In yoga class this week I have invited everyone to work more deeply with dharana - the sixth of the eight limbs of Patanjali's classical yoga system.
Dharana is the meditative concentration that we cultivate in the practice of yoga - where we forget the self and become one with the sensations in the body, the movement of the breath and allow the asana and/or meditation to unravel or reveal itself to us. It can be described as a mental one-pointedness... bringing us into a receptive and effortless state of being.
Patanjali used the word 'ekatanata' in reference to dharana; our concentration 'extending continuously or unbrokenly'. For this to happen we need to begin to release or detach from the 'kleshas' - the desires, longings and attachments of the mind that originate in the ego - the seperate self.
Rather than block, judge or restrain emotions or thoughts that 'interrupt' this state of being, we acknowledge and witness them without reaction or attachment - accepting exactly 'what is' in our bodies, emotions, mind and life. This can also be called 'witness consciousness', becoming the observer rather than the do-er.
In the Yoga Sutras, it is written of dharana that 'the mind shines with the object' that is your chosen focus point, your 'drishti'. As you practice asana with this focus, there comes a sensation of that which is external becoming internal, and visa versa. As so often in yoga, these polarities bring us into our centre, into union, feeling both more centred in our selves and expanding openly to the life outside of which we are a part.