The Bhagavad Gita
How scattered we are. Most of our lives, we seem to skitter from one task to another, from one plan to another, and from one thought to another. And then, before we know it, another year has passed, and we are still marking our lives by time and place, by goals met or not met, and by exterior measurements. But what is happening inside, at the core of our being? Have we spent even a small amount of time in considering what is transcendent and eternal? Have we made any progress at all in feeling rested, calm, peaceful, tranquil? Has the idea of finding true happiness and contentedness occurred to us? What, I wonder, are we waiting for?
Dharana, the sixth of the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutras, offers us guidance and inspiration. It helps us to develop concentration that can change our lives.
LESSON FORTY SIX
CONCENTRATION – DHARANA
I am not sure how it happened to me. Many years ago, I had an experience some call shaktipat, a spontaneous opening into Truth and a spark of enlightenment. I didn’t expect it and had little idea what it meant. Of course, I had been studying yoga and teaching for some time, but this was way beyond anything I could have anticipated. My life changed in seconds. Somehow I was spontaneously drawn to certain behavioral changes. One of them could have been identified as dharana, I began to focus on the mantra Om Namah Shivaya. It was not just present during meditation. I chanted it either out loud or quietly almost every waking moment. And I continued to do this for months. If I was in a place where I could not chant it out loud, I had my mala (like rosary) beads I could inconspicuously move through my fingers, knowing that the mantra flowed with each touch. I was steeped in concentration, and miracles began to unfold around me. Things like time and space could alter. Wow, I would think to myself with wonder.
Certainly, you don’t have to choose something in sanskrit or anything else that is not familiar to you. Not at all. You could choose to focus on an image, like a rose or a statue, or you could give concentration to a word, like peace or love or God. Whatever you choose, you must try to block out everything else. This is, in fact, a kind of precursor to a good meditation practice, but you don’t have to see it that way. Just let it be, preferably in the morning before too much is happening, a delineated time, say ten minutes or more, when you give attention to nothing, nothing! else. This shows you how to discipline your mind, to ward off extraneous thoughts, and creates a sense of great power. If you can “hold steady” during this time, you can also do it at other times. It is a reserve for when you might really need this strength.
Some say the mind is like a ‘drunken monkey,” reeling us around, flitting from limb to limb, and crazy making. but once you know how to concentrate, you are merely the observer of the monkey. The monkey might still be there, it just does not define you. I can observe myself sometimes caught in the monkey trap. But I have learned to be kind and forgiving and compassionate when this happens. I also know it is temporary and what really matters is planted deeply and unshakably within me. Om Namah Shivaya.
One of my students, years ago, told me that her children got used to her saying or chanting Om Namah Shivaya. At some point, she recounted, she hit a bad patch and got very upset about something going on around her. She was visibly upset, at which point her daughter ran up to her, and with insistence, said, “Oh, Mama, Om Namah Shivaya. Om Namah Shivaya.” It was the band-aid to bring everything back to normal,.
- Think of something that will soothe you, that you can spend time focusing on for periods of time everyday. Some word or words, an object, a painting, anything will do. At first, you can experiment until you find your concentration object. Try it out.
- Once you have chosen it, choose a time, block it out, when you will do your practice of dharana. Then stay with it. Be patient. Trust in it.
- Don’t expect an overnight miracle (though it could happen). It will likely require weeks or even months to notice pattern changes in your life.
- Return to your concentration object throughout the day. Let it be your natural tendency to go back to it, perhaps cued by something you have chosen — on every hour, whenever the phone rings, when you see something around you.
One of the most highly respected thinkers and spiritual teachers of our time is the late Ramana Maharshi. He said:
The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration
on a single thought are the measures to gauge spiritual success.
With concentration, you will meet your True Self and abide in Love and Light.
With love and namaste, Deanne
For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com