Concentration (dhāraṇā) is sustaining the connection (bandhaḥ) of the mind (cittasya) in one direction (deśa).
PRACTICAL LIVING The second chapter described the first five limbs of aṣṭāṅga yoga – guidelines to a peaceful and joyful life. Chapter two ends with the practice of awareness of the power of the senses. The third chapter now begins explaining the results of working on our: (i) relationships; (ii) lifestyle; (iii) body; (iv) directing life force through the breath; and (v) awareness of the senses. As those areas of our lives become more stable, we are able to enjoy longer moments of concentration (dhāraṇā).
Have you tried focusing while you have a backache or have recently argued with a loved one or have someone cook your favorite food nearby? Focus typically comes easiest to us when we have done consistent ‘housecleaning’. The less external or internal distractions we have, the more likely it is that the mind will enjoy being fully present like it is in a moment of concentration. These moments usually happen as a result of practice something for a long period of time. With experience, the mind is not affected by the distractions that the senses and the emotions that we tend to have.
Therefore, whenever we have a conversation with a person, we are able to concentrate and be fully present. When we decide to begin a project, we stick to it and make sure we complete it. When we decide to write a blog post on this sūtra, ‘we’ close off social media tabs and move to a part of the house that is as distraction-free as possible 😉 The cleaner our lives are, the less the number or the intensity of obstacles we have, whether those are externally related to the senses or internally related to the emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger.
IN THE YOGA WORLD In our daily sādhana (practice), we are aiming to enhance our levels of concentration. Just like training a puppy to pee outside, we train the mind to come back to our object of concentration. What that object is depends on the individual. Many people have found that breath-based āsana practice (yoga poses) allows them to fully concentrate on the body and breath. Others find that a prāṇāyāma (breath regulation) gets them to that place. Some find mantras (sacred sounds), bhajans (singing to the divine), meditation on a meaningful object, or japa (repetition of a sacred syllable). This tells us that dhāraṅā (concentration) is both a practice and a result of a practice. In other words, the more we work on the other limbs, the better our ability to concentrate. And, the more we practice focusing, the better we get at it as well. We are headed towards any activity or state of mind that allows us to connect inward. How we do it is based on individual preferences, needs and abilities.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Shandi, the fire lady, glows when she enters any room. Starting with her colorful and creative attire, to her contagious smile, followed by her charismatic personality, people are drawn to her powerful energy. Her ability to focus and make things happen is awing! Often during yoga teacher training she would remind me of appointments I needed to make, assignments I needed to check or anything I had forgotten – she kept me on track 🙂 And I am so thankful for her focus, her creativity and her sweet heart that is amazingly generous and loving. Shandi, our paths crossed and I am so thankful for that! I have learned so much from you! Love you Goddess! And as I am about to post this on Facebook, the first post I see is from her: “When you make a commitment will you stick to it? Whether it is business, personal or maybe as simple as an invite to a party…. Make it a priority and see how your life changes.” She is the queen of commitment and concentration! You are amazing women!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will discuss meditation!