The 8 Limbs of Yoga (part 6: Dharana)

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Dharana is a single pointed concentration of the mind, focus on a single thing supported by the retention of the breath. This is the 6th state of yoga, after the withdrawal of the senses in pratyahara and after the body has been tempered, the breath calmed and stilled, and the external environment cared for, as well as the internal bodily function of the yogi. Indeed, Dharana is a late stage of the progression of the yogi and must be followed with care and conscientiousness. It it towards the end of the path that it is easiest to stay from the ultimate goal. Don’t end up lost.

Dharana is a key to this. The yogi evokes a single concentration during the practice; dristhi towards the ultimate goal of union with the divine. It is only when a yogi is supported by his endeavors outside that he will be free to pursue the infinite realm of feeling and what is inside. Humans are stuck between two infinite abysses; the infinite smallness of the atom versus the infinite expanses of space of the universe. Our consciousness seems to be able to find stillness despite it all, to be able to create stillness and balance in the midst of the chaos of our universe. This is the gift of Dharana.

It is with the single-minded focus that the yogi is free to pursue blissful freedom. Possessions, attachments, and excess are left to follow the purest bliss, the highest nirvana, and ultimate happiness. This limb is the first of the Samyama, or utilizing Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi to truly know an object of the mind’s focus. This is why it is important to minimize distraction with the 5th limb of yoga, pratyahara, so that the objects of the senses are relinquished and pure concentration of the divine sought.

This is the first of the last three stages of yoga, each of which is intrinsic to the elevation of consciousness and enlightenment