Updated: 2017.09
"The nature of the mind is such that it creates a thought and throws it over for another thought to take its place. This being the nature of the mind, it makes it difficult for one to concentrate upon one object steadily. The mind of an average person may be pictured as an unruly horse that jumps and kicks and throws anyone that tries to ride it. Masters of the world are those who have mastered themselves, and mastery lies in the control of the mind. If the mind became your obedient servant, the whole world is at your service. The sovereign of mind is greater than the sovereign of a nation."    ~~~ "Githa II, 'Amaliyyat 1", by Hazrat Inayat Khan (unpublished)

a description of
a Sufi practice in five steps


Out of the many possibilities that emerge during this practice, decisions are made as to which possibility will remain and time is spent at the end of each stage making that choice secure in the mind.

The eyes are closed after the initial observation. Thoughts do not return from one stage to an earlier stage.

An object is displayed and the characteristics of that object, such as size, shape, color and ornamentation is observed and remembered.

Then the purpose of the object is decided upon. For example, the purpose of a candle could be to give light to a room, to create a prayerful atmosphere or perhaps to inspire a meditative experience.

One then examines what effect is produced by the thought of that object. In the case of a candle, there might be a religious quality, or the quiet peace of candlelight or perhaps the flame might represent a source of energy.

The details observed in the first step are brought together in memory and the object is reconstructed in every detail of size, shape, color and ornamentation while remaining aware of the function of the object and the quality, or impression, of it’s atmosphere.

The mental image of the object is elaborated. The object’s size, shape, color and ornamentation are changed . A number of copies of the new object are then created and positioned. An environment, either natural or artificial, is created to contains the objects.

The bundle of created objects is now mentally transported to some distant point. The location is one that is clearly remembered, perhaps one’s own home or the home of a friend. The objects are placed within this new location.

The entire process is now reversed. • There is a return to the created objects in their previous environment. • That environment is dissolved so that the bundle of objects exist in an empty space. • The number of objects is reduced to one by erasing each multiple one at a time. • The changes in size, shape, color and ornamentation are removed; the object is returned to it’s original state. • Starting at a specific point, the object is gradually erased, each of it’s remembered details removed one by one, until it has completely disappeared. One then remains in the atmosphere of a perfectly peaceful condition, united in thought with the Divine Presence, where no concentration is any longer required.

About the Practice

Regardless of what object is chosen for concentration, it is the impression alone which remains at the end of the fifth step as an abstraction of consciousness or in other words, a condition of all pervading serenity.

Of the many other inspiring objects upon which to concentrate, a pitcher of water, a rosary, a musical instrument, or a book might be recomended

• The pitcher of water could symbolize the quality of physical, mental or emotional purity

• The rosary could symbolize an ornament, a guide for a given number of repetitions of a sacred wazifa, or a channel to higher spheres

• A book might symbolize history, scientific information, philosophy, entertainment or sacred communication.

• A musical instrument could symbolize sound; either human or Divine.

The Purpose of Concentration, Deconcentration

The purpose of Concentration, Deconcentration, is to enter into a practice that might eventually offer a method of reducing or removing unwanted impressions from the mind. The repetition of the practice using objects that are visualized, offers balance in the activity of the mind, so that some distance from mental acquisitive tendencies is introduced into everyday life.

Eventually, this manipulation of the appearance of the perceived world has an indirect but similar effect upon the thoughts, emotions and beliefs. For example, one might have a fear of something occurring in one’s life. Concentration, Deconcentration could be used to clearly identify the fear and to apply an equal effort toward erasing the impression of that fear.

However, it is best to begin with the five steps as applied to a visualized object and to allow the mind to become comfortable with the process. It is of course most helpful to have guidance from an experienced teacher, but if this is not possible then one might consider sharing the experience with a supportive friend.

A glass of water could be an object of concentration

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Murshid Hidayat Inayat-Khan

Selected Writings

By tradition, the Buddhists are accustomed to sitting in concentration at the feet of an image of the Buddha, although according to their belief nothing really does exist which cannot be reasonably understood. There seems to be no logical explanation for this custom, which obviously appears to contradict the principle of rejecting all interpretations of abstract concepts, nevertheless, this paradox does certainly reveal a deep mystical teaching. In fact, while sitting in attunement with the Buddha-image, the devotees feel profoundly inspired by that very atmosphere of inner Peace received through the impressions of an enlightened Buddha, impressions which become reality for those whose deep concentration merges with the idea of enlightenment

Love, Human and Divine, can obviously be experienced at a level, where the thinking mind and the feeling heart are harmoniously attuned within the consciousness, leaving no space for self-identification. This could be understood as a meditative condition, where the mind-world and the feeling heart merge at the level of a sublimate consciousness.

The mind could be seen as a sophisticated computer, where numberless programs are installed. These can either be downloaded at will, or they might flash by, unwillingly, at any time. The processing of these programs is what could be understood as Mental activity. Among the various thought-programs available, some can be understood from a logical point of view, whereas others require a deeper insight into the thinking world, because these proceed in attunement with the feeling heart.

Imagination, which is the secret of creative accomplishments, can be developed by visualizing imaginary sceneries with closed eyes. One can either visualize oneself within those sceneries, or they can be seen at various distances. Details such as colors, sounds and moving objects visualized within the scenery can be largely diversified, thereby intensifying the creative nature of this process.

