Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 223-227)
Skillful Concentration is the eighth step of the eightfold path.
The Buddha said:
“Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions.”
The seven factors are the other steps of the Eightfold Path which support Skillful Concentration.
Skillful concentration is singleness of mind.
Skillful concentration has three characteristics:
- It is always wholesome (skillful)
- It goes into very deep and powerful levels of one-pointed focus
- It incorporates the use of mindfulness to develop wisdom.
Skillful concentration leads to happiness and peace. This is not from sensual pleasure but from the non-attachment of sensual pleasures.
Developing skillful concentration takes training. This means sitting practice so that you can bring up skillful concentration easily and at will.
Right Concentration is free of the Five hindrances so the first step is to know the hindrances, recognize them and put effort in to overcome them The Five Hindrances are greed; ill-will; dullness and drowsiness; restlessness and worry; and doubt. Review the talk, Skillful Effort: Overcoming Negative States of Mind I.
Practicing Skillful Concentration
For practicing skillful concentration, Bhante G. suggests some additional steps (p. 226):
- Give up your regular, off the cushion thoughts such as situations, ideas, planning, and people.
- Give up thinking about the past and the future; stay in the present.
- Start with a metta (loving kindness practice) to allow the mind to feel pleasant and more able to concentrate.
- Focus your mind on an object of attention such as the sensation of the breath on the tip of your nostrils as you breathe in and as you breathe out.
- Remember that you need to apply effort to keep your concentration.
- If any of the hindrances arise, take steps to overcome it. See Skillful Effort: Overcoming Negative States of Mind I.
- Know that achieving skillful concentration takes practice and may come about with small gains. Each time you practice with Skillful Effort, you will make progress. Don’t set a goal or timeline for achieving skillful concentration. Just practice.
Along the way, you will experience more energy, stability and confidence. “Joy arises because wholesome concentration keeps the hindrances suppressed.” (p. 226)
This is the joy of non-attachment.
- Read this talk every day and reflect on it.
- Try practicing concentration meditation daily.
- Daily meditation is recommended to truly realize what is. Meditate as noted in the Reflection.
Next: Skillful Concentration: The Stages of Full Concentration I