Focusing on a Single Object
Much like how the brain works when contemplating the purchase of a car, the mind becomes critical in analytical meditation. And unlike in daily mental musings where the mind jumps from one thought to another, this method of meditation requires that all critical analysis be focused on one object only.
The object can be something that the senses can affect, like breathing. And it can also be an abstract concept such as patience.
Begin the meditation by critically familiarizing yourself with the object. If, for example, the object is patience, you may start your analysis by contemplating on its benefits.
- How will patience affect a certain circumstance? Will it change according to your will? Or will it stay the same?
- If you remain patient in a given situation, like traffic, what thoughts would be running through your head instead?
- Does patience come with scientifically proven health benefits?
These questions do not need immediate answering if the answers haven’t revealed themselves yet. Questioning, in fact, already constitutes critical analysis. What’s important in this initial step is that you start the ball rolling.
Afterward, try to expand your analysis beyond the benefits.
- Can patience be practiced only by silence? Or is there a way of practicing it whereby you express what’s on your mind?
- Harboring patience can change or control a person’s mood. But is there a way of using patience to influence the behavior of people around?
Important Note! Keep in mind the requirements of staying focused on the single object. By asking questions and trying to answer them, different ideas and thoughts will arise. And eventually, you may find yourself in the middle of chasing another object.
Thinking is easy. It’s what the brain does from the moment you wake to the second you fall asleep. The difficult part in meditation is trying to stay focused on this single object. This is where discipline will be practiced.
Of course, in your meditations, the questions you’ve come up with must be answered. Researching for answers from audiobooks or online resources is alright. Answering the questions subjectively is fine as well. But as what this audiobook has encouraged you to do, go beyond knowing. Be critical of everything you read or know.
- In the first question, if the circumstance is being stuck in traffic, the obvious answer is that patience will change nothing. It will not clear the road for you; that is a fact. But go beyond this knowledge by thinking, “Hey! Neither does anger. Traffic is something I cannot control, after all.” And then compare and weigh patience against anger. Think of how they would affect your mood, and how it will then affect your day, and how it will affect your behavior towards other people.
- If, on the other hand, the circumstance is having to deal with a barista in Starbucks not working at your ideal pace, patience again will not change anything. And then it might occur to you that expressing exasperation will. Alerted by your loud indignant voice, and alarmed by the sight of your knitted eyebrows, the slow barista might just get the kick he needs to double time. You must expand, however, your musings to what’s around you and the barista. Imagine how the people in Starbucks would react to the outburst. A group of girls might snicker in the corner while throwing meaningful glances at your direction. Other baristas might roll their eyes at the incident and make a mental note to avoid you in the future. And then imagine how you would feel if you catch any of these tiny and silent reactions.
- And then think of how the scene might’ve changed if you instilled patience instead. The people in Starbucks would have continued with whatever they were doing and not realize your existence. The baristas would not have cared who you are. But you did, however, maintained the peace within you.
The goal in analytical meditation is to empathize or develop a certain closeness with the object and then apply this new sense of familiarity of the object whenever apt.
Like research on the benefits, specs, and reviews of a certain car, the more you know, the more you feel captivated by it. At some point even, you will feel personally attached to it. And when, for example, you are faced with an adverse opinion of it, because you know every single detail of the car, you may rebut the claim with well-constructed and logical counter-statements. You might also react to adversity by agreeing to it because you recognize and accept its flaws.
- Following the example in the previous topic, which is patience, the goal is to not simply know the answers to the questions you have initially set forth. You must also aim to combine positive emotions with the object, and then apply them whenever necessary.
- Going back to the Starbucks example, say you are stuck between staying patient and bursting into anger. If you choose to stay patient —to not say a word—but cannot control the raging fire inside, then your meditation has not helped you reach your objective. Your inner peace was still disturbed because you only know that patience is a virtue, and that it is the right choice. However, this virtue has not yet been instilled as yours, which is why the negative emotion remained.
- If, however, during your meditations you were able to fully empathize with patience; that you were able to develop a closeness to it that it seems you are the embodiment of patience itself, then you wouldn’t even reach that point where you have to choose between staying patient and bursting into anger.
What good will come out of this method of overthinking? You get to discover the truth on your own. And when the truth has bloomed from your heart and mind on its own, no one will be able to take it away from you, hence the critical analysis.
- It is similar with introducing religion to a person. A child will believe God exists if told. However, upon reaching adulthood, this belief would also have been easy to take away given enough knowledge to believe otherwise.
- A critical person, before completely throwing his beliefs through the window, would first question. Is God real? Similar with what has been discussed in this audiobook, the person will undergo meditation. He will seek the truth through critical analysis.
- This is a personal journey. Although mentors and audiobooks such as this one may guide the person, everything will still be subjected under his scrutiny. Once however, the journey is complete, the truth will naturally bloom from the heart.
- Later on, whenever faced with adverse evidence or knowledge, his belief and his peace will not be disturbed because he knows in his heart what is true.
Important Note! Because in analytical meditation the person remains critical in his familiarization with the object, he has the option to choose one of the subjects incited in Exercise 1.
Instead, however, of looking outward and at the person, practice inward reflection. Drop the habit of finding more reasons to feel contempt. Instead, try to understand why you feel that way. Ask yourself why you think his actions annoy you when others, despite having the same faults, do not.
