MCTB Energy and Concentration

Energy and concentration work just the same way: they must both be strong but must also be in balance. When energy is deficient there is sloth, torpor, dullness, and tiredness. When energy is in excess the mind and body may be restless, jumpy, strained, and irritable. It may even be unable to focus at all because so much emphasis is being placed on effort itself. When concentration is deficient the mind won't stay with an object and tends to get lost in thought. When concentration is in excess one can get lost in one's objects or be focused too narrowly and tightly for reality to “breathe.” Again, too much energy is related to a lack of concentration and vice versa.

When this balance is right, the posture is straight and steady but not rigid, and the mind is bright and focused steadily on objects and their back and forth interplay. When energy and concentration begin to come on line without mindfulness being strong yet, the mind may be prone to getting caught in obsessive thinking fueled by the strong energy and concentration, so watch for this and stay grounded in physical objects.

So, simply pay attention to how your practice is going and adjust the levels of energy and concentration accordingly. Finding the balance takes time, and may require regular readjustment as we learn to use the power of our minds. Sometimes it is helpful to be very gentle with our attention, as if we were trying to feel the wind on our skin from the flapping of a nearby butterfly’s wings. Sometimes it is helpful to use our attention like a machine gun. Often we do just fine somewhere in between.

A willingness to play around with various combinations of energy and concentration produces the necessary personal experience to figure out what helps and what is too much or too little. Many of the problems that meditators ask meditation teachers relate directly to just balancing energy and concentration, so engage with what that might mean and see if you can apply this little teaching to help you see clearly.

MCTB Mindfulness as Fifth Spiritual Faculty