Gaining focus

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Concentration and meditation are special moments in the same mindfulness that you're asked to bring to every aspect of your life. The Sanskrit word for concentration is dharana, which means "holding." You hold your attention by focusing on a specific bodily process (such as breathing), a thought, an image, or a sound (as we discuss in "Practicing Meditation" later in the chapter). Through concentration, you seek to become concentric, or properly centered and harmonious with yourself. When you're out of center (eccentric), or out of touch with your spiritual core, all your thoughts and actions are out of sync; they don't flow from your innermost core and thus make you feel alienated, uneasy, and unhappy.

You can determine whether you're currently concentric or eccentric by checking in with your body. How do you feel? How does a decision you're about to make feel? How does a relationship feel? What does your body tell you about your present activity or your job? How do you feel about your life as a whole? This kind of mindfulness is called focusing, which means paying careful attention to how your mind is registering in your body. Body and mind go together, so keeping mentally in touch with your body regularly is vital and even fundamental to good postural practice.

Through focusing, you can also become aware of your own baggage — old resentments, disappointments, fears, and expectations. People tend to store negative experiences in their bodies, which makes them predisposed to sickness. Sooner or later, each person needs to work through these stored memories for their own good health and to share their liberated selves with the world around them.

One way to begin replaying and diffusing negative experiences that are recorded in your body is to ask yourself, "Is anything preventing me from feeling good and happy right now? What, if anything, is keeping me from experiencing bliss?" Your body contains the answer(s): a sensation of tightness in the chest, a hollow feeling around the heart, a contraction in the pit of your stomach, fearful pounding in the head — you get the idea. All these reactions are physical expressions of corresponding emotional states.

^ When doing this kind of focusing work, don't settle for the first answer that comes to mind. Instead, ask yourself, "What else is there to prevent me from ■ JOJ1 feeling good and happy?" If you encounter too much inner pain, you may want to consider doing this work in the company of a trusted friend or under the guidance of a competent counselor or therapist.

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