Concentration: An Approach to Meditation


This perennial best-seller by a distinguished educator assembles 36 mental and physical exercises for taming the natural drifting of the mind. Newly designed edition of a practical manual for success.
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Concentration: An Approach to Meditation

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This perennial best-seller by a distinguished educator assembles 36 mental and physical exercises for taming the natural drifting of the mind. Newly designed edition of a practical manual for success.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780835601764
  • Publisher: Quest Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/1985
  • Pages: 154
  • Sales rank: 1,485,677
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Concentration: An Approach to Meditation

By Ernest Wood

Theosophical Publishing House

Copyright © 1949 Theosophical Publishing House
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8356-0176-4




Do you desire success in life? Will you take the means that infallibly secure it? Will you choose, and say to yourself: "I will have wealth; I will have fame; I will have virtue; I will have power"? Let your imagination play upon the thought, and watch the dim clouds of hope shape themselves into heavenly possibilities. Give wings to your fancy, for fairer than any picture that you can paint with thought is the future that you can claim with will. Once you have imagined, once you have chosen, say, "I will." And there is nothing on earth that can hinder you for long; for you are immortal and the future is obedient to you.

You say that death may stand in your way? It will not. You say that poverty and sickness and friends may stand in your way? They certainly will not. Nothing can, unless you permit it, or even make it so. But you must choose, and never again must you wish for anything. But you must say, "I will." And you must say it always in thought and in deed, not only now in word. And henceforth never for a moment must your purpose change, but your constant intention must turn everything you touch into line with it. Then, if that which you have chosen is not harmful, it will be yours before long.

You speak of the littleness of man, lost in the wrinkles of giant mother earth, herself as a speck of dust in the infinitudes of space! It is not so, for the great things are not measured by size. You talk of weakness and fatigue, of the immediate follies and pleasures and proprieties and accidents of life—how these confine and limit little man. It is not so, for all can be turned to use. The body is only a garment and the senses but peepholes in the veil of flesh, and when these are quiet and that is obedient, and the mind dwells in contemplation of your immortal possibilities, a window opens within you, and through it you see and know that you shall be what you will to be, and nothing else.

As the tiny seed, buried in the ground, bursts and puts forth a tender shoot, which pushes its way through the soil and wins its freedom in the upper air, and presently there is a mighty oak, peopling the earth with portions of itself, or, as a great banyan spreads without limit from a little root, providing wealth and home for myriads of creatures, so put ye forth this day the first tender but not uncertain shoot of will, and choose what you will be.

What will you choose? Will you have power? Then let others be freer and more powerful because you are so. Will you have knowledge? Then let others be wiser because you are so. Will you have love? Then let others enjoy it because you have much to give. Thus will your will be in accord with that first and universal principle of being which becomes increasingly known to each of us, and instills in time the prime lesson of that unshrinking sympathy which will ultimately make all strength our strength and all life our life.

What will be your means? Everything that you meet, small and great; for there is nothing that you cannot use as a means to your end. But once more, let all the persons and the things that you use be benefited by the use. Thus your success will be theirs also, and the first principle will be fulfilled.


But, whatever you choose, one thing you will need in all things and at all times—concentration of purpose, of thought, of feeling, of action; so that this, like a powerful magnet, will polarize everything with which you deal. In all the aims of life, it is needed for success. The men who have succeeded in business, social and political life, in art, science and philosophy, in power and virtue, have all been marked out by a constancy of purpose and an easy control of mind. Has it not happened always, is it not happening now, and will it not happen in the future, that so far as human progress is in human hands it is achieved by systematic and persistent activity, control of desires and concentration of mind, and without these it is not achieved?

Read the lives and philosophy of every type of purposeful men, and you will find this fact recorded in them. The Epicurean of old concentrated his mind upon the present and tried to live in accord with natural laws. He did not allow his mind to dwell with regret upon anything past, nor to have fears or anxieties for the future. The Stoic fixed his attention upon the things which lay in his control, refusing to be disturbed by anything that lay outside his power and purpose, or to waste thought and feeling upon it. The Platonist strove to fix his mind, with reverent inquiry, upon the mysteries of life. Patanjali, the great master of Indian Yoga, declared that man could come to his own true state only by the successful practice of complete control of mind. The religious devotee strives, by filling his life and surroundings with ceremonies and symbols, and by constantly repeating in thought the names of God, to stimulate his mind to ever stronger and stronger devotional feelings. The successful man of knowledge is so intent upon his purpose that he finds instruction in the most trifling things that he meets. Such is the power of mind that with its aid all things can be bent to our purpose, and such is the power of man that he can bend the mind to his will.

