Encased within Annamaya Kosha (the physical body), & the Pranamaya Kosha (the energy body), & the Manomaya Kosha (the mental body), is the Vijnanamaya Kosha, which refers to the Wisdom Body, the intelligent mind. In Vijnanamaya Kosha, each of the previous limbs of yoga seeks to serve our intelligence as we concentrate through our conscious awareness. This cleanses our mind, body & soul of impurities of non-truth as they emerge. We’ve tossed the many scripts & expectations of what the outside world tells us to be & instead transparently approach from a place of complete authenticity of what feels right, in our own bodies. The process of memory is cleansed of festered emotions & deals with feelings as they emerge in the present, thereby becoming a useful ally of our intelligence, instead of a persuasive distraction. Our job then becomes to not get in the way of the intelligence as developed by our practice. We begin to act as initiated from our soul, not our brain. To trust & allow our intelligence to act through our intuition as facilitated by the conscience of our unified soul. In this practice, we examine what it means to be truly present & the gift of spontaneous meditation (dharana & dhyana).
Dharana & dhyana are the sixth & seventh limbs of yoga as described in Patanjali’s Eight Limb Path. While they are separate limbs in & of themselves, they are highly intertwined when it comes to our approach & practice of them. For this reason, we address them both within the air element.
Dharana, or concentration, is far more than the focus of our attention. In Dharana, we purify our intelligence through the cessation of thoughts. By integrating & coordinating each previous limb of yoga into a seamless entirety of our practice, our very existence & state of being become a continuous & self-correcting sense of holistic awareness. By linking intelligence to our awareness, we see through the sheaths of illusion that may otherwise go unchecked & begin to see, speak, & experience the world unhindered & begin to see with complete untainted honesty.
Just as a song is more than the accumulation of its parts, dharana is more than simply the sum its elements. It is an internal recognition & elimination of all the things we identify with & are not. In dharana, we use our senses to focus the mind to calm the cluttered chatter of thoughts & bring us into the present moment. In pratyahara, the aim was to completely withdraw from the senses. In dharana, we begin to re-enter them but with & through our conscious awareness, thereby allowing ego to serve our intelligence, not dictate it.
As it relates to our yoga practice, there are several ways to practice dharana (mantras, chakras, drishti, etc.), but all involve the practice of continuously disciplining the mind as we call it back into focus. Trataka is a common yoga technique which uses the sense of sight to calm & quiet the mind by focusing all of our attention & thoughts on a candle flame. It is natural for our mind to wander to other thoughts. The practice of dharana is to become aware of this wandering & call it back to concentrate on the object of our focus, whatever that may be.
Here at Learning to Fly with Tangled Wings, we practice dharana through rope & shibari by directing our attention & focus to specific areas of our physical body as the rope interacts with our skin. In this practice, we use the sensation of touch to calm & quiet the mind. Fixating the mind to concentrate in one place, we are brought into the present moment & are no longer pulled by anxious thoughts of future & skewed thoughts of past. All that is, is now. Direct perception facilitates direct action.
Just as the musician can improvise & flow without individual thoughts or goal-oriented technique, our ropes practice now becomes quiet & still, without the incessant chatter of the mind.
In our meditation practice, we overcome the afflictions of human consciousness rooted in the ignorance of duality. As I understand it, we as humans, are a small part of creation & the universe that has developed a conscious awareness of itself. We are the reflective intelligence of the source energy we continue to receive. Our perceived separateness is necessary to maintain mental & emotional integrity, that is where our desire, our longing to connect, exists. But, if we look closely, we see that even our perceived duality, the very desire to connect with that which is not ourselves, is our yearning to return to our united oneness.
Meditation, as thought of in the west, is largely associated with stress reduction. However, the true meaning & value of meditation is something much larger than mindfulness training. In our meditation practice, we overcome the five afflictions of human consciousness that effect & pervade each one of us. True meditation cannot be forced, & will arrive to the practitioner if & when their practice has developed to the point where they are ready to receive it.
In dhyana, we begin to overcome the five afflictions of human consciousness rooted in the ignorance of the ego’s impersonation of the soul. By allowing ourselves to be with each of the five afflictions, we develop an emotional tolerance & thereby decrease their dominance over us.
Avidya (ignorance), is the primary affliction & gives birth to the other four afflictions. This is the impersonation of the soul by the ego, which presents us from seeing the truth, & is the at the core of all human suffering.
From ignorance comes Asmita (pride), which leads to issues like jealousy & comparison in that we lose the ability to experience happiness in the joy of others & instead are limited by our own expectations & desires.
Raga (attachment), is the next affliction & primarily deals with ownership & possession as it relates to our ego mind, instead of gratitude as it relates to our intelligence.
Dvesa (aversion), stems from duality & a rejection of our essential oneness. The aspen tree is an incredible organism. What appears to be a single tree is actually only a single expression of the larger organism, interconnected by their extensive underground root system. A tree may lie dormant underground for months, or years, & when conditions are right, it springs forth into the world. Just as the tree does not choose to spring forth, we do not choose to breathe. If we try to stop our breath, we will pass out & our breathing will resume as normal. Our united nature as expressed by the breath breathing us in shown here. Our forms are but a vessel for the divine soul as expressed in each & every living thing.
Abhinivesa (fear of death) is the last of the five afflictions & deals with our illusion that we are our body. In this, we must not deny the body what it needs, for it is the vehicle in which our soul resides. We allow ego its necessary place to assist in operating our body during our lives through our sensory awareness & perceptions. However, we must be careful to not mistake our soul for our body. We are a soul that has a body, not the other way around.
Fun fact: Studies show that habitually feeling & offering gratitude lessens our anxieties towards death. Reflecting on life events with feelings of gratitude may allow a sense that life has been well-lived.
It may not be so much that we are afraid to die, rather, that we are afraid that we will die having never really lived.
In both practices & simultaneously, we, as humans connecting in a moment of experience, strive to understand, support, respect, & honor each other.
As bottoms, we echo the postures previously examined in our yoga asana practice as we echo & deepen the forms in our rope groundwork practice. As we dance with our tying partner in any given scene, the breath becomes of crucial importance.
As rope bottoms, capitalizing on the expansion of the body on the inhale of the breath & the natural deflation of the body on the exhale of the breath, we not only find fluidity in our practice but are more readily open to receiving the many gifts & pleasures of subspace (a meditative state in which pain & pleasure continue to fuel & nurture each other).
As bottoms, by incorporating anatomical knowledge & understanding into our practice, we are better able to understand the integration of our bodies by first differentiating their various “parts”. In expressing & communicating this Svadhyaya, or self-knowledge, to our rope tops, we create a more informed, safe, & enjoyable experience for both parties.
As tops, we study the forms & patterns of the rope ties as we strive to develop fluency through consistency in our technique. This fluidity, as developed through dedicated practice, not only invites a sense of top space (a meditative state of deep concentration) but also spurs a trusted sense of spontaneous creativity based on foundational knowledge of our skills.
In developing a working knowledge of the anatomical body, we invite a sense of confidence in our skills & abilities. We become comfortable with scene considerations such as where to place the tie, how tight the rope should be, optimal placement on our bottom, how to guide, direct, & communicate with our bottom(s), & thresholds for comfort or discomfort.
This mastery of rope creates a two-way allegiance of trust between ourselves & our bottom(s) as we are better able to facilitate a present, safe, & attentive experience for both ourselves & rope bottom.