The seventh limb of Patanjali’s 8-limbed path is dhyana, meditation. The yogic path builds upon the foundations established in the previous limbs progressively developing one’s ability to sustain concentration and channel mental energy to a focal point under any circumstance. Meditation is often described as a practice, and most meditation practices include 3 components awareness of the observer, the object of observation, and the observed. However dhyana is more than just meditation practices. The joyful, clear state of dhyana is achieved through such practices.
The word dhyana comes from the Sanskrit word dhyai, which means “to think of.” Dhyana involves the practices of concentration and meditation on a point of focus, ultimately with the intention of knowing the truth about it. This deeper concentration of the mind is the instrument of self-knowledge where one can separate illusion from reality, and come to a place of true knowledge where all things are seen as one.
Practices such as vipassana provide deeper insight into the true nature of things, including ourselves and how we are composed of matter and energy – the same make-up of the entire universe. When a practitioner sets the intention to meditate, however, the idea is not to evaporate into cosmic dust, or even to be completely still or quiet the mind. Such undertakings are admirable, but likely impossible. The intention along with the benefit of meditation comes from the willingness to practice, to sit quietly, observe what is present and this often provides illumination of the things that are transient and those that are enduring. Meditation often brings a sense of greater space within and around you can provide a great release of mental and physical restrictions.
We invite you to join us in bringing more awareness to the practice of dhyana this month (and beyond). Here are a few ways to get started:
- Spend a few moments focusing the mind on a particular object and practice becoming absorbed in it. You can pick any object that feels relevant for you at that moment. It could be your breath, a candle, a chakra, or a beautiful flower just to name a few.
- Bring complete focus to one daily task throughout the month. For example, if walking the dog or washing the dishes is part of your daily routine make it a practice of meditation for the whole month, where you are intent on concentrating fully on the task at hand and not preoccupied with other things.
- Commit to a daily practice of meditation, there are several apps available that can help you get started.
- When you arrive for class after getting settled in, set up a meditative position and sit until class begins.
- Come back to the previous limbs of mindful asana, pranayama, pratyahara, and dharana.
Although the practice of meditation can be challenging, it is well worth the effort. There is more there for us than just sitting still. With dhyana we can uncover greater truths about ourself and alleviate future suffering in our lives. Bring aspects of meditation that resonate with you into your life bit by bit, and you’ll quickly find how beneficial meditation is.