Encased within Annamaya Kosha (the physical body), & the Pranamaya Kosha (the energy body), is the Manomaya Kosha, which refers to the Mental Body, the manas mind. The Manas mind, also referred to as the perceiving or ego mind, attempts to create meaning by coordinating the senses & attaching to our passing thoughts, images, & emotions. It stores these in what yogic philosophy refers to as the chitta, where memories are housed. It then references the chitta for past thoughts & experiences & blends them with the present experience to add depth, understanding & offer meaning. Particularly strong, traumatic, or impressionable memories are often referenced time & again. These may be rooted in the beliefs in values you have acquired from your family or culture, or familiar mental patterns. In Sanskrit, these are referenced as samskaras. Because these are such foundational mental concepts & beliefs, samskaras have the ability to shape our perceptions of ourselves as well as others & the world around us. Shedding these samskaras is a process of awareness & questioning the validity as they apply to the present moment.
The manas mind is a beautiful gift. It allows us to fully experience our senses & offers mental stability through perceived individuality, (the ahamkara or “I” self-identity that is constructed within the mind itself). However, we must harness it to allow it to fully bloom in our lives, as it does have a tendency to dominate if left unchecked & can lead to unconscious mental wanderings through fantasy or reeling thought. In meditation, we calm the manas mind as opposed to letting it race about, bouncing & reacting to sensory perception. By withdrawing from the senses, collecting that energy & turning it inwards, we are able to calm our mental body & release any pending false attachments (pratyahara).
Pratyahara is the practice of withdrawing from our senses & physical world as we reallocate that energy & awareness to our internal landscape. Through our pratyahara practice, we ask “from what” did the physical & emotional imbalances arise in our asana & pranayama practice. By turning down or off the input from our senses, we create space to identify & reflect on the validity of those attachments.
Our sensuality awakens our connection to the world & those around us as we experience them through our five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, & hearing. Being an innately physical method of communication, we all too often get carried away in our own consumption & one after another, we reactively bounce our attention, thoughts, & focus from visual & sensory stimuli as we go about living our days in the physical world. In our pratyahara practice, we allow our minds to become silent by withdrawing from our senses that often otherwise pull us towards the accumulation of things as driven by our ego mind. Pratyahara creates the space & stillness for us to identify those attachments that distract & distance us from our own felt truths. Using our internal awareness, we explore our bodies with the aim to understand & eliminate any unnecessary or invalid attachments that we may have previously acquired & are continuing to influence or cloud our awareness & perception.
The benefits of short-term perceptual isolation, that is, reducing or eliminating any sensory input, may include improved focus, mood, & creativity & decreased pain, anxiety, & stress. Essentially, by turning down the sensory input, we eliminate any perceived threats, thereby allowing our bodies to turn down the survival-oriented sympathetic nervous system, decreasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol, & instead channel the “rest & digest” parasympathetic nervous system. Again here, we use the tool of the body, or more specifically, restrict the body’s ability to perceive via our senses, thereby targeting that non-tangible influences on our consciousness. Pratyahara allows our our body & mind a deep rest leaving us feeling refreshed, relaxed, rejuvenated & often with an increased sense of clarity when we return to our senses. Our intention in this practice is to notice the thought attached to the emotion & ask ourselves if it’s real, valid & true, & if it applies in the present context & situation.
Due to the nature of the mind being drawn outward by our five senses, we must remain aware of the five modifications of consciousness that modify our internal landscape. These psychological states are natural & inherent to the fluctuating nature of our mind. By gaining an awareness of them & understanding of how their presence effects our perception, we avoid bouncing from one extreme to another of suffering & happiness & instead approach pain & pleasure, good & bad, as & contextual in their ramifications.
The first two, correct & wrong knowledge, simply means that sometimes we are right & sometimes we are wrong. Fantasy refers to delusion & being ignorant to the realities of the situation or overlooking them in favor of our own personal preferences, desires, & outcomes. Sleep is a necessary tool & helps to rest & restore our minds & bodies. As we all have experienced at one time or another, not getting enough of it can lead to unsteady emotions & decision making. Memory can be a cruel mistress, skewed over time & often attached to in a way that can interfere in the present context.
The five modifications of consciousness are inherent to our perception of the world & often interplay within each other. For example, if you are lacking sleep, that may leave you more susceptible to wrong knowledge as you don’t have the energy to use your intelligent discernment to its full extent.
In our pratyahara practice, the energy that was otherwise scattered by our external sensory perception is reinvested into our internal consciousness through our felt awareness.