How busy is your mind? Can you concentrate easily? The following little exercise gauges your CQ (Concentration Quotient):
Think of a beautiful white swan. It looks neither left nor right but just slowly and majestically glides across the surface of a pond. It barely causes ripples in the water. Just keep thinking of that swan. Try to form a clear image and then hold it as steadily as possible in your mind while slowly counting down from 100.
How far did you manage to count before your mental image of the swan faded into thin air or another thought intruded? Was it 97 or 96? Perhaps you lost your concentration with the count of 99. You may have been able to continue your counting for several more numbers, but reaching much beyond 96 is unusual for most beginners. If you did, your power of concentration is good — only a yogi or yogini can count all the way to 0 and think of the swan.
If you think you didn't do well with this exercise because visualizing isn't your strong suit, try this one for good measure:
Sit quietly. Take a few deep breaths and then let your mind go totally blank. No thoughts, no images, no counting — no ripples in your mental pond at all. Just sit. Just be.
How did you do? Don't feel bad if your concentration exercise went something like this:
". . . Okay, I'm not thinking. Heck, that's a thought, isn't it? Let me try again. . . . That's much better. See? Having no images isn't that difficult. And what was that about counting? I didn't do too well with the counting test, but I hate tests. Oh darn, I'm thinking again. Okay, back to no thoughts. . . ."
Don't be discouraged if your mind is a veritable speed train and your concentration is too poor to slow it down. Your mind's forward charge merely means that you have room for improvement, and you will improve with practice. Distraction isn't negative in itself. Instead, you can look at your lack of clear concentration as an opportunity to gently refocus your attention. As you refocus repeatedly, your mind can become more obedient. Think of your mind as a spirited foal that exuberantly gallops around the meadow. With a little training, that frisky colt can become an excellent racehorse. The following sections delve into how concentration works and what it can do for you.
According to Raja Yoga, as described in the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, the yogic path comprises eight limbs (anga). The first five limbs — moral discipline, self-restraint, posture, breath control, and sensory inhibition — are called outer limbs. These practices belong to the entrance hall of Yoga's vast mansion. In the interior of the estate you find concentration, meditation, and ecstasy, known as the inner limbs. You can successfully practice these inner limbs only after you achieve a certain degree of mastery in the other five practices.
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