27 Aug
Posted in: Books, Practice
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Wise Concentration

The eighth fold of the Noble Eightfold Path is samma samadhi, usually translated as Wise (or Right) Concentration.

In Dancing with Life, Phillip Moffitt writes:
“Right concentration…empowers your sense of presence in every other aspect of the path. Right concentration is the ability to collect and unify the mind. It enables you to direct your attention to an object of your experience and stay focused on it….

“There are two general types of meditation for establishing the steadiness of concentration that allows you to practice mindfulness: open field attention and deep absorption.

“The first of these, open field, is what the great Burmese meditation teacher Mahasi Sayadaw referred to as momentary concentration, in which your mind is briefly concentrated on a single object. He taught that such short-term concentration is sufficient for gaining insight from mindfulness practice…

“The second approach to practicing formal mindfulness meditation is to start by attaining absorption concentration, with in the Theravada tradition is called jhana. In jhana practice your mind becomes fully concentrated on a meditation object for an indefinite period of time, then moves to ever more subtle levels of awareness. After achieving an intensive state of stillness and one-pointedness, you begin to practice mindfulness…

“The importance of being able to achieve fully absorbed meditation states to attain deepening insight is debated among meditation teachers. There are also differing views as to what level of one-pointedness characterizes such states. But there is no debate about the importance of being able to collect and unify your mind in meditation in order to practice mindfulness. Unfortunately, in my years of experience conducting interviews, I’ve seen that only a modest percentage of students ever develop the concentration potential they naturally have.”


I have to admit that sounds fairly daunting.

Ah, but then Phillip goes on to say:
“If you want to develop more concentration capacity, I recommend attending a concentration-oriented meditation retreat, and leave all your ideas about why you can’t concentrate at home.”

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