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I'm relatively new to mindfulness meditation and I've been having trouble focusing / concentrating during my sessions. Even thought my meditation sessions are around 10 - 20 minutes, I feel like my mind is just wandering. I've tried to really focus on my breathing but after a while I notice myself thinking about something else. I've read this article: How A Few Simple Things Helped Me Meditate Without Losing Concentration and it has helped me a bit.

But I'm reading around other websites and people are saying that meditation is the opposite of concentration and if you're concentrating then you're not meditating. That meditation is expanding the mind while concentration is narrowing it and that the two are mutually exclusive.

I feel lost on what I should be practicing.

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It's should be the other way around. One needs concentration for meditation and one can't attain concentration without diligently meditate. It's also a common misconception that insight/vipassana and serenity/samatha are 2 mutually exclusive practices. Furthermore, insight and serenity by themselves are still not sufficient. Various other factors are also needed to make progress in meditation: observing the precepts, diets, surrounding environment, etc. For further details, please see Ven. Buddhadasa's http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/anapanasati.pdf and Ven. Nanamoli's http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf1/MindfulnessBreathing.pdf . Some introduction to meditation in general from Ven. Gunaratana's http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratana/wheel351.html

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Gah! Don't read anymore. Just relax and count every out breath up to ten. When you reach ten, start again. If you make it to ten, great. If not, start back at one and try again. Your mind will wander. You will get agitated, sleepy, annoyed, and think about all sorts of things. You will have doubts about the method and probably will have a strong feeling that your aren't doing it right. That's all part of the process. Don't worry about it; keep returning to the breath. Just sit, breath, and count.

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The idea is wrong that meditation is 'expanding the mind' while 'concentration is narrowing the mind' and that the two are mutually exclusive.

The word 'mindfulness' ('sati') in Buddhism means to 'remember to apply' or 'keep in mind' the Buddhist path; which means to keep the mind in a clear & aware state that is free from unwholesome & unbeneficial mental states, such as craving & distracting thoughts.

The word for 'concentration' in Buddhism is 'samadhi'. The word 'samadhi' means 'collectedness' & refers to when the mind gathers together its energy, power, awareness, wisdom & other wholesome qualities due to its practise of 'mindfulness'. The Pali scriptures states:

Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions

MN 117

When the mind achieves the perfection of 'samadhi', this is called 'one-pointedness' or 'jhana'. The mind here is completely exalted & expanded, i.e., 'heavenly'. The term 'one-pointedness' does not refer to a 'narrow' awareness. Instead, it refers to a mind that is completely undistracted.

An analogy is a wheel that spins around an axle. The wheel is fixed to & revolves around the axle. This being fixed to the axle is 'one-pointedness'. However, the wheel itself, which is an analogy for the mind, is not 'narrow'. Instead, the wheel/mind is both expanded & perfectly functional. If the wheel is not fixed to the wheel, the wheel cannot function properly.

In summary, the proper practise of 'mindfulness' causes 'concentration' to happen. The Buddhist scriptures state:

In one of right mindfulness, right concentration comes into being...

MN 117

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I will try an experiment because it is finals week and I am kinda short on time. I will answer without sources. If I get upvoted I will put sources, if I get no upvotes/get downvoted I will not put sources.

All meditation (Buddhist or otherwise) is concentration. Tibetan and other esoteric traditions have mandalas/mantras/deities/mudras/"other stuff". Zen and other Madhyamaka derived things have impermanence/no-abiding-nature/no-essence/Buddha-nature (not identical ideas but closely related in complex ways). Hua-yen has/had "interpenetration"/"constituent/constituted("golden lion")". Pure land/"folk traditions" have various bodhisattvas with powers of salvation. Nichiren (SGI) has its mantra and scroll (Gohonzon). Etc.

Point being, one of the complexities of Buddhist thought is that "something" and "nothing" are not always different! So, when you meditate, you concentrate, but not necessarily on "something!"

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Is Meditation And Concentration Mutually Exclusive?

No it's not.In fact meditation develops concentration.Scientific studies have shown that meditation improves attention and memory.Meditation requires attention to be anchored to an object.Repetitively doing so would strengthen focus.

A recent paper in the journal Psychological Science tries to identify brain functions that are actually enhanced by meditating.

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When you meditate you need to concentrate about one thing,one positive feeling which relax you eventually. But when you try that, your mind/feelings do not obey to you and it will give to different feelings and later you will feel tired of concentrating. So then you can do one thing, you can fallow the feelings, you do not try to control the feelings, just go with the feelings and aware that you are fallowing the thoughts. After a while you will be able to tell the feelings that, lets concentrate about breathing.

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In MN 125 the Buddha compares the mind that tries to settle down in meditation with taming a forest elephant. If you pull a forest elephant out of his residence into the open, it'll rage and battle for some time, before the elephant tamer is able to tame him. The same thing goes for the mind: If you take the mind out of the world of the senses by focusing it on an object, it'll at first rage and battle, too. This is just how the mind naturally reacts.

"As, Aggivessana, a noble anointed king addresses an elephant hunter saying; 'You, good elephant hunter, mount the king's elephant and go into an elephant forest. When you see a forest elephant, tie him to the neck of the king's elephant.' And, Aggivessana, the elephant hunter having answered: 'Yes, sire,' in assent to the noble anointed king, mounts the king's elephant and goes into an elephant forest. Seeing a forest elephant, he ties him to the neck of the king's elephant. So the king's elephant brings him out into the open. But, Aggivessana, the forest elephant has this longing, that is to say for the elephant forest. But in regard to him the elephant hunter tells the noble anointed king that the forest elephant has got out into the open. The noble anointed king then addresses an elephant tamer, saying: 'Come you, good elephant tamer, tame the forest elephant by subduing his forest ways, by subduing his forest memories, and aspirations and by subduing his distress, his fretting and fever for the forest, by making him pleased with the villages and by accustoming him to human ways.'

I wouldn't get too fixed on the idea to get concentrated in meditation.In general, the practice is to bring your mind back to the present and be aware of any of the 5 hindrances which prevent you from having a clear mind:

  1. Desire
  2. Aversion
  3. Drowsiness
  4. Distraction/Restlessness/Worry
  5. Doubt & Confusion

If you're looking for some instructions, I would recommend those which refer to the original teachings of the Buddha. A good one is How to meditate. There is also a meditation community where you can sign up for an online course, if you need some guidance, at https://meditation.sirimangalo.org/

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Meditation is sitting:

  • nondistracted, collected (focus is too specific a term, yet you don't want to be scattered),
  • with clarity (not clouded)
  • joyfully / happily / blissfully

These are the recent words of a very kind teacher of mine, may they be a cause for everyone to reach true relaxation of body, speech, and mind.

Sit for short periods and sit with good quality of meditation.

Quality over quantity.

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