In this article we’re going to look at what to focus on while meditating.
It can be a game changer.
If you sit down to meditate only to find your mind going wild with thoughts rushing though your head, then this post is for you.
Or maybe your mind is calm but your focus is all over the place.
You might even wonder whether there’s a wrong way to meditate to get to that calm place of oneness within your meditation.
And there are many different ways.
One style is actually called focussed meditation, but the question of what to focus on doesn’t apply only to focussed meditation, but rather to all types of meditation.
And by the way, everybody can meditate. No matter what you think, you can do it.
We all can.
Other articles which may interest you are:
- Do you think while you’re meditating?
- Should you meditate in the dark?
- Does mindfulness meditation really work?
What to Focus on While Meditating?
The question of what to focus on while meditating has many answers.
For example, you may want to change specific behaviour, like how to not give up so easily in difficult situations.
By dedicating your meditation sessions to a specific situation like that you can learn to change your behaviour and set yourself up for success.
I sometimes hear people wonder if you have to be vegan to be spiritual.
And of course the answer is no, you don’t have to be anything to be spiritual because you already are spiritual.
You were born spiritual.
But the way of the spiritual warrior is to be peaceful and a truly peaceful life is based on love and compassion.
So you may choose to focus on compassion during your meditation.
There are lots of different approaches to meditating and most relate to breathing and focussing on the breath.
Here’s a list of the most common things to focus on while meditating, in no particular order. They are described in more detail below.
- The body scan
- The breath
- Counting the breath
- Silent mantra
- The present moment (mindfulness)
- A positive emotion
- A quality you wish you nurture
- White light
- A guided meditation
- A self-guided meditation
- The sharing of peace & love
- Something specific in front of you, like a candle
The Body Scan
The body scan’s a common way of achieving full body relaxation, especially at the beginning of a meditation session, before going in deep.
It’s a relaxation technique that isn’t only for meditation. It’s also used in hypnosis, self hypnosis, guided meditations and general health and wellbeing classes.
The body scan involves focussing on each part of the body from the tips of the toes, the feet, ankles, shins, knees etc with the focus of relaxing each part.
With the body scan, you silently speak the relaxation command.
‘Your feet are completely relaxed as you lie and feel the tension run out of them . . . ‘
As you traverse your body you’ll notice parts of the body relaxing and releasing tension which you hadn’t realised was there.
I only recommend using the body scan as an introduction before the start of a self hypnosis or meditation session, rather than as the actual objective of the session.
Focus on Your Breathing in Meditation
Probably the most widely used focus is the breath.
As you meditate, you focus on the sensation of your breath as your lungs fill with air from belly up and then in reverse.
You don’t try to force the breath, you just gently observe.
I’ve found that my breathing has become more naturally deep and evenly paced during meditation than when I first started out.
Once you’ve got into the practise of simply observing the breath, you can also do some breathing exercises. Breath in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4 and release for the count of 4. This is just one example of many types of breathing patterns you can engage in at the beginning of a meditation practise.
Breath intentionally in this way for a few minutes and then release control and allow the breath to just be what it is, naturally.
The breath gives you a place to come back to every time your mind wanders.
So for example, as you’re sitting in your meditation a thought crops up – I have to be at a meeting at 3 p.m. – for example. And as you notice that you’ve had the thought, you just return your focus back to the breath.
Count Your Breath in Meditation
You may prefer to use counting as a focus for you breath.
In this case, each in-breathe and out-breath are together as one count, as you silently count up to 10. Once you reach 10, you start again at one and repeat the block of 1-10.
This method gives you a kind of time structure to your meditation and you’ll notice that you can do more blocks of 10 as your practice progresses.
Repeat a Silent Mantra with the Breath
We can choose a mantra to repeat in your head, along with your breathing. This might be as simple as ‘OM’ or it might be a complete sentence, such as ‘I am living with joy’ or ‘I am full of healing energy’.
As with counting, use both the in-breath and the out-breath as one mantra cycle.
Sometimes I practise with a silent OM to help me focus on the breathing.
I prefer not to use actual mantra sentences which I think can be more distracting and lead you down a path of thinking about the mantra itself.
I do, however use mantras in this way during a self-hypnosis session or during a self guided meditation.
Focus on the Present Moment
By choosing to focus on the present moment, you’re practising mindfulness and being present with all things.
And yes, you can learn mindfulness skills on your own.
As you sit to meditate, you become aware not only of your breath but of every sensation in your body and every thought that passes through your mind.
You sit quietly and become the observer of everything as it unfolds in each moment.
Mindfulness meditation is extremely popular and can be transferred over to any moment of your day. You can practise becoming more mindful while engaged in conversations with others or when eating or waiting for the bus.
Mindfulness helps to calm the mind and train it to remain in balance in the face of adversity, which if we’re honest, we’re all going to experience at some point during our lives.
Becoming more mindful is great taken together with your normal meditation practice as part of a greater picture.
Focus on an Emotion
You can choose an emotion to focus on. So perhaps one day you choose to meditate on forgiveness or gratitude. I like to practice gratitude in my daily life. It’s about appreciating everything you have going on in your life, not only the things you feel are perfect.
But to actually focus on gratitude during a meditation, I would choose to think about something that lights me up inside, like imagining my dog for example or being grateful for being vegan as that’s something which brings me great joy in life.
You can choose whatever gives you that fuzzy feeling of loving warmth. It could be for a person or people you love, a pet, the comfort of your home or any other aspect of your life which lights you up.
As you sit in silent meditation, you hold this gratitude in your heart and observe it throughout, using it as an anchor to come back to if your mind wanders.
