When I was doing my graduation in philosophy, I studied Patanjali’s Yog Sutra. There are eight limbs or steps of this classical yoga practice as follows,
1. Yama: The first limb is the practice of ethical disciplines, including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-greed.
2. Niyama: The second limb is the practice of self-discipline and spiritual observances, including purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to a higher power.
3. Asana: The third limb is the practice of physical postures, which are designed to purify and strengthen the body, improve flexibility, and prepare the mind for meditation.
4. Pranayama: The fourth limb is the practice of breath control, which is aimed at regulating the flow of prana or life force energy in the body.
5. Pratyahara: The fifth limb is the practice of sensory withdrawal, which involves turning the senses inward and detaching from external stimuli.
6. Dharana: The sixth limb is the practice of concentration, which involves focusing the mind on a single point or object.
7. Dhyana: The seventh limb is the practice of meditation, which involves deepening concentration and awareness to access higher states of consciousness.
8. Samadhi: The eighth and final limb is the state of integration, in which the meditator experiences a profound sense of unity with the object of meditation and with the universe as a whole.
These eight limbs are considered to be a comprehensive system for achieving spiritual liberation and self-realization. Each limb builds on the previous one, with the ultimate goal of attaining the state of Samadhi, or union with the divine.
I was astonished by these steps, especially by Dharana. Let us know something about it.
Dharana is a Sanskrit term that refers to the practice of concentration of the mind. Out of eight limbs of yoga, as outlined by the ancient sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Dharana is the sixth limb and is a precursor to the higher states of meditation and samadhi.
Dharana involves focusing the mind on a single point or object, such as a mantra, a candle flame, or the breath. The purpose of this practice is to quiet the mind and cultivate one-pointed attention. By concentrating on the mind, we develop the ability to control the flow of our thoughts, which can be a valuable tool in managing stress and anxiety.
Many different techniques can be used to develop Dharana, and the specific approach may vary depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. Some common techniques include visualization, repeating a mantra, or focusing on a physical sensation such as the breath or the feeling of the body.
With regular practice, dharana can lead to a state of deep concentration and absorption, known as dhyana or meditation. This state of heightened awareness can bring about profound changes in one’s consciousness, leading to greater clarity, peace, and insight into the nature of reality.
Visualization is a powerful technique that can be used in the practice of Dharana to help enhance concentration and focus. It involves creating a mental image or scenario in the mind’s eye and holding it steady as the object of concentration.
To practice visualization as a part of Dharana, you might choose a particular image or scenario that has personal significance to you, such as a peaceful natural setting or a cherished memory. You would then close your eyes and bring this image to mind, trying to see it as vividly and clearly as possible. You might also try to engage your other senses, such as imagining the feel of the breeze or the scent of flowers in the air.
As you focus on the mental image, you might notice that your mind starts to calm down and become more centered. You might become more absorbed in the image and less distracted by external stimuli or mental chatter.
Visualization can also be used in combination with other techniques of Dharana, such as using a mantra or focusing on the breath. For example, you might visualize a particular symbol or word that corresponds to your mantra, or you might imagine your breath as a particular color or shape.
Overall, visualization is a useful tool for practicing Dharana because it engages the imagination and helps to create a more tangible object of concentration. By cultivating awareness of the mental image, you can develop greater concentration, clarity, and inner stillness. With practice, visualization can help you to deepen your Dharana practice and access higher states of consciousness.
One example of Dharana that you can learn is the use of a mantra during meditation.
A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated over and over again, often in conjunction with the breath. By focusing on the sound and vibration of the mantra, the mind becomes more concentrated and still. This helps to quiet the chatter of the mind and bring about a state of inner peace and calm.
Here’s an example of how you could describe the experience of practicing Dharana with a mantra:
“During meditation, you can repeat the mantra ‘Om’ over and over again, syncing your breath with the sound of the word. As you continued to repeat the mantra, you will feel your mind becoming more focused and calmer. The outside world faded away, and you will be able to sink deeper into a state of inner stillness. Even when thoughts arose, they didn’t carry you away like they normally do. Instead, you may be able to observe them and let them pass, returning your focus to the sound of the mantra. By the end of your meditation, you will feel rejuvenated and cantered, ready to face whatever the day had in store for you.”
In the practice of Dharana, it is common to use a physical object as a focal point for concentration. One such object is a candle flame.
To practice Dharana with a candle flame, you would sit comfortably in front of the candle and gaze at the flame. As you focus on the flame, you can use your breath to deepen your concentration. You might breathe in deeply and hold your breath briefly while gazing at the flame, and then exhale slowly while maintaining your focus on the flame.
