Q: Although I look forward to my meditation practice, I am becoming frustrated with my mind’s tendency to drop the mantra and roam around, involving itself in a series of random thoughts. I keep trying to concentrate on the mantra, but most of the time I don’t feel like I am really meditating. Is there something I can do during the rest of the day that will help me focus better during my practice?
A: As you have discovered, meditation is possible only when the mind is one-pointed, organized, and calm. A fragmented mind cannot be turned inward. A mind that is in the habit of running from one object to another cannot concentrate on a single object for a prolonged period. If your mind has formed the habit of thinking of 30 things in 5 minutes when you are not meditating, that habit will carry over into your meditation. If you make an effort to focus your mind during the 30 minutes you are meditating, but let it wander aimlessly the rest of the time, it is like pouring a cup of milk in a barrel of muddy water and expecting to get a barrel of milk.
To solve this problem, practice nurturing a peaceful flow of mind during your day-to-day activities. In this regard, it will be helpful to form a habit of maintaining an internal environment marked by an underlying awareness of your spiritual life. Remind yourself that there is a higher force that is your protector, provider, and eternal companion. Cultivate a sense of gratitude toward this inner guide and remember the unconditional love flowing around you and in you at every moment.
With this in mind, maintain a positive attitude toward yourself and others. Do whatever you are doing with full joy. When you are at work, cultivate the habit of mindfulness. Do whatever your job requires with full interest. Make your mind one-pointed on every task you undertake. Enjoy everything you do with the awareness that this is your way of worshipping the divine. Do your work with the knowledge that at this particular moment, at this particular phase of your life, this is the way you serve the divine. With this attitude, enjoy your work, no matter what that work involves. And always do your work with full attention. This is meditation in action.
When you are not actively involved in a task—when waiting in line, for example, or walking home from work—bring your mantra to mind. The eternal sound of the mantra is inseparable from your life force. It is rising in the interior of your mind and heart whether you are aware of it or not, so rather than letting your mind wander, bring your attention to your mantra. But don’t attempt to do this when your mind is occupied with a task or when someone is talking to you, because you cannot do two things at once. You are cultivating the habit of focus, so avoid fragmenting your attention. But when your mind is free—when you have nothing in particular to attend to mentally—let your mind rest in the mantra, rather than allowing it to wander or daydream.
By adopting these strategies for practicing mindfulness in your daily life, you are creating your own internal atmosphere—an atmosphere that will strengthen your ability to attend the mantra during your practice. Finally, when you are doing your practice, take care not to let your mantra awareness become dry or mechanical. Center yourself and remember the Lord of Life. Then, with love and gratitude, let the mantra arise from the depths of your being and listen to it quietly.