Learning the key differences between mindfulness and concentration - Hindustan Times
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Learning the key differences between mindfulness and concentration

Sep 16, 2022 01:22 PM IST

Mindfulness is more than just concentrating on an object; it is a process of becoming aware of yourself; the process of gently reminding yourself to be more aware.

The most frequent question I get asked, as a mindfulness coach, is: “What is the difference between concentration and mindfulness?” The second, question, asked almost immediately after asking the first, is: “Are they both the same?” And my answer is a resounding, “No!”, for both are very different from each other.

Mindfulness is a natural process and can’t be forced in our internal system. We grow the plant of mindfulness in our lives, it cannot be cultivated by pressure or force. (Shutterstock) PREMIUM
Mindfulness is a natural process and can’t be forced in our internal system. We grow the plant of mindfulness in our lives, it cannot be cultivated by pressure or force. (Shutterstock)

Concentration is exclusive, it just focuses on one thing and snubs everything else around it. Mindfulness is inclusive, it focuses on the broader picture and involves everything around it in the present moment. Both are different functions, but play very significant roles in our development.

Concentration is one-pointed. It forces our minds to remain at a single point for a long period. Note: I use the word “forces” intentionally. Concentration is a non-natural process. It is the mind’s ability to focus on one object without distraction for a long period. It is a state when focus, scattered in all directions, is brought in one direction, thus making your focus gain intensity and power. Just for a moment think of a lens. Rays of sunlight falling on a paper will not harm it, maybe warm it a little bit. But when the same rays pass through a lens and fall on one single point, the paper will burn. This is the power of concentration.

Mindfulness on the other hand is multi-pointed. It focuses on all aspects of the situation, often a delicate one. It is a natural process and can’t be forced into our internal system. We grow the plant of mindfulness in our lives, it cannot be cultivated by pressure or force. It is becoming aware of the experience as it arises, with kindness, compassion, and love; just by simply being in the moment, growing in the moment, letting go, and settling at the moment without judgment. Being comfortable in what you are doing and/or seeing and/or feeling and/or listening and/or experiencing. Acceptance is the key. Don’t deny, change, or justify. Simply observe and accept what is there.

Mindfulness stands back, behind concentration, and looks at the bigger picture, quick to notice a lapse in concentration. If you are focusing on a flower, concentration only sees the flower, but mindfulness observes the whole process, from your gaze reaching the flower, thoughts in your mind upon seeing it, feeling it, and its fragrance. It is pure consciousness, free of all dependencies. It is not limited to particular conditions or circumstances, just like in monasteries where all distractions, which could disturb concentration, are blocked.

Mindfulness is more than just concentrating on an object; it is a process of becoming aware of yourself and your surroundings. The process of gently reminding yourself to be more aware and do this again and again, until you reach the state of unwithered consciousness.

Mindfulness helps you discover the real you. It helps you peel the layers of unknown lies that are conditioned in your system. You are able to notice your thoughts, behaviours, self-created sufferings how you hurt others unintentionally, and much more. Mindfulness leads you to clarity and real wisdom, your insight into your life, not simply bookish knowledge. You gain first-hand experience of life rather than second-hand knowledge of others' experiences. It is not about becoming something or accomplishing something. It’s simply being you: The real you.

The initial stage of concentration and mindfulness is the same, realising how active your mind is (according to Buddhists, the inability to quiet our minds is called "monkey mind") and how poor your concentration is. Both help develop deeper levels of awareness. You find out that you have been living on auto-pilot for most of your life and missed a big chunk of it. This realisation is the most liberating part of the process and frees you from the unwanted clutter. You feel calm, relaxed, and refreshed.

The most important component of mindfulness is that it is independent of everything, emotional and physical. Several concepts are there to make you believe that it is for tranquil people who live in caves, sit quietly, and move slowly. No, you don’t have to move at a snail’s pace or go to a monastery to be mindful. You can practice it where you are right now. No special mats, robes or rooms are required.

Here's wishing you a mindful living.

Bhupinder Sandhu is a London-based mindfulness coach who believes in the human ability to build a blissful world together

The views expressed are personal

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