If your contempt is great, and the emotions associated with it rise, take control of it by applying what you have learned in Exercise 1. And then continue with your meditation.
Where and When to Practice:
As previously discussed, meditation can be done anywhere and at any time. It can even be done concurrently with other activities. However, for the purposes of this audiobook, you are encouraged to dedicate a specific time of the day for the practice.
If you live on your own, the perfect times would be in the morning immediately after waking up, and in the evening right before sleeping. And you may meditate on your bed if you can manage to stay awake for 15 minutes. If not, then choose any part of your home where you can focus and hear nothing but your thoughts.
If, on the other hand, you live with others, or if there are kids in the house, find a 15-minute period on your daily schedule where you are sure you will not be bothered. Then if a quiet and private room would be impossible to find, try looking for peaceful spots in a nearby park. If that’s impossible as well, go for an uncrowded coffee shop.
When meditating in a public place, drown the buzz of the crowd by listening to instrumental music. You run the risk of being mistaken for a felon if you sit in a corner intently staring at blank space, so bring a cup of drink with you to look less suspicious.
- 15-minute period: Initially, meditating for 5 to 6 minutes a day would be sufficient. The reason why you need to dedicate a longer time, however, is because getting into the meditative state requires more time.
The meditative state is achieved when you are able to push the noises in your head aside. And when you are ready to bring your selected object to the centerstage of your consciousness.
It may sound easy, but in reality, you will grapple with the urge to check your phone for new emails, or with the thought that this little time would be better dedicated to dealing with deadlines. And this is why the morning (immediately after waking up) is the most ideal time for meditation. Before the wave of errands comes crashing on your consciousness, you have already and successfully meditated.
- Peace and quiet: Even in the middle of the most crowded train or in the noisiest streets, people sometimes slip into a meditative state effortlessly. For this practice, however, the ideal environment is somewhere peaceful and quiet. This is because meditation requires immense discipline from you.
When you focus on an object, your brain gets too tired or bored that it starts chasing other thoughts. And unfortunately, a stimulus-rich environment offers the best distractions. One moment you could be at the brink of uncovering the root of patience, but then you saw a baby on a stroller and you suddenly remembered you have to buy diapers so you have to not forget to stop by at Costco after work, and taking advantage of the visit, you might as well buy eggs, bread, and coffee for breakfast tomorrow, which then reminds you of the laundry which needs pressing because you and the kids would have nothing to wear tomorrow.
Most importantly, because discipline is often associated with punishment, treat meditation as a form of relaxation. Look at it as that time of the day where you get to drop all worries on the ground; that very special 5 minutes you spend exclusively for your personal growth and well-being.
What to do: You will now fully engage in meditation. Opting for an object of your own choosing is ideal because no one knows best what beautiful truth should bloom in your heart. If you find the object challenging to meditate on, however, a less complex subject might be more beneficial. Below are some subjectively easy objects, and their corresponding guide questions to help you jumpstart the practice:
- How do you know when you’re in love? How do you distinguish the feeling from mere infatuation or lust?
- Can man live without romantic love? And can his life be well-lived even in its absence?
- What is the root of romantic love? Is it inside the person who loves it? Or is it the person he or she loves? Will love then be extinguished by the passing of the person being loved?
Can there only be one romantic love in a lifetime? Or is it possible to truly love more than one person? Is an “ultimate” love real?
- Why is it difficult to convert this emotion to acceptance? Is it even possible to convert it to acceptance?
- Can sorrow be alleviated by something other than time?
- How do you get by this powerful emotion? Do you drown yourself in alcohol? Do you lock yourself up in a darkened room? Do you talk to people about it?
- If a person’s happiness over something be greater, does that mean that the loss of this something stirs greater sorrow in return?
- What is your relationship with death? Is it a friend, a foe, or a mere stranger?
- Is it possible to feel grief and joy concurrently in the passing of a loved one?
- What will life be without death? Would life even be worth living without it?
- Is there a correlation between death and overpopulation? If there is, does this mean the world is out of balance?
- What is the purpose of war? Why do some men despise it, while others yearn for it?
- Can there be a war without death and damage?
- Will humans even realize peace without having to go through war?
- In the past, wars were started primarily to conquer territories. How have wars evolved from then? What do people fight for in modern wars?
Duration: Stick to this exercise for a week or two. For your first try, limit your meditation to 3 minutes. See how many times you’ve caught yourself drifting to unfocused thoughts. When you feel that you’ve already improved, increase the time by one minute.
Important Note! Prepare an alarm so you wouldn’t have to anxiously glance at the clock during meditation. Make sure, however, to set the volume low and to select a less distressing tone. The mind needs to ease slowly out of meditation.
Remember, in preparing to enter the meditative state, you unload your worries one by one. It makes sense, therefore, that in leaving such a peaceful state, you load back your worries in the same manner. If your alarm creates distress in your mind, it will feel like the fire alarm broke out while you were enjoying a nice hot shower, and without thinking, you load the fridge on your back and run through the door while still naked.
Objective: Like how a novice pianist familiarizes himself with the keys, the objective of this exercise is to help you get to know your mind a little better. You will learn that your concentration has limits and that your mind is a difficult stallion to tame.