The Benefits of Concentration Meditation

by Tiago on May 2

BuddhaEntire libraries can be written on the subject of concentration meditation, and it still wouldn’t be enough to cover everything. This article will be much shorter and aimed at those that are wondering about the benefits of concentration meditation.

Concentration meditation at its core is simply the act of focusing on an object with your mind (usually the breath). It’s something that is in theory very simple to do, but in practice, if you want to reach deeper states, you will have to put in a lot of effort. Concentration meditation was the Buddha’s traditional yogic approach, also known as Samatha.

The Differences Between Concentration and Insight Meditation

Before I talk about the benefits of sustained long-term concentration meditation, it’s important to differentiate between Insight/Mindfulness meditation and concentration meditation. Insight/Mindfulness meditation, such as Vipassana, does not focus on any particular thing apart from feeling at peace in the moment. It’s a process of letting sensations arise and pass.

Both types of meditation, if practiced long enough, will eventually converge and reach the same destination, producing the same changes in the body.

Think of it like this: Insight meditation produces a kind of penetrative wisdom that allows you to see things as they really are—basically, it means seeing through objects. Concentration meditation has an entirely different purpose—it grows the mind and makes its objects very powerful.

A person who exclusively practices concentration meditation and does not incorporate at least some form of insight practice into their routine risks becoming delusional. Concentration meditation magnifies the brain’s capacity for imagination, and you will eventually see very vivid visions. Wisdom and healthy skepticism is required so that you don’t misunderstand reality.

Ultimately, your goals should help you decide what the right path is for you. If a perfect interpretation of the universe and reality is what you’re seeking, then Insight meditation offers a path towards that.

I’m biased towards concentration meditation because I think it’s the more efficient path. Not only that, but almost everything the Buddha taught was in some way or another related to concentration meditation—in fact, by developing himself so much through concentration meditation, it was much easier for him to gain insight.

And that’s an important thing to take into account—once you have sufficient power of concentration, then you can use that concentration towards insight and get to your destination much faster than someone who has never practiced concentration meditation.

Where Does Concentration Meditation Lead?

The main benefits of Concentration meditation and probably the ones that are most scientifically accepted are the cognitive benefits. As you go deeper and deeper, the mind naturally becomes more unified, and all its components connect with each other more easily. This naturally makes you smarter.

There’s really no magic to this. It’s natural for a brain that is focused and unified to perform at a much higher level than usual. The problem is that, as a beginner, your meditation will be fairly weak, and the benefits will last, at most, for a few hours after you get out of meditation. The experienced meditator can concentrate at a higher level and, if he or she practices often, can remain in this state indefinitely.

Eventually, if you have been improving with every passing session, and you’ve taken your practice seriously, you will reach what is called the First Jhana—this state only occurs if your concentration is continuous and uninterrupted. Jhana is a Yogic term used to explain the progressive stages of Samatha/concentration meditation. You can actually reach the first Jhana within minutes if your concentration is strong right off the bat, but this takes much practice. Once you’ve entered Jhana a few dozen times, you’re eventually able grasp the path to get there and can repeat the process whenever you want.

Enjoying the Bliss of Meditation

So what is the First Jhana like, you ask? I would describe it as incredibly powerful feelings of bliss. Once you get there, it’s unmistakable. This state is the result of having gathered so much mind-momentum that you naturally—and without trying—enter this blissful state.

In this state, apart from feeling ridiculously good, your cognitive abilities are enhanced even further and the effects last for days instead of hours—again, this is a natural consequence of having generated so much concentration.

Consistently reaching this state of bliss also results in other benefits, one of which is the ability to resolve issues within yourself. If you have deep, unwanted emotions that arise in certain situations and you’ve never been able to resolve the conflict, this is the state where your mind is sufficiently unified and your concentration is high enough that you can correctly process these emotions and let them go.

Mental mastery. Peace of mind. And other, greater rewards if you go deeper. The question here is: what are you waiting for?

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Tiago

Tiago uses his forbidden Internet skills to forge the basic framework of the Spiraling Up website. He teaches English in three languages on his English website. He was born in a small city in Portugal and now resides in Barcelona. His personal development journey started in 2006. He eats more lentils for lunch than you eat in a year. He’s also hilarious.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Admin May 5, 2016 at 9:03 am

Tiago here. I was asked to explain the difference between Mindfulness and Concentration so here’s a few more thoughts:

Mindfulness/ Insight meditation (for example Vipassana) is very popular in the West, the point of it is mostly about having no particular focus on any one thing. It’s about being totally peaceful in the moment. You know, letting sensations arise and pass and all that. Mindfulnesss/Insight really is more of a thoughtless state–you’re letting thoughts drift by.

Concentration/Samatha meditation is the traditional meditation that Yogis / Buddha did. You focus on one thing (usually the breath), the mind builds up momentum and your cognitive abilities grow and grow (because such intense concentration/focus unifies the mind and makes all its sections work together better).

The two kinds of meditation bring different results.

insight meditation usually gives you the ability to… how shall I explain it… it gives you the ability to see through objects–you see things as they really are, the true nature of reality, etc. It makes you wiser, more discerning, and so on.

Concentration meditation, over time, gets you into deeper and deeper states of concentration. It STRENGTHENS the mind but does not necessarily make you “wiser”, only “stronger”.

A natural effect of consistent concentration meditation is that you eventually start seeing weird stuff. You may see a really vivid vision of a spirit telling you to do something because it will be good for you.

Insight/Mindfulness naturally produces a sort of discernment that gives you the ability to see through illusions and you can “know” if something is real or not.

I hope that makes sense; It’s so hard to put these things into words.

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Lama Surya Das May 11, 2016 at 2:56 am

The best technique to reduce stress and improve concentration is meditation. Regular meditators experience improved concentration and focus, memory, greater creativity, stress reduction, and better sleep. Meditation can make you happier, smarter, and more resilient to life’s ups and downs.

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