DHARANA - concentration

one-pointedness of mind

Remember the last time you were totally focused and immersed in one activity?

This kind of state of total focus, is a peaceful feeling and in its essence is dharana, the total concentration of the mind.

Dha means ‘holding or maintaining’, and ana means ‘other’ or ‘something else’. Dharana is Patanjali's 6th limb of his path to mastery of the mind. Dharana is the ability to hold the awareness of the mind on one point, one place without wavering. It follows the stage of pratyahara in which the mind is first withdrawn from external senses. 

 

From the yoga sutra's :

3.1 Desha-bandhash cittasya dharana. (Dharana: restraining (the pursuit of unwanted or hindering thoughts) in contemplation; bandha: keeping; citta: mind; desha: place.) Restraining the pursuit of unwanted or hindering thoughts in contemplation is keeping the mind in one place.

Dharana is an important step on our way to the next step, dhyana (meditation). We need to be able to concentrate the mind before we can move further.

Generally there are two experiences of life. One is related to the appearance and the other to reality. We are more aware of the appearance and less aware of reality. Our vision has to change. We have to become more aware of reality and less aware of the appearance. That is the direction which the practices of dharana take. At the same time there is relaxation, concentration, non-attachment and attainment. When we are able to develop a concentrated mind we will feel, realise and understand that life is like a flower and every unfoldment is beautiful. -  Paramahamsa Satyananda

The practice of dharana is so relevant today, we're so easily distractible and interruptible as we're dominated and “switched on” via smartphones and other devices that make us readily available. This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, but there is a downside: more and more experts are telling us that these interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate.

 

In concentration there is power. We are in essence dissipating our power in all directions as the mind flicks from distraction to task to interruption​. We think we're multitasking when we are just switching rapidly between different activities. In the short term, we adapt well to these demands, but in the long term tensions and worries mount up and the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol create a physiological hyper-alert state that is always scanning for stimuli, provoking a sense of addiction temporarily assuaged by checking in. 

We could say our focus has become like the light of a light bulb spread, diluted, where it could be powerful like a laser beam, formed by aligned, focussed light rays.

A DISSIPATED/WEAK MIND 

If we are unable to concentrate, we'll be thinking of other things while doing the work at hand. Mistakes will likely be made and we'll take unnecessary lengths of time to complete the task, if completed at all. Due to poor concentration there will be poor application, so the work is not properly done.

 

If we have a weak mind we'll decide on one thing but do another. We'll be running on an autopilot programme ; 'from tomorrow I am going to do this or that' but when tomorrow comes it's all forgotten and nothing changes. With a low quality of mind performance in all spheres will be poor.

A CONCENTRATED/STRONG MIND 

Better concentration makes life easier and less stressful, we'll have the ability to achieve great things and to do unimaginable amounts of work whilst finding joy. If we want to do something or become something, the quality of our mind has to be high. Performance will be correspondingly great. 

 

A concentrated mind has the power of heightened perception, the ability to see more of the underlying truth behind phenomena.  A strong mind is one which can carry out its own decisions. We can influence our character, health, life all around, with a powerful mind.  Concentration is vital for everything we do in life, it prevents us from wandering aimlessly. 

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OBJECTS

of concentration

 

In order to develop mental power and develop a concentrated mind we can concentrate the mind on one point. We can choose an object as the basis for concentration. We can find something that specifically engages us for a period of time to the exclusion of everything else.

  • MANTRA

  • SYMBOL

  • THOUGHT

  • IDEA

  • FORM

We can concentrate on any light, any sound, colour, form, thought, or anything we like, as long as there is minimal confrontation in the mind. So if we are unable to concentrate by using any of the suggested methods, then we can choose our own, even distractions can be used as objects of concentration. The important thing is that the object we choose should become so compelling that our mind completely integrates with it. When we practise in this way then we will enter into concentration easily.

When dharana has been achieved then the meditative experience will automatically dawn as the mind becomes relaxed, harmonious and receptive to a broader dimension of consciousness :

3.2 Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam. (Tatra: when that is; dhyana: retaining (the flow of wanted or helpful thoughts) in contemplation; ekatanata: nature of having a oneness; pratyayas: thoughts. When that is complete, the seventh limb of yoga: retaining the flow of wanted or helpful thoughts in contemplation is this mind’s nature of having a oneness of thoughts.