Do we not find that indecision, trepidation, anxiety and worry give rise to bodily ills, weakness, indigestion and sleeplessness? Even in these small matters regular practice of control of mind, in a simple form, acts like a magic cure. It is the best means of escape from envy, jealousy, resentment, discontent, delusion, self-deception, pride, anger and fear. Without it, the building of character cannot be carried on and, with it, it cannot fail. Any study is successful in proportion to the mental concentration brought to bear upon it; and the practice largely increases the reproductive powers of memory.


One of the higher efforts and achievements of concentration of mind has been well described by Dr. Annie Besant in her book The Ancient Wisdom, in the following words:

"The student must begin by practicing extreme temperance in all things, cultivating an equable and serene state of mind; his life must be clean and his thoughts pure, his body held in strict subjection to the soul, and his mind trained to occupy itself with noble and lofty themes; he must habitually practice compassion, sympathy, helpfulness to others, with indifference to troubles and pleasures affecting himself, and he must cultivate courage, steadfastness and devotion. Having, by persevering practice, learned to control his mind to some extent, so that he is able to keep it fixed on one line of thought for some little time, he must begin its more rigid training by a daily practice of concentration on some difficult or abstract subject, or on some lofty object of devotion. This concentration means the firm fixing of the mind on one single point, without wandering, and without yielding to any distractions caused by external objects, by the activity of the senses, or by that of the mind itself. It must be braced up to an unswerving steadiness and fixity, until gradually it will learn so to withdraw its attention from the outer world and from the body that the senses will remain quiet and still, while the mind is intensely alive with all its energies drawn inwards to be launched at a single point of thought, the highest to which it can attain. When it is able to hold itself thus with comparative ease, it is ready for a further step, and by a strong but calm effort of the will it can throw itself beyond the highest thought it can reach while working in the physical brain, and in that effort will rise to and unite itself with the higher consciousness and find itself free of the body."

The literature of religion is full of instances of remarkably extended vision of unseen things attained by the rapt mind. Indian yogis enumerate eight sets of faculties and powers, including vision of the absent, the past and the future, psychic telephony, telescopy, and microscopy, the power of traveling invisibly in the subtle body, and others—all attainable by concentration. Marvelous as these effects are and fascinating as are the study and the practice of them to many, they present only one of the developments through concentration.

In another direction, many thinkers look upon these as small matters in comparison with the discovery of the god within us, and declare that we need only to find the place of peace within ourselves to achieve the fulfillment of human life. They, too, extol concentration as the means.

Thus thousands of people all over the world are now turning to the practice of concentration as a first step towards new developments in human life—of which man himself, not his environment, will be the cause.

Still there are many more thousands who value the practice for its known benefits in the familiar spheres of everyday life. These are the people who say: "We do not want fascinating novelties; we want ordinary life to be saner than it is—thought clearer, love cleaner, will calmer—and we will leave to destiny any larger future that may be ours."

In every case concentration does not mean a narrowing, limiting or confining of our thoughts and activities, nor any loss of human sympathies and interests. It does not mean retiring to the forest or the cave, with the wine of life run dry in our veins like a desert river in the summer drought. It does mean that the whole of our life becomes polarized to a chosen purpose animated by increased powers of thought, love and will, and inspired with a higher self than we have known before.




YEARS ago I described the contents and workings of the mind as a magic box, comparing it to the nest of boxes produced by an Oriental conjuror, who spreads his carpet and lays a box in the middle of it, then takes a number of boxes out of that box, and then a number of boxes out of each of those, until the whole carpet is piled up with boxes. I compared these boxes to ideas in the mind and described how one idea contains or gives rise to innumerable others.

Now, in order to describe the nature of the contents and working of the mind, I will pick at random an advertisement in the daily newspaper. It reads as follows: "Artistic luxury home. Hillside. Magnificent trees. 6 bedrooms. 4 bathrooms ..."

What does this advertisement do to me? It does very much the same as I do when I press the self-starter in my car. It sets the engine going. I can then sit still in the car and let the engine tick over while I decide where to go, or I can connect it with the transmission and steering mechanism and start my journey to a definite place.

In my mind the ticking over begins: "Home"—I instinctively and almost unconsciously say to myself, and at once several memory-pictures spring up. Several! Nay, thousands of them; homes in which I have lived—in my childhood, youth, maturity and elderliness—in which I have visited, which I have looked at as I passed them by on the road, which I have seen pictured in magazines.... And if for one fraction of a second I allow myself to dwell upon one of these homes, thousands of details arise. Perhaps it is a door that I look at. Immediately there are hundreds and hundreds of doors of various sizes and colors and patterns—even of several shapes—standing and pushing around and jostling one another, and seeming to call out: "Look at me! Look at me!"

