“Every gesture, every caress, every touch, every glance, every last bit of the body has its secret, which brings happiness to the person who knows how to wake it.”
– Hermann Hesse
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.
using touch to calm & quiet the mind
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.
“Dhyana is retaining one’s tranquil state of mind in any circumstance, unfavorable as well as favorable, & not being disturbed or frustrated even when adverse conditions present themselves one after another.”
– D.T. Suzuki
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.
Overcoming the duality of ego & soul
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.
5 afflictions of human consciousness
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.