Memory is like a storehouse, where past impressions are preserved along various periods of time, according to the intensity of the experience registered at the time. When grabbing impressions out of the storehouse of the memory they suddenly re-appear in the mind.
Past impressions can also spontaneously flash back at any time, without having been consciously called upon. Furthermore, long forgotten impressions - since many years - can also suddenly re-appear on the screen of the mind for no logical reason, other than resulting indirectly from an automatic association with similar circumstances.

Observation is the process of receiving impressions through the five senses, which are like windows through which the consciousness is fully aware of all experiences. Consequently, observation is the door-opener to all worldly knowledge and happenings, resulting in decisions and actions taken following concentrated and coordinated reasoning. Reasoning, which requires wisdom as well as the knowledge of facts, could be explained as being a co-ordination process regarding decisions or actions to be taken, there where the mind is confronted with the need of simultaneously evaluating multiple facts.

When following a project, one develops more and more willpower, with which one is able to maintain the realization of that project. While concentrating one is not conscious of the power of will involved, but sooner or later, whatever one concentrates upon becomes an intoxication unless one is prepared to liberate oneself from the domination of the project in mind

When following an idea, one may be fascinated by it, but when giving it up for a better cause, the willpower is thereby strengthened, which is the fruit of conviction guided by wisdom. This is what could be understood by the term contemplation. While contemplating an idea without the guidance of wisdom one might become intoxicated with the chosen concept, which could then degenerate into a fixed idea or a preconception.

In other words, whatever one contemplates upon, sooner or later produces a significant effect with either positive or negative consequences; one can either become elevated, or if one is not prepared to liberate oneself from self-illusion, one can become intoxicated.

An impression is the shadow of external circumstances received through the five senses and traced automatically upon the screen of the mind, whereas willpower is the energy which motivates the thought, enabling thereby a coordination of colors, shapes and lines, creating thereby an intelligible image. The power of sensorial impressions made upon the mind can be so great that it conditions one’s thoughts and feelings. In this way, the impressions of an idealized image of worship are reproduced upon one’s own mind-frame inasmuch as one’s thoughts are directed toward the subject of concentration.

Everything that is perceived through the five senses is stored and scattered deep down in the memory when not actively called upon. However, when wanted, all the pieces are again assembled, automatically, reconstructing thereby the original image. This differs from the dream, where the light of intelligence is in a standby condition and the power of the will is slumbering. In this condition, the regrouping of the many thought-pieces lacks complete coordination, which explains the complete lack of logic in dreams or the unreality of dream images.

Then again, the apparent difference between dream and imagination is that during sleep the slumbering thought is called a ‘dream’, whereas in a wakened state the concentrated or contemplative thought is called ‘imagination’.

Concentration or contemplation, both have the quality of fixing the impressions received, securing their retention as thought patterns, which obviously explains why memory is so dependent upon the correct observation of an image, as it also is dependent upon willpower with regard to the motivation of thought. Besides the impressions received through the five senses, there are also much finer ones which vibrate within the feeling heart and, alike a magnet, which can hold pieces of metal by the power of attraction, in the same way, thoughts may be steadily fixed in the concentrated mind by the magnetic power of the feeling heart.

As said, Concentration or Contemplation may create or have positive or negative results either intentionally or unintentionally according to whether the concentration is willingly directed, or whether one is obsessed by one’s own thinking. Therefore, if one is not able to delete unwanted thoughts, there is some danger or risk in becoming a slave to the power of concentration. For this reason, holding and erasing, which are both the two great applications of concentration, should obviously be developed simultaneously.

The holding of a thought is constructive insofar as it helps to bring about inner strength and steadiness of mind, whereas the other power, the ability to delete unwanted entangled thoughts, which could be called de-concentration, helps to free the mind of negative thoughts, worries and fears. Besides inspiring images, the most uplifting subject of contemplation may be found in the personalities of spiritual souls whom one idealizes and whose examples indirectly offer either creative or spiritual guidance. But whatever be the chosen ideal, it is mainly the intensity of one’s devotion that shall affect the beauty of the guidance or of the achievement.

Concentration could also be understood as being a process where the thought is held under control when fixing it upon a chosen shape, color, sound or an association of these, such as a symbol or a scenery. This specific discipline also requires the ability of de-concentrating, in order to secure the power of freeing the mind from undesirable thoughts.

The object of concentration inspires inasmuch as the heart is open to its message, but however great that message might be, it still has no impact on the heart of the person whose feeling for devotion has not been awakened. The effect of a feeling heart can certainly be observed in the lives of great men and women whose deeds and creative accomplishments have been profoundly inspired through the admiration and devotion that they themselves have had for the precious examples, the various impressions of which were at the origin of their motivations.

From a mystical point of view, the deeper the concentration, the deeper the power of the mind; but when the mind is attuned to the Divine Power, that Power reveals itself as being, in fact, the very same power which the seeker of Truth initially thought to be his own power of thought.

When opening one’s heart and finding one’s self face to face with the Divine Presence, at that very moment of self-redemption one realizes that what one thought to be oneself was only an illusion, yet paradoxically, individual consciousness is at the same time Divine Consciousness, like the drop of sea water which is just a drop, and yet it is at the same time the sea itself in an individualized form or entity.

Hidayat Inayat-Khan
March 2012