I will not try to compute the number of these memory pictures in my mind, nor what future hordes of them will arise with further experience. But I will acknowledge that every slightest one can proliferate prodigiously. It reminds me of that old story of an Eastern potentate who promised a boon to one of his courtiers, who then asked for one grain of rice for the first square on the chess board, two for the second, four for the third, and so on to the last of the sixty-four squares—a boon which the monarch smilingly granted, little recking that it would bankrupt his whole kingdom, in fact all the kingdoms on the earth, and of many earths.

In my mind I find, too, homes that might have been and homes that may be in the future—rearrangements and recombinations of the part of the homes that I have seen. In this manner I can enter the realm of imagination as well as of fact, and I may even think of birds' homes and worms' homes and gnomes' homes and heavenly homes—there is almost no end to this.

But there comes an end to the process, for something inside me says: "Among all these, which do you want to possess or to contemplate?" Now arise two further powers of the mind. I find myself saying: "I like this. I do not like that," and thereupon pushing some of the memory-pictures away out of sight and inviting others to stay. This is the love-process.

Then comes a decision: "This one I want. To this I will go. I will work for this. I will contemplate this." Now the mere ticking-over ceases, the transmission is engaged and the steering begins.


In the previous section I have described a mind-cycle, beginning with a coruscation or upwelling of ideas or mental pictures, continued with a desire and ending with a decision to act. We started the engine ticking over, engaged the transmission and then handled the steering wheel. This process is a full cycle, for at this point the ideas begin to flow again, but in a prescribed direction determined by the will.

Sit down quietly and comfortably, and very slowly and gently bring your attention to a particular thing and watch what happens. I will give an example. While I write this I am lying—as it happens—on my back on the grassy slopes of a Hollywood hillside garden, holding a stiff little book aloft in my left hand, and a pencil in my right. My left wrist gets tired, so I have to lower the book now and then, which is beneficial, being conducive to frequent reflective thought. On my right is a lemon tree, which gives me pleasant dappled shade from the rays of the slanting afternoon sun. On my left are two large bushes and an orange tree, backed by overtowering pines. In front at a distance I see portions of a handsome house and, in the near foreground, a fine palm tree, some thirty feet tall. Let me shut my eyes and think only of the palm.

A procession of mind-pictures begins. Here comes a palm grove in South India in a garden where I lived for many years. In the midst of that palm grove was a pond; I find myself now in thought standing on the edge of it and looking at the water-lilies there—blue lotuses. And then (of all unexpected things—I have not directed my thoughts) a blue crayon and myself sitting at a desk at school fifty-five years ago. I still watch disinterestedly, and now comes some map drawing at school—a map of India with colored coast lines. Now a part of the map—I am writing the word Hyderabad near the northwest corner (a true memory), and now the river Indus is drawn in. My thought jumps again twenty-five years: I become principal of the college at Hyderabad—talking to the students at assembly—a lecture in physics—a glass tube—glass—Venetian glass—a curio shop— an old rocking chair—a cradle—a baby—and so on.

Such is the mental process when the driver is not there. The car goes along a road, but not of my conscious present choice. I notice incidentally that I do not produce the welling-up of the images, and I do not even produce the drifting flow of thoughts but I am the director, if and when I direct them. At other times I am merely the looker-on, just as I may be the looker-on at my own blood-stream or digestive process.

Now stop thinking about me. Select your own "palm tree"—any object. Look at it, then close your eyes, and watch for yourself within your own mind the drift of mental pictures and ideas. Do this several times with different objects, then observe that you can stop the drift by stepping into the stream and directing it. To do this you have to pounce upon one of the objects in the drift. You hold it and see what you can do with it. You watch its upwellings or coruscations and you next deliberately select one of these and watch its upwellings, and thus go on directing the flow of thought.

As an illusration of this process, let me suppose that your "palm tree" of the moment is a cow. That is what has caught your mental eye, and now you hold it and watch its upwelling. Here, standing around it, together with it, are the ideas milk, calf, horns, bull, shed, field, grass, your Uncle's favorite black cow, patience, gentleness, and many, many others. Among these you deliberately select, let us say, grass, and now you allow grass to upwell, and again deliberately select. It is the power of selection that is now to be observed and learned; we will make use of the other processes further on.

From this mental experiment you will get a new sense of power, which is the power of concentration, operated by the will. You will also get a new knowledge and experience of "I". A third gain is that you will have learned how to think, as I will explain more fully later on.


Excerpted from Concentration: An Approach to Meditation by Ernest Wood. Copyright © 1949 Theosophical Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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