“Your own mind is the cause of happiness, your own mind is the cause of suffering. To obtain happiness and pacify suffering, you have to work within your own mind.” Lama Zopa Rinpoche
A young monk went to his teacher and asked if the brain was the same as the mind. The old monk told his student that if he believed that his mind resided in his brain then he must find it and bring it to him. Essentially he was instructing the young man to explore the nature of his mind through observation of thought and how it functions. Does your mind have shape, color, or form? Where does it reside and from what point do your thoughts arise? Do your thoughts have substance or, in dissolving, do they leave no trace? Coming to understand the nature of your mind trains you for a deeper concentration in your spiritual practice.
The path described by Ashtanga Yoga, the eight-limbed path, includes concentration (dharana) as the sixth limb and occurs only after you have been able to establish a single pointed focus on an object, word, or breath. After sitting in meditation for 15-30 minutes, you should begin to feel your body getting lighter and more relaxed. In the back of your mind, you may be semiconscious of your body and your surroundings or you may have no awareness of them whatsoever. You can concentrate on the OM mantra, or the even flow of your breath. It is not unusual to experience a feeling of great happiness while in this state of concentration; but be aware that this happiness is not the same as pleasure that arises from sensual delight.
It is important that you know the difference between focus, concentration, and meditation. Although they are each employed to gain freedom from the mind’s afflictions of attachment, pride, anger, jealousy, and greed, they are separate lessons on the path. A key point to remember, according to brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., author of My Stroke of Insight, is though you may think of yourself as a thinking creature who feels, biologically we are all feeling creatures that think. And our “reptilian” or emotional brain, although functional, does not mature throughout our lifetime. Thus, when our emotional buttons are pushed we respond as we would as a child. By following the Eight Limb practice of yoga you can improve the brain’s higher cortical cells to balance the child-like limbic mind resulting in a more mature response to any situation.
Next: How to Improve Your Concentration and Sharpen Your Intellect