Only a mind stable enough to resist the vacillation by emotions or thoughts, can concentrate.
Developing concentration is a big issue, esp. among students and moreover among their parents.
However to effectively develop concentration, it is important to understand that concentration is the natural result of a stable mind. It is the product of undivided attention, free of strong currents of fear, prejudices or emotions. We lose concentration because the focus of our mind is frequently changed by some or the other idea that enters our mind. Our untrained mind is like a wind cock that gets deflected in whichever direction the wind flows.
The energy of mind and time is limited. These random thoughts feed on our mental energy like the weeds consume the nutrition of the soil and leave it exhausted and infertile. They hinder the thinking so strongly that sometimes, we feel that we are incapable of concentration.
We cannot use something which is not under our control; we cannot use even our mind if it is not under our control. The problem appears to be that how to control the thoughts and the mind.
Imagine our mind to be like a sea of thoughts. Then, trying to concentrate, with uncontrolled thoughts, is like swimming in a turbulent sea. If the thoughts entering our mind are negative then it is like swimming against the flow. If the mind is angry , then it is like swimming under a storm. There is a severe danger of drowning or getting diverted from your path.
How will it be if you are able to control the waters ? What if the waters are always serene or still ? There will be hardly any special effort required to swim , with the facility to swim anywhere, without any resistance, any danger. You will be floating effortlessly from one point to the other. The best way to keep the water still is to stop throwing more pebbles in it, in response to the disturbed currents.
The most primitive and natural tendency to defeat anyone is to attack. Now when we feel that we have to control thoughts, control mind, we become aggressive. We start thinking about how to control thought. We might brood over getting rid of them, but still we are very much thinking about THEM. These emotions or thoughts become stronger as we brood more and more over them. We become more acutely aware of them. We reinforce them by acknowledging and accepting their influence over us. In the world of thoughts, what you think is real! if you think that some thoughts are your problem, they will become your problem.
Mind is like a piece of iron with conflicting thoughts, but becomes a magnet when the thoughts align!
Forceful control of thoughts is even more dangerous. It might make you like a pressure cooker with no pressure valve, ready to burst. Thoughts are the method of mind to analyse, understand and conclude. Thoughts don't come from space; they are children of your mind, generated as a result of intercourse with external stimuli. Forceful control might provoke them towards a dark distorted growth.
Overall, any kind of resistance against thoughts is like fighting the darkness with a steel sword. The darkness will be never go but gradually you will accept defeat. What you need is a lamp!
Some people focus exclusively on a single idea, a mantra or a thought, in order to develop concentration. But it is like watering a single weed instead of many. The mantra or idea will become very strong and will direct the mind. Again, we have willingly lost the control. It is like the case of a master of a house, who trains well a servant and becomes too dependent on him for running the household, eventually losing the power to control. When the single idea becomes too powerful, it becomes the guiding force of our lives. Such people have mental power akin to the visual power of the horses with eye patches. The idea becomes the center of their lives, whereas they stand on the periphery. Sometimes, they are willing to lay their lives for such ideas. Concentration thus developed serves its own self; you cannot use it for anything else.
Concentration for a specific aim is like building up a rope bridge to help to swim in the waters. But it can help only from one specific point to the other, where the two ends of the rope are and only in fairly favorable water conditions. People who develop concentration with a certain specific aim, might find it difficult to focus on other areas with same efficiency. Many great students lose their academic efficiency after a certain achievement because they initially focused to reach only up to that point. Unconsciously, their need of concentration ends after that achievement. Similarly, many science or math wizards may find it difficult to focus on day to day mundane jobs. This is lopsided effect of concentration.
We cannot fight thoughts, we cannot focus on them, then what should we do ? it takes some effort to realize that we don't need to do anything with thoughts. Working on thoughts is like trying to move the wheels of a bicycle while keeping the paddles still. Thoughts are like water dripping from a leakage point. The effort to collect water is waste of energy. One should try to plug the hole!
"How can one get butter by churning water " – Ram Charit Manas
The work that yields concentration starts at a higher level. The aim should be reach a state where the fog of thoughts diminishes, the dust of emotions settles and the vision becomes clear. Here, concentration becomes an effortless natural instinct. You are focused all the time with uninhibited receptivity. Not only you are able to concentrate, you become free of colored vision. Such is the meditative state of mind.
So, fundamentally, concentration is a quality of meditative state of mind. It is but the natural outcome of meditation, just as health is the natural result of nutritious food. We cannot skip nourishing food and try to achieve health some other way. This is the radical difference between concentration and meditation. The base cannot be replaced.
Therefore meditation is indispensable for development of concentration. Not only concentration but right way of thinking is the added advantage of meditation. Without the right discretion, concentration will be just another tool, like a computer which can be used either to waste one's time or increase knowledge. Overall, life becomes more meaningful with meditation.
Is meditation right for children ? Will they be able to understand it ?
Actually, it is easier for children because of their uncomplicated receptivity. Young children are in a natural state of meditation. Their mind is at peace, which is gradually lost as they enter our world. What we need to do is to just preserve that meditative state by external reinforcement.
However anything forced develops resistance than receptivity. If you want to introduce your kids to pick up meditation, you need to do it yourself, no matter whether you are busy or tired. What you tell might not work but what you show will be absorbed inevitably. Therefore personal practice is the best and unfailing way to promote your kids towards a happy and peaceful life.
May God Bless You With Peace, The Greatest Wealth In The World!