While thinking recently—probably during meditation, unfortunately—about how to stop my mind from wandering during meditation, I recalled Swami Kriyananda’s advice in his book, Affirmations for Self-Healing:
Concentration should not involve mental strain. When you really want something, it is difficult not to think about it! Concentrate with interest on whatever you do, and you will find yourself absorbed in it.
I thought, “That’s right, I need to concentrate with want power, not only will power. And I can choose to be interested, even if my point of focus doesn’t seem inherently interesting.” It’s helped a lot!
For example, if you’re watching the breath, decide to be fascinated by it. Rather than analyzing the breath or giving it half-hearted attention, choose to enjoy it and all its nuances (without getting into analyzing them!). Each breath is unique; observe it with deep attention and appreciation.
Similarly, when practicing mantra, don’t let yourself become mechanical. Be supremely interested in the rhythm and subtle feeling of the sounds, their spiritual vibration. Relish those sounds. Concentration is so much more fun—and easier—when you’re interested!
Yogic breathing techniques are also among my favorite concentration boosters. They’ve been valuable tools for me over the past many years. As a simple sample, try the Improving Concentration technique. I’ve seen so many people have such success with pranayama techniques in this regard that I’ve designed a weekend workshop: “Pranayama for Deeper Meditation” (Sept 25–28). We’ll explore a variety of techniques, all specially tailored to improve meditation.
Finally, I like to remember that God knows that concentration can be hard for us, and that S/He is with us when we’re sincere—even if the mind is not behaving as we’d like. If you find yourself in that pickle, ask God to help you stay focused, and offer your efforts—along with any thoughts that come—back to God. When you truly feel God with you, your mind won’t even want to wander.