Improving Concentration

Training in Concentration
Part 1: Day Course
Sunday, 16 June
10am – 4pm

Part 1 complete.

Part 2: Home Practice
17 June – 22 August

Part 3: Concentration Retreat
23 – 25 August, 2024 at Sixtus Lodge in Apiti
Retreat Price: $180, $130 unwaged (price includes, teachings, accommodation and meals)


Please note: Retreat is only for people that attended day course on 16 June. If you have any questions, please contact the Centre.


It sometimes feels as if we are living in a really crazy, noisy world. The media, our children, our colleagues and family clamour for our attention. Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by advertising with promises of a better, more fulfilling life, greater comfort and more fun. The to do lists grow longer and, sometimes it can feel that our mind is a bit like a ball bouncing from one thing to the next in a state of perpetual motion, that is both erratic and exhausting.

It can be really, really difficult to find any sense of stillness and clarity. How do we learn to focus our mind, so that we can begin to see things more clearly – and become an island of calm in stormy seas? Geshe la says:

“If we have not developed concentration, our mind will be continually distracted by delusions. We will be trapped between the fangs of the wild beast of conflicting emotions. Instead of controlling our delusions, they will be controlling us.

 Normally when we try to meditate on a virtuous object… our mind does not stay tranquilly placed on that object. At such times the mind is like a candle flame blown about by the wind. Such a flickering light does not allow us to see things clearly. Similarly, for as long as our mind is blown about by distractions we cannot focus on our object of meditation clearly.

 If we could construct a protective screen of concentration around our mind, the focus of our meditation would become immovable and we would have an undisturbed view of any virtuous object we chose.”
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Meaningful to Behold, p.314-315

This three-part course is all about helping us construct that protective screen of concentration – so that our mind becomes more peaceful, our focus clearer, and our meditations smoother.

There are two options for this day course (part one of our concentration course):

Option A: Half day course (morning)
Option B: Half-day course + afternoon workshop + home practice + weekend retreat.

Part One – Day Course

Half day course: Concentration – The essence of meditation:  Birgit Saunders and Kelsang Phunwang will discuss what concentration is and suggest practical methods for improving our ability to focus our minds and reduce distractions. Birgit will take us through some beautiful meditations on the clarity of the mind that help us deepen our concentration.

Full day course: The afternoon session will be a workshop that sets us up for the home practice part of the course.

Part Two

Home Practice: Mindfulness – Tying our mind to the object. This section of the programme requires maintaining a daily meditation practice of 20 minutes or more. (The day course will set us up for this.)

Part Three – Retreat

Weekend Retreat (Friday, 23 August – Sunday, 25 August): Making progress in our practice. This is the section of the programme where we reap the rewards of home practice! It is a silent retreat and in past years most students have found that this is where things really come together – and they are often surprised by just how much progress they have made in developing the strength and stillness of their concentration.

Please note: there is a separate booking for retreat option.


These classes are based on Buddha’s teachings on the mind, but you do not need to be a Buddhist to attend, or to benefit from them. There is no physical exercise involved and you can choose to sit either in a chair or on a cushion. These classes are suitable for all levels of experience.


Amitabha Kadampa Buddhist Centre
174 Albert Street, Palmerston North
Phone: 06 355-3524

Resident Teacher, Birgit Saunders

Kadam Birgit Saunders, Resident Teacher of Amitabha Kadampa Buddhist Centre

Kadam Birgit has been a student of Kadampa Buddhism since arriving in New Zealand over twelve years ago. Birgit began teaching with Kadampa Meditation Centre in Wellington where she was also Admin Director (AD) for three years.

Since moving to Palmerston North in 2016 she worked closely with Gen Kelsang Demo as the Education Programme Coordinator (EPC) for the Centre and teaching classes in Dannevirke, Feilding, at the Cancer Society and Massey University, while also working at the Cancer Society.

Birgit was appointed Resident Teacher of Amitabha Kadampa Buddhist Centre at the beginning of 2020, and brings sincerity, bubbly enthusiasm and kindness to her teaching. She is always looking for ways to make Dharma practical, relevant and meaningful so that students are able to see how to use Dharma and meditation to make positive changes in their lives.

Kelsang Phunwang

Kelsang Phunwang has studied at Amitabha Kadampa Buddhist Centre for many years and ordained in 2014. He is sincere, kind and has a deep understanding of Dharma which he puts into practice in all aspects of his life. He is our Education Programme Co-ordinator (EPC).

Phunwang teaches our classes on Thursday lunchtimes and co-ordinates Prayers for World Peace on Sundays.