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In this lesson, we talk about the skills of concentration and awareness, and I share the 2-minute daily practice that I’m asking you to do every day this week.

For this first week, we’re going to focus on concentration and awareness. What are these things?

Concentration is the ability to keep your mind on one point for a little while. For example, you could focus on just one particular spot of your breath (just the tip of the nostrils, for example), and keeping your awareness on that spot for as long as you can. Or focus on a certain part of your belly or chest as it rises and falls as you breathe. Other possibilities: you can focus on a candle flame or other visual spot, or anything really.

The more you practice, the better your concentration abilities get, just like flexibility as you practice yoga. It’s important because without concentration, you can’t do any of the other mindfulness practices this month, because your mind just jumps around all the time.

Awareness is just noticing what’s in front of us in this moment; it’s also the awareness of where your attention is. If your mind wanders, awareness allows you to see that it has wandered. If you’re concentrating on the breath, awareness is knowing that your mind is on the breath. With awareness, you can see if you’re concentrating or not, whether you’re thinking or not, etc.

Basic Practice

Do this basic practice each day, including right now!

Here’s the practice:

1. Set a timer for 2 minutes.
2. Focus on your breath for those 2 minutes. Just one point on your belly, rising and falling as you breathe.
3. Count your breath as your belly rises. Each time it rises, count “1,” then “2,” and so on … until you get to 10. Then start at 1 again.
4. When your mind wanders, start back at “1.” Just notice your mind has wandered, label your thinking as “thinking,” then come back to the breath and start at “1” again.
5. Practice awareness of the mind wandering. Practice gentleness when it does wander. And practice concentration on the breath.

That’s the basic practice. It will help develop your concentration and awareness.