As you concentrate on the candle flame, you might notice that your mind starts to quiet down. You may become more aware of the present moment and less distracted by thoughts, worries, or external stimuli. Over time, with regular practice, you may be able to sustain your focus on the candle flame for longer periods and experience deeper levels of concentration and relaxation.
The candle flame is a useful focal point for concentration because it is visually stimulating, and it is also dynamic, with flickering and changing patterns of light. This can help to hold your attention and keep your mind engaged in the present moment. Additionally, the candle flame can have a calming effect on the mind and can help to create a peaceful and meditative atmosphere.
Using a candle flame in Dharana is a simple but effective way to practice concentration and cultivate a sense of inner stillness and focus.
In the practice of Dharana, the breath is often used as a point of focus for concentration. The breath is a natural and easily accessible object of awareness that can help to anchor the mind in the present moment.
To practice Dharana with the breath, you might sit comfortably in a quiet place and simply observe the sensation of the breath as it moves in and out of the body. You might focus on the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the nostrils, or you might feel the rise and fall of the chest or belly with each inhalation and exhalation.
As you focus on the breath, you might notice that your mind starts to calm down and become more cantered. You might become more aware of the rhythm and pace of your breath, and less distracted by external stimuli or mental chatter.
In addition to using the breath as a focal point for concentration during seated meditation, you can also use the breath to cultivate mindfulness and presence throughout your day. You might take a few conscious breaths before a meeting or a difficult conversation to help calm your nerves and center your attention. Or, you might take a few deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed or stressed to help bring your attention back to the present moment.
The breath is a powerful tool for practicing Dharana because it is always with you and it is intimately connected with your physical and emotional states. By cultivating awareness of the breath, you can develop greater concentration, clarity, and inner stillness.
The Power of Presence
The Power of Presence is the ability to be fully present and engaged in the current moment, without being distracted by worries, regrets, or other mental chatter. It is a state of heightened awareness and mindfulness that can help us to connect more deeply with our inner selves, as well as with the world around us.
Whether it is the breath, a mantra, or a candle flame, the practice of concentration can help us to develop the power of presence by training the mind to focus on a single point of attention. By doing so, we become more aware of the present moment and less preoccupied with past or future concerns.
When we are fully present, we can experience life more fully and authentically. We can appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world around us and connect more deeply with ourselves and with others. We can also tap into our inner wisdom and intuition and make clearer and more informed decisions.
Research has shown that the power of presence can have several physical and mental benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved immune function, and increased feelings of happiness and well-being. By cultivating this state of mindfulness and awareness, we can enhance our overall quality of life and improve our ability to cope with life’s challenges.
In addition to practicing Dharana, there are many other ways to cultivate the power of presence, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other forms of contemplative practice. By making presence a priority in our lives, we can tap into our inner reserves of strength and resilience, and live with greater peace, joy, and fulfillment.
Mastering the Art of Concentration
Through a journey towards developing a stronger and more focused mind through the practice of Dharana the sixth limb of the eight-limbed path of yoga, which is described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we can have a transformative effect on our lives. By cultivating greater focus, we can improve our ability to learn, be more productive, and experience a greater sense of peace and inner calm. But mastering the art of concentration requires practice, patience, and dedication.
To begin mastering the art of concentration, we need to understand the Dharana deeply and know how it works. The point of attention can be anything that we discussed such as a mantra, a candle flame, or the breath. But by focusing our minds on any point or object, we can begin to train our minds to become more disciplined and focused.
One of the key benefits of Dharana is that it helps us to develop greater awareness of our thoughts and emotions. As we begin to focus on a single point of attention, we start to notice when our mind wanders and becomes distracted. With practice, we can learn to gently bring our attention back to the point of focus, training our minds to become more disciplined and balanced.
To master the art of concentration, it is important to practice regularly. This means setting aside time each day to focus on a single point of attention. It can be helpful to start with short periods, such as five or ten minutes, and gradually increase the duration of your practice as you become more comfortable.
In addition to regular practice, it can be helpful to seek guidance and support from a teacher or community of practitioners. They can provide insight, feedback, and motivation to help you stay committed to your practice.
Mastering the art of concentration is a lifelong journey, but the rewards are well worth the effort. With greater focus and discipline, we can achieve our goals, improve our relationships, and experience greater inner peace and well-being.
Dharana is a powerful practice that can help us to cultivate greater concentration, focus, and mindfulness. By training the mind to focus on a single point of attention, such as a mantra, candle flame, or breath, we can become more aware of the present moment and less distracted by external stimuli or mental chatter. Through consistent practice, Dharana can help us to access higher states of consciousness, tap into our inner wisdom and intuition, and lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner, incorporating Dharana into your daily routine can have a profound impact on your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. So, take the time to develop your concentration skills and discover the power of a focused and present mind.