Let us consider concentration. You ask a man if he can concentrate. He at once says: “Oh! it is very difficult. I have often tried and failed.” But put the same question in a different way, and ask him: “Can you pay attention to a thing?” He will at once say: “Yes, I can do that.”
Concentration is attention. The fixed attitude of attention, that is concentration. If you pay attention to what you do, your mind will be concentrated. Many sit down for meditation and wonder why they do not succeed. How can you suppose that half an hour of meditation and twenty-three and a half hours of scattering of thought throughout the day and night, will enable you to concentrate during the half hour? You have undone during the day and night what you did in the morning, as Penelope unravelled the web she wove. To become a Yogi, you must be attentive all the time. You must practice concentration every hour of your active life. Now you scatter your thoughts for many hours, and you wonder that you do not succeed. The wonder would be if you did. You must pay attention every day to everything you do. That is, no doubt, hard to do, and you may make it easier in the first stages by choosing out of your day's work a portion only, and doing that portion with perfect, unflagging attention. Do not let your mind wander from the thing before you. It does not matter what the thing is. It may be the adding up of a column of figures, or the reading of a book. Anything will do. It is the attitude of the mind that is important and not the object before it. This is the only way of learning concentration. Fix your mind rigidly on the work before you for the time being, and when you have done with it, drop it. Practise steadily in this way for a few months, and you will be surprised to find how easy it becomes to concentrate the mind. Moreover, the body will soon learn to do many things automatically. If you force it to do a thing regularly, it will begin to do it, after a time, of its own accord, and then you find that you can manage to do two or three things at the same time. In England, for instance, women are very fond of knitting. When a girl first learns to knit, she is obliged to be very intent on her fingers. Her attention must not wander from her fingers for a moment, or she will make a mistake. She goes on doing that day after day, and presently her fingers have learnt to pay attention to the work without her supervision, and they may be left to do the knitting while she employs the conscious mind on something else. It is further possible to train your mind as the girl has trained her fingers. The mind also, the mental body, can be so trained as to do a thing automatically. At last, your highest consciousness can always remain fixed on the Supreme, while the lower consciousness in the body will do the things of the body, and do them perfectly, because perfectly trained. These are practical lessons of Yoga.
Practice of this sort builds up the qualities you want, and you become stronger and better, and fit to go on to the definite study of Yoga.