We focused on the idea of “concentration without effort”, beginning on page 8 of MoTT. This is the first thing to learn.
So we learned an effortless concentration exercise that can be done at any time. During the week, we are to try this exercise whenever we pass through a doorway of any type. During those moments, we can observe the automatic movements of thoughts, images, passions, personal desires, and other mental perturbations. The idea is to develop the ability to consciously direct attention, rather than to allow our attention to be randomly attracted.
We can observe, then, what happens to mental perturbations while we are directing attention. Is there Silence where there was previously “noise”? We can learn to maintain this concentration for longer periods, as described on page 11:
To begin with there are moments, subsequently minutes, then “quarters of an hour” for which complete silence or “concentration without effort” lasts. With time, the silence or concentration without effort becomes a fundamental element always present in the life of the soul.
This concentration exercise is always available to us whenever we remember to try it.
We touched on higher forms of concentration, as outlined by Mary of Agreda in The Mystical City of God
Man’s mind is rapt by God to the contemplation of the divine truth in three ways:
- He contemplates it through certain imaginary pictures.
- He contemplates the divine truth through its intelligible effects.
- He contemplates it in its essence.
Now when man’s intellect is uplifted to the sublime vision of God’s essence, it is necessary that his mind’s whole attention should be summoned to that purpose in such a way that he understands nothing else by phantasms, and is absorbed entirely in God.
These are related to the stages of prayer: vocal prayer, mental prayer, and unceasing prayer.
Concentration on mental images or thoughts are forms of meditation.
Concentration that is beyond images and thoughts is contemplation.