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THE universal complaint which comes from those who are beginning to practise concentration is that the very attempt to concentrate results in a greater restlessness of the mind. To some extent this is true, for the law of action and reaction works here as everywhere, and the pressure put on the mind causes a corresponding reaction. But while admitting this, we find, on closer study, that the increased restlessness is largely illusory. The feeling of such increased restlessness is chiefly due to the opposition suddenly set up between the Ego, willing steadiness, and the mind in its normal condition of mobility. The Ego has, for a long series of lives, been carried about by the mind in all its swift movements, as a man is ever being carried through space by the whirling earth. He is not conscious of movement; he does not know that the world is moving, so thoroughly is he part of it, moving as it moves. If he were able to separate himself from the earth and stop his own movement without being shivered into pieces, he would only then be conscious that the earth was moving at a high rate of speed. So long as a man is yielding to every movement of the mind, he does not realise its continual activity and restlessness; but when he steadies himself, when he ceases to move, then he feels the ceaseless motion of the mind he has hitherto obeyed.

If the beginner knows these facts, he will not be discouraged at the very commencement of his efforts by meeting with this universal experience, but will, taking it for granted, go quietly on with his task. And, after all, he is but repeating the experience voiced by Arjuna five thousand years ago:

This Yoga which Thou hast declared to be by equanimity, O slayer of Madhu, I see no stable foundation for it, owing to restlessness; for the mind is verily restless, O Krishna! it is impetuous, strong, and difficult to bend; I deem it as hard to curb as the wind.

And still is true the answer, the answer pointing out the only way to success:

Without doubt, O mighty armed, the mind is hard to curb and restless; but it may be curbed by constant practice and by indifference.

The mind thus steadied will not be so easily thrown off its balance by the wandering thoughts from other minds, ever seeking to effect a lodgment, the vagrant crowd which continually encircles us. The mind used to concentration retains always a certain positiveness, and is not readily shaped by unlicensed intruders.

All people who are training their minds should maintain an attitude of steady watchfulness with regard to the thoughts that " come into the mind", and should exercise towards them a constant selection. The refusal to harbour evil thoughts, their prompt ejection if they effect an entry, the immediate replacement of an evil thought by a good one of the opposite character—this practice will so tune the mind that after a time it will act automatically, repelling the evil of its own accord. Harmonious, rhythmical vibrations repel the inharmonious and irregular; they fly off from the rhythmically vibrating surface as a stone that strikes against a whirling wheel. Living, as we all do, in a continual current of thoughts, good and evil, we need to cultivate the selective action of the mind, so that the good may be automatically drawn in, the evil automatically repelled.

The mind is like a magnet, attracting and repelling, and the nature of its attractions and repulsions can be determined by ourselves. If we watch the thoughts which come into our minds, we shall find that they are of the same kind as those which we habitually encourage. The mind attracts the thoughts which are congruous with its normal activities. If we, then, for a time, deliberately practise selection, the mind will soon do this selection for itself on the lines laid down for it, and so evil thoughts will not penetrate into the mind, while the good will ever find an open door.

Most people are only too receptive, but the receptivity is due to feebleness, not to deliberate self-surrender to the higher influences. It is, therefore, well to learn how we may render ourselves normally positive, and how we may become negative when we decide that it is desirable that we should be so.

The habit of concentration will by itself tend to strengthen the mind, so that it will readily exercise control and selection with regard to the thoughts that come to it from outside, and it has already been stated how it can be trained automatically to repel the bad. But it may be well to add to what has been said, that when an evil thought enters the mind, it is better not to fight with it directly, but to utilize the fact that the mind can only think of one thing at a time; let the mind be at once turned to a good thought, and the evil one will be necessarily expelled. In fighting against anything, the very force we send out causes a corresponding reaction, and thus increases our trouble; whereas the turning of the mental eye to an image in a different direction causes the other image to drop silently from the field of vision. Many a man wastes years in combating impure thoughts, when quiet occupation of the mind with pure ones would leave no room for his assailants; further, as the mind thus draws to itself matter which does not respond to the evil, he is gradually becoming positive, unreceptive, to that kind of thought.

