Good morning! Hope you are bright today, you are seated in your heart, and ready for joyful delights, insights, service and growth. What a day!
Last time we shared, I was mentioning how I find that I easily slide into a deeper meditation place once I get past trying, but that those initial efforts are useful, too. I also shared about how you might either let go of trying to make note of insights, solutions or insights that come your way so that you can simply ride freely in your meditation experience, or how you might arrange to make note of some of that, but still be sure to leave space for that free time to let the meditation take you wherever it might.
I would like to share some today about the final three limbs from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.
These last three limbs of the eight limbs he lists are what we usually think of as meditation.
Patanjali presents yoga organized with eight limbs, "ashtanga." The first two are ethical principles which form an important foundation for everything else to come. The first is "Yama," restraints. This is how we deal with our world. We restrain our selves... don't harm... don't lie... don't steal... don't be greedy... don't waste energy. The next is "Niyama," observances, ways of being we want to take on in our lives. This is how we are to deal with ourselves... accept the challenges, pain and difficulties that show up, understanding that it serves to purify us... be content with whatever our current circumstances are so that we can keep our peace and deal with what is actually happening... make what we eat, read, listen to and the space about us, and even our thoughts pure... regularly study the scriptures, stories of holy beings, etc... surrender to that Absolute which is greater than our little self. With awareness of these principles, and actively working to make them part of who and how we are, we will be ready for and become strong enough to handle the powers and insights that come with the other limbs.
The third, forth and fifth limbs are what most folks find themselves engaged in during their yoga classes and practice. Third is "Asana" - the yoga postures. Patanjali tells us that we are to get our bodies so that they are comfortable and steady. Then the body will be a helpful instrument for us rather than a distraction. Not everyone is aware that their yoga practice is designed for this - so they will be ready to meditate, but it is.
Forth is "Pranayama" - the yogic breath work. By consciously managing the breath, we begin to both manage the life force itself and we build up energy to have it available so we can work with the mind. Pranayama is actually a full science that can be useful to work on healing, on focusing energy at specific points, at moving us into particular states of consciousness. Once you take on a regular Pranayama practice, you will have more energy for everything - stronger immune system, creativity, play, work, and the energy to focus and meditate.
Fifth is "Pratyahara." This has us become aware of our senses and how they are impacting us. The direction here is to learn to manage the senses and direct them inward, rather than outward which is the norm. Once you are able to manage the senses they will no longer be dragging you around. And when you direct them inward you will be delighted to find that they now open you up to the infinite. Again, nice for your meditation practice. Though Pratyahara is rarely mentioned or focused upon during our yoga classes, the hatha yoga system is designed to help us develop this limb, too.
And now the last three limbs which comprise what we think of as meditation. There are really three parts to it, and it is useful for us to be aware of this. It can help us in our meditation practice by letting us see what is happening, where we are at, and therefore be ready to do what is most fitting to move toward our goal.
The sixth limb is "Dharana." This is concentration. We decide what we are to focus upon and direct our attention to that. Our mental focus pulls away or slips away and we continually bring it back to our point of focus. This is concentration. This is what we are called to do for quite a while before the next limb. It is so useful to understand that this practice of pulling our attention back again and again to our object of meditation is one of the limbs of yoga. When we commit to doing anything that is useful and of service to ourselves and our world and then follow through on that commitment this is Dharana. Once we do this, that action/activity becomes a part of our life and being, how we are. This is an important step. Rather than being discouraged that you need to continue bringing your attention back again and again, understand this one of the limbs for your development, an important step, and simply stick with it, knowing that it is the building block you need to get where you are going. Enjoy.
Dharana is really making discipline part of your way of being. You are now doing this regularly, no matter how you feel, what distractions come up. This is what you are doing, no doubt about it!
And then add heart to it. This brings a magical change. Once you have the discipline established, Dharana, then adding heart to it transforms it into the next limb: "Dhyana," meditation. Now, instead of working at it, it becomes a joy. When it becomes heart-felt you engage in it easily and fullness occurs. You are in meditation.
But there is still another limb, still more for you. You became disciplined and focused, and then what you've been doing transforms into joy and becomes a delight. The eighth limb is "Samadhi," absorption. After doing something with heart for some time steadily, really enjoying it, it again transforms form becoming a way of simply being. There is no sense of work, or doing something. Now it is simply how you are, pure being. You are free in this, filled with light, joy and love. This is Samadhi.
We often imagine Samadhi as sitting in stillness and being totally disconnected with the affairs of this world. Certainly that is a common form of Samadhi, one which can take shape when you fall into that state during a seated meditation. But if you find your self in Samadhi regularly, it can simply become who you are and you are then free to do whatever is fitting for you or of interest to you. Once this becomes your way of being you are jivamukti, a liberated being. Have fun.