PRACTICE

Dharana

ANTARAKASHA DHARANA - INNER SPACE CONCENTRATION

In Sanskrit, the word antar means ‘inner’ and kasha 'space'. Here we concentrate on the inner space, in which every part of the body is seen of as void. When we concentrate on anything, the mind takes that form, even for a moment. So, if we concentrate on the body, the mind becomes that form of the body. In this way, when we see the body as space, the mind also becomes a space, opening us up to experience what is in the deeper dimensions of our being.

  • Relaxation of the body

 

Sit in a comfortable meditation posture. Adjust your position so that you do not need to move any part of the body. Observe the entire body and make sure that from the crown of the head down to the tips of the toes, the whole body is free from all tightness and tension. Move your mind through the different parts of the body. Check each and every part, each and every joint, each and every muscle. Make sure that you are totally at ease physically. Observe and relax your whole body internally. Become aware of the maximum ease that you can experience in the body.

  • Body steadiness

 

Maintaining the feeling of total physical relaxation, become aware of your body posture. Concentrate on the position of the body. Feel your body becoming steady and still. Develop the feeling of steadiness and stillness. Side by side become aware of the natural breath. Continue this process until the body is absolutely steady and immobile. Maintain the awareness of the body which is absolutely still and motionless. Concentrate on body stillness, on pindrop silence. There should be no physical movement.

 

  • Entering the inner space

 

Maintain total awareness of the stillness that you can feel within the body. Within the stillness of the body begin to experience the inner space. Leave the concept of the material body made up of bones, flesh, blood. Develop the concept of the body as space, nothing but space. Experience the body as an empty shell, made of skin with nothing inside. Within the stillness experience the inner space which pervades the whole body from head to toes, empty space. Feel the internal expansiveness, the lightness, the vacuousness, of the space. It is to this space that you have to direct your consciousness. Experience the infinite space within the physical frame. You do not have to make any effort to experience the inner space. The experience will come to you spontaneously, as you attune your awareness to the subtle dimension of consciousness. This space is not separate from consciousness. It is the medium through which consciousness functions. Where there is consciousness

there is space. Attune yourself to the experience of inner space. Beyond the body, beyond the mind, is the dimension of space. Develop this experience.

 

  • Inner body space

Maintain total awareness of the space within the body. Observe the vacuousness of the whole body from the head to the toes. Move your awareness from the toes up to the top of the head, observing the space contained within the body. Take your awareness through every part of the body and become aware of the subtle, inner space which pervades it. Take your awareness to the head. Experience the space within the region of the head. Become aware of the neck and experience the space there. Be aware of the space within the right shoulder, the right arm, the right hand. Experience the space from the right shoulder down to the fingertips. Be aware of the space in the left shoulder, the left arm, the left hand. Experience the space between the left shoulder and the left finger tips. Experience the space pervading the region of the chest, inside the ribcage. Be aware of the entire chest space from front to back. Experience the space within the abdomen, the upper abdomen, the lower abdomen, from front to back. Experience the space in the buttocks, the right buttock, the left buttock, both buttocks. Experience the entire space between the shoulders and pelvis. Be aware of the whole torso and the inner space which pervades it. Be aware of the space within the right thigh, the right knee, the right calf, the right foot. Experience the inner space between the right hip and the tips of the toes. Be aware of the space pervading the left thigh, the left knee, the left calf, the left foot. Experience the inner space between the left hip and the tips of the toes. Be aware of the space in both feet together, both legs together. Be aware of the space in both hands together, both arms together. Be aware of the space inside the chest, the abdomen, the whole torso. Be aware of the space inside the neck and head. Develop awareness of the space contained within the whole body, the whole body. The whole body space.

 

  • Expansion and contraction

 

Direct your awareness to the natural breath. Watch each ingoing and each outgoing breath. Do not alter the breath flow in any way. Simply observe the natural breathing pattern. Side by side there should be awareness of the inner space. As you breathe in feel that the space is expanding. As you breathe out feel that the space is contracting. Intensify your awareness of the space which is expanding and contracting with each breath.

 

  • Ending the practice

Now get ready to end the practice. Withdraw your awareness from the experience of space. Gradually externalise the perception. Feel your physical body sitting in the meditation posture. Feel the weight of your body against the floor. Feel your hands resting on the knees. Be aware of the external sounds. Be aware of the room in which you are sitting.

 
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