Gazing at the thumbnail.
In a classical point of view (Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga) the restraint of all mental modifications (vrittis) is Yoga. It has been generally recognized that without concentration, nothing is possible. Only upon the power of concentration, more then upon any other thing, depends the law of attracting, controlling and mastering life’s conditions. Concentration has been defined by the Yoga authorities as steadfastness of the mind where the same is bound in a specified locality. We know from experience that the mind is the last thing one can possibly control. Try to fix it on any object and you will find that it soon slides away. Like a mischievous monkey, the mind is very difficult to control.
Thus, concentration is one's ability to be totally focussed on any given task for a continued period to achieve perfection. Concentration is the essence of Yoga. So anything that promotes steadiness and integration of the mind can be considered as a yogic activity. To improve concentration we must firstly rid ourselves of negative tendencies by diligently restraining “animal behaviour” and adopting manners and attitudes those which are conducive to mental peace. Poor health, tension, anxiety, laziness, distractions and doubt are some of the hindrances in developing concentration. One's efforts are concentrated only when the mind is silent. Pranayama and several “coordination” asanas are very good for concentration. Also verbalising the word "Aum" is a very simple and powerful technique for developing concentration.
Practicing Breath Awareness
The yogi then proceeds to disassociate the mind from the physical senses which carry it into external objects. Through abstraction one can easily learn to draw away the mind from the senses and they can then be brought under the control of the mind. After drawing back the mind from the senses, as in the case of abstraction, the Yogi proceeds further to concentrate his mind on specified objects. Failure to achieve mental concentration may be attributed largely to lack of primary control over the physical activities. Many students seem to believe that concentration is very easy and may be successfully taken up at any stage of Yoga study without the paraphernalia of physical training in this direction. It is however only through the continual practice of Yoga that it can ever be controlled.
In Classical Yoga, concentration is also the basis for meditation!
So.. what do you think. Can you sit quietly and observe your breath for around 30 minutes in a stretch? If you feel you cannot.. don't worry. Try and sit for 10 or 15 minutes initially. Soon I'll be posting more information on how can you prepare yourself to start the practice of conscious training in concentration & meditation.