, choosing correct behavior and your capacity for dealing with adversity also improves. Once you find your concentration has improved, start practicing the same type of concentration exercises in you daily life. When you find yourself faced with a difficult situation, many thoughts will enter your mind. If you learn to let these thoughts go and return to your breath, you will be able to focus directly on the issue at hand and you will be less overwhelmed. Your mind will be more focused and clear about what exactly you are facing and the best way to deal with it. This all may require some practice, but can be extraordinarily helpful when dealing with your illness. There are so many different things that we worry about with regards to being sick. These things do not need to be addressed all at the same time. Concentrate…focus…and if your experience is anything the same as mine, you will find dealing with the stress of IBS, and life in general, to be much more reasonable.

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