Present power requires concentration on the moment and the thing to be done.
I swear I see what is better than to tell the best, It is always to leave the best untold.
- Walt Whitman.
"Another book upon this subject?" the reader may exclaim. Yes; because concentration is the secret of human power in action. Waste is prevalent everywhere and the consequences are poverty, illness, unhappiness, and failure. It is a libel on nature to think that any person should be in any kind of want because there is not supply and ability in him to appropriate it. The unconscious perception of this fact has pushed man onward to present civilization. A more or less clear perception of the Law and the Way has given rise to many schools of Human Culture. Each generation has had its seers who have studied the operation of the Power within man and discovered the Law, so simple, that all may intellectually grasp it. But because the ordinary person goes no further than to have a mere general perception of Truth, this book is added to the great metaphysical stock and others will necessarily come after mine. I am but one among the million. This book is but one stone cast on the cairn that authors are building to the worship of the God of Success.
Concentration is not something to be learned as one learns mathematics. It is a mental habit which is to be acquired just as the habit of solving problems in geometry is to be acquired by practice. Concentration is that mental attitude attained by practice, that characterizes the book-keeper and the mechanic, who know not that others are about, and who do their work almost automatically and unconsciously.
Concentration is that mental state, acquired only by practice, which enables the actor to forget self in the part he is playing, or the author to forget self in the thought he is writing. Only practice and more practice, can produce it. For this reason text-book after textbook will be needed, and the thought must be reiterated, "line upon line," and enforced example by example, till the habit of concentration is formed.
Because of this I feel it a duty to give my testimony and to help those still struggling as once was I. But I have another reason. My magazine and books have caused a large clientele to look to me for assistance along the lines of soul unfoldment; they turn to me with questions, and I must answer. From this feeling and this need, this book is born. It has not been of predetermined growth. It arises from my articles in magazine, from my lessons in class, from letters and conversations. Because I feel these persons have made inquiries that others are asking; these others will find what so many have already found in my thought; so I let the matter stand just as first given, knowing that the sometime repetition of the same thought in a little different way, will through suggestion strengthen the idea. I simply talk to you, my reader, just as I should in writing yon a letter, or in answering your questions, were you in my room. In fact much of the thought of the book comes from my class conversation. I trust you will feel the inspiration from which the instruction sprung.
I wish most in these first pages to emphasize the fact that it is a mental habit you are to cultivate. I am not giving you a treatise for merely intellectual comprehension. It is a book of conduct, rather. Any book can help you only in so far as you put what you are told into practice. As soon as you grasp an idea, lay down the book and think upon it and begin, then and there, to practice what you have learned. Repeat it over and over as an Affirmation. Tell yourself that you live that. Practice this till you unconsciously, through habit, think in that line. It will ultimately become a habit for you thus to think and you will live from that Affirmation. This alone is Concentration.
When I was a boy I was an omnivorous reader; read every book no matter of what kind I could obtain, from Sunday School, library, or neighbor. I thus created a habit of reading anywhere and of paying no attention to whatever was about me. Often has mother shaken me with the words, "Henry, where is that armful of wood you promised to get me?" Or, "Henry, when will you get that pail of water?" "Why mother," I would reply, "I never heard you call me!" "My son," she would say, "I have spoken several times, and you have answered me, 'yes, Mother, right away!' and now I can wait no longer." But I had not heard her. So at least I thought then. Now I know that my hearing was then perfect, but that I paid no attention to what I heard. I did not let the sound then cause me to think. I was deaf because I did not use my power to convert sound to thought. The old saying is true; "Deaf people hear when they wish to!"
How many of my readers have this habit of abstraction or of absent mindedness? And yet they are the very ones who tell me they "cannot concentrate." Please change this expression to this form, and it is true: "I do not concentrate upon that which I desire! I let myself drift through habit!" Study this last sentence till you get the meaning. It will help to develop the power of conscious concentration.
All I am trying to do in these conversations is, to bring you to consciously do that which you are doing unconsciously and automatically every day. I wish you to rise from habit formed through neglect or necessity, to a habit formed because you desire and choose it. In the first place you are a slave of, and in the last place you are the Master of, habit.
Note - Since Concentration is only paying attention to right thoughts, I have prefaced, each section with extracts from best literature, and recommend that the reader memorize them, as they are Power-thoughts and will, when meditated upon, lead to Success.