This is the secret of right receptivity; the mind responds according to its constitution; it answers to all that is of like nature with itself; we make it positive towards evil, negative towards good, by habitual good thinking, thus building into its very fabric materials that are receptive of good, unreceptive of evil. We must think of that which we desire to receive, and refuse to think of that which we desire not to receive. Such a mind, in the thought-ocean which surrounds it, draws to itself the good thoughts, repels the evil, and thus ever grows purer and stronger amid the very same thought conditions which render another fouler and weaker.

The method of replacing one thought by another is one that may be utilised to great advantage in many ways. If an unkind thought about another person enter the mind, it should at once be replaced by a thought of some virtue he .possesses, of some good action he has done. If the mind is harassed by anxiety, turn it to the thought of the purpose that runs through life, the Good Law which "mightily and sweetly ordereth all things". If a particular kind of undesirable thought persistently obtrudes itself then it is wise to provide a special weapon; some verse or phrase that embodies the opposite idea should be chosen, and whenever the objectionable thought presents itself, this phrase should be repeated and dwelt upon. In a week or two the thought will cease to trouble.

It is a good plan constantly to furnish the mind with some high thought, some word of cheer, some inspiration to noble living. Ere we go forth into life's turmoil day by day, we should give the mind this shield of good thought.

A few words are enough, taken from some Scripture of the race, and this, fixed in the mind by a few recitations in the early morning, will recur to the mind again and again during the day, and will be found repeating itself in the mind, whenever the mind is disengaged.


There are certain dangers connected with the practice of concentration as to which the beginner should be warned, for many eager students, in their wish to go far go too fast, and so hinder themselves instead of helping.

The body is apt to suffer owing to the ignorance and inattention of the student.

When a man concentrates his mind, his body puts itself into a state of tension, and this is not noticed by him, is involuntary so far as he is concerned. This following of the mind by the body may be noticed in very many trivial things; an effort to remember causes a wrinkling of the forehead, the eyes are fixed, and the eyebrows drawn down; tense attention is accompanied by fixity of the eyes, anxiety by an eager, wistful gaze. For ages, effort of the mind has been followed by effort of the body, the mind being directed entirely towards the supply of bodily needs by bodily exertions, and thus an association has been set up, which works automatically.

When concentration is commenced, the body, according to its wont, follows the mind, and the muscles become rigid and the nerves tense; hence great physical fatigue, muscular and nervous exhaustion, acute headache, are very apt to follow in the wake of concentration, and thus people are led to give it up, believing that these ill effects are inevitable.

As a matter of fact they can be avoided by a simple precaution. The beginner should now and again break off his concentration sufficiently to notice the state of his body, and if he finds it strained, tense, or rigid, he should at once relax; when this has been done several times, the links of association will be broken, and the body will remain pliant and resting while the mind is concentrated. Patanjali said that in meditation the posture adopted should be "easy and pleasant"; the body cannot help the mind by its tension, and it injures itself.

Perhaps a personal anecdote may be pardoned as an illustration. One day, while under H. P. Blavatsky's training, I was desired by her to make an effort of the will; I did do so with much intensity, and with the result of much swelling in the blood-vessels of the head. " My dear," she said drily, " you do not will with your blood-vessels."

Another physical danger arises from the effect produced by concentration on the nerve-cells of the brain. As the power of concentration increases, as the mind is stilled, and the Ego begins to work through the mind, he makes a new demand on the brain nerve-cells. These cells are, of course, ultimately constituted of atoms, and the walls of these atoms consist of whorls of spirillae, through which run currents of life-energy. Of these spirillae there are seven sets, four only of which are in use; the remaining three are as yet unused—practically rudimentary organs. As the higher energies pour down, seeking a channel in the atoms, the set of spirillae which-—later in evolution—will serve as their channel is forced into activity. If this be done very slowly and carefully, no harm results, but over-pressure means injury to the delicate structure of the spirillae. These minute, delicate tubes, when unused, have their sides in contact, like tubes of soft india-rubber ; if the sides are violently forced apart, rupture is apt to result. The feeling of dullness and heaviness all over the brain is the danger-signal; if this be disregarded acute pain will follow, and obstinate inflammation may ensue. Concentration should therefore be practised very sparingly at first and should never be carried to the point of brain-fatigue. A few minutes at a time is enough for a beginning, the time being lengthened gradually as the practice goes on.

But, however short the time which is given to it, it should be given regularly; if a day's practice be missed the previous condition of the atom reasserts itself, and the work has to be re-commenced. Steady and regular, but not prolonged, practice ensures the best results and avoids danger. In some schools of what is called Hatha Yoga the students are recommended to assist concentration by fixing the eyes on a black spot on a white wall, and to maintain this fixity of gaze until trance supervenes. Now, there are two reasons why this should not be done. First, the practice, after a while, injures the physical sight, and the eyes lose their power of adjustment. Secondly, it brings about a form of brain paralysis. This begins with the fatigue of the retinal cells, as the waves of light beat on them, and the spot disappears from view, the place on the retina where its image is formed becoming insensitive, the result of prolonged response. This fatigue spreads inwards, until finally a kind of paralysis supervenes, and the person passes into a hypnotic trance. In fact, excessive stimulation of a sense-organ is, in the West, a recognised means for producing hypnosis—the revolving mirror, the electric light, etc., being used with this object.

But brain paralysis not only stops all thinking on the physical plane, but renders the brain insensitive to non-physical vibrations, so that the Ego cannot impress it; it does not set him free, but merely deprives him of his

instrument. A man may remain for weeks in a trance thus induced, but when he awakes he is no wiser than at the beginning of the trance. He has not gained knowledge; he has merely wasted time. Such methods do not gain spiritual power, but merely bring about physical disability.


Meditation may be said to have been already explained, for it is only the sustained attitude of the concentrated mind in face of an object of devotion, of a problem that needs illumination to be intelligible, of anything whereof the life is to be realized and absorbed, rather than the form.

Meditation cannot be effectively performed until concentration is, at least partially, mastered. For concentration is not an end, but a means to an end; it fashions the mind into an instrument which can be used at the will of the owner. When a concentrated mind is steadily directed to any object, with the view of piercing the veil, and reaching the life, and drawing that life into union with the life to which the mind belongs—then meditation is performed. Concentration might be regarded as the shaping of the organ, meditation as its exercise. The mind has been made one-pointed; it is then directed to and dwells steadily on any object of which knowledge is desired.

Anyone who determines to lead a spiritual life must daily devote some time to meditation. As soon may the physical life be sustained without food as the spiritual without meditation. Those who cannot spare half an hour a day during which the world may be shut out and the mind may receive from the spiritual planes a current of life, cannot lead the spiritual life.

Only to the mind concentrated, steady, shut out from the world, can the Divine reveal itself. God shows Himself in His universe in endless forms; but within the human heart He shows Himself in His Life and Nature, revealing Himself to that which is a fragment of Himself. In that silence, peace and strength and force flow into the soul, and the man of meditation is ever the most efficient man of the world.

Lord Rosebery, speaking of Cromwell, described him as " a practical mystic ", and declared that a practical mystic is the greatest force in the world. It is true. The concentrated intelligence, the power of withdrawing outside the turmoil, mean immensely increased energy in work, mean steadiness, self-control, serenity; the man of meditation is the man who wastes no time, scatters no energy, misses no opportunity. Such a man governs events, because within him is the power whereof events are only the outer expression; he shares the divine life, and therefore shares the divine power.


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