1. Introduction to how to improve concentration during chanting
Once we start chanting, one of the main obstacles we face is that other thoughts keep coming to the mind. They are mainly due to doubts about chanting and due to impressions in the subconscious mind. In this article we give some practical tips on how to improve concentration in chanting. We can bear in mind that achieving concentration in chanting is the target and not the tool.
2. How to improve concentration in chanting
Keep a count of chanting: One may use a string of beads (japamālā) or a counter to keep a count of chanting. This will help achieve concentration.
Chant aloud: When the mind keeps wandering while chanting, it is beneficial to chant aloud for some time or play a recording of the chant. Once other thoughts reduce and we achieve some concentration, we can continue chanting mentally.
Increase the speed of chanting: Similarly, we can increase the speed of chanting for some time, and once concentration is achieved, we can reduce the speed.
Chant in a quiet place: If we have difficulty concentrating we can try to chant in a quiet place or some place that attracts more of the Sattva component, such as in nature, in a place of religious worship, etc.
Chant upon waking up and before going to bed: Since there is less activity of the mind about mundane things upon waking up and before going to bed, it is easier to achieve concentration at these times.
Synchronise chanting with the breath: As we have mentioned in our article on coordinating chanting with one’s breath, thoughts from the environment enter our mind as we breathe in. If we synchronise our chanting with breathing, their effect on us reduces.
Complement chanting with a hand posture: Touch the tip of the index finger and thumb on both hands.This is a mudrā or hand posture that helps reduce thoughts and achieve concentration.
Autosuggestion: A therapeutic sentence or perspective suggested to the self to positively change one's actions (behaviour), thoughts and reactions (attitudes) or physical state.
Autosuggestions for chanting: Regularly repeating an autosuggestion will improve our ability to concentrate on chanting. We can word the autosuggestion as follows: “Whenever I am thinking useless thoughts, I will become aware of it and concentrate on chanting”. The method of taking autosuggestions is as follows:
1. Chant for 1-2 minutes
2. Mentally repeat the autosuggestion 5 times
3. Express gratitude
This process can be repeated 3-5 times a day.
Steady our gaze: While chanting, we can steady our gaze on one object or dot without blinking. This helps bring about concentration of the mind.
Chant with eyes closed: Thoughts can increase due to external distractions, so chanting with the eyes closed can also improve concentration. If one feels sleepy, it is better to chant with the eyes open.
Chant in front of an image of God or Deity whose Name is chanted: If possible, we can keep an image or picture of God or a Deity whose Name we are chanting in front of us. This will keep our mind focused on the God principle.
Remember God, or the Deity of the chant or one’s Guru: This can increase our spiritual emotion (bhāv) and chanting will therefore happen with more concentration due to the devotion towards Them. In addition, all other efforts taken to increase spiritual emotion will improve the quality of chanting.
Prayer: We can make earnest prayers intermittently: “Dear God, please help me to improve concentration in chanting.”
Spiritual healing remedies: In current times, the Raja–Tama in the environment is high. As this impurity enters our body it has many effects on us, one of which is an increase in thoughts. Doing spiritual healing remedies like the salt water, box treatment or lighting incense sticks is an effective way to reduce the black covering which prevents our mind from focusing on chanting.
Practice: As we chant more, our thoughts gradually reduce. This means that practice is one simple way to increase concentration. The more we practice chanting, the more concentration we will be able to achieve.
Guru’s grace: The Guru’s grace is ultimately necessary to eliminate all thoughts, as it is not possible to eliminate and control all thoughts on our own. One can win the Guru’s grace by regularly doing spiritual practice with intense yearning for God-realisation.
3. Summary – how to improve concentration while we chant
If we improve our concentration while we chant, we can experience more Bliss (Ānand). It also strengthens the impression of chanting in our subconscious mind, and we gain more protection from God when we chant with concentration.
However, even when we are unable to chant with concentration, it is important to persevere with chanting. Concentration will eventually be achieved. We can keep a target of improving our concentration in chanting over a period of approximately 6 months.