Focus on a Quality You Wish to Nurture
You may choose a quality which you would like to encourage more of in your life. Abundance for example, or health. You may meditate on creating more time for spending with loved ones.
Whatever the quality you wish to nurture, you hold it close during the meditation and feel it as though it were already a part of your life.
Feel the quality as you move through the meditation and come back to it whenever you feel your mind adventuring off the path into distractive thoughts.
Maybe you have to deal with tricky situations in your working life and you want to learn how to not be offended by insults. Meditation can help lead you to a new way of responding.
You can also include a question within your mediation when focusing on a quality you wish to nurture.
Focus on Music during Meditation
The question of whether to meditate with music or without is something which is a bit polemic. Some people find that music distracts from getting deep into the meditation practise and will hinder your path to enlightment.
Music isn’t part of the roots or history of meditation and isn’t included in buddhism practises but it has become part of the modern day meditation scene.
Music can be great for enhancing relaxation and reducing stress, so if your meditation is more motivated by health benefits and stress reduction, music might be the way to go.
Choose a music which doesn’t have engaging lyrics, preferably no lyrics at all or perhaps some lyrical sounds with no meaning that you understand.
Close your eyes and fully immerse yourself in the music, being aware of each nuance and the response from your own physical reaction to the tones of the melody.
Visualise a White Light
Using visualisations during meditation is a powerful way to expand your consciousness and keep you focussed on the moment.
There are many different ways to visualise white light during your meditation. Here’s one way for example:
Close your eyes and focus on your breath to begin with. Imagine a tiny white light which grows stronger with each breath. The light envelopes your whole body, expanding outwards until it fills the whole space around you, taking up the whole room, bursting beyond the confines of the room to the space beyond.
Now imagine an even brighter light directly above your head. As it enters into the crown of your head you can feel its positive energy and love infusing every part of your body with healing energy.
You can choose to work with white light in whatever way resonates with you. You may like to send the white light to somebody who needs healing or to a specific part of your body.
Whatever you do, using white light during meditation brings with it some powerful benefits and is a visualisation I believe everyone should experience.
Focus on a Guided Meditation
You can choose to meditate to a guided meditation. If you use Youtube and headphones the meditation itself will be quite self-explanatory as you listen to the sounds of the meditation and try not to judge it, but just observe and listen and focus on the sounds.
Again, if you find your mind wandering onto thoughts, bring your focus back to the guided meditation,
Self Guided Meditation
You can also take yourself on a self guided meditation. Start off by doing a body scan and then focus on your breath to become still and calm. You will then listen to ONE narrator voice within you and that narrator will guide you on a journey.
The journey typically takes you along a path to a beautiful garden or a beach, where you will look around you and breathe in the fresh air. Invoke all the senses, sight, hearing, smell and touch by taking in all the aspects of the place where your guided meditation leads you.
You can also encounter spirit beings in your garden. They may be in the form of animals or people, angels, or even from Greek mythology. Whatever or whomever comes across your path may have a message for you. You can also ask these beings questions as they are in contact with your higher conscious.
The Purpose of Life with Peace and Love
Ok, so this may not be a traditional focus for meditation but it’s my offering – focus on peace and love and open yourself up to insightful flashes of information to help you move your life forward in the right direction.
Peace and love can be almost synonymous in this context – when you love you want peace for the other being.
Sit and begin your meditation as you normally would, then move into the phase where you picture a peaceful world, much like heaven – a garden full of harmony and beauty.
Ask the beings in the garden to bring you a message which will move you forward with your life.
Even if you’re meditating in a noisy environment, you can still practise this short peace and love meditation.
When you come out of your meditation, send love to all the beings in your awareness.
Focus on Something in Front of You
What? Meditate with my eyes open? I never thought of that!
I hear you, it’s not what we traditionally imagine from meditation practise but in fact meditating with your eyes open goes back to traditional zen meditation practises.
When meditating with your eyes open, aim your eyes at a downward angle with the eyelids lowered (about 45º) and focus through the thing that you’re focussing on rather than staring at it.
Some people use a candle flame to practise this type of focus meditation, or you can stare at a white wall, or sit out in nature next to a river or in a forest and focus directly downwards and in front of where you’re sitting.
Meditation and Being Vegan
What does meditation have to do with being vegan?
As you meditate you become more open to yourself and your inner desires. You connect more with your inner child as well as your spiritual desires.
As children we live in awe of nature around us. It’s only as we grow that we are taught to squash creatures and shrug off the daily miracles which surround us.
Allow meditation to bring you closer to that awe for life and connect you with your inner desires. Allow a rabbit to be a beautiful creature that fills you with joy once more.
Meditation also shows you the way to cherish your own health and live in gratitude for the life we’ve been given. And that means feeding ourselves on wholesome food that nourishes and protects.
Read more about the relationship of mindfulness and a vegan diet.
Final Thoughts on What to Focus on While Meditating
If you make meditation a part of your life you’ll find yourself more and more drawn to your meditation time.
It’s a sacred time which you put aside just for yourself, to invest in yourself.
You may wonder how long it will take to learn mindfulness, or to learn to meditate, but the answer will be different for every person.
The important thing is to get started.
While others around you may benefit from your meditation practise as you become more in command of your reactions and thoughts and emotions, the first real step in creating a rewarding meditation practise is to prioritise yourself.
Finally, if you don’t feel positive about your meditation sessions, I recommend you try a different focus until you find a practice that most resonates with you.
I love my time to myself in meditation and wouldn’t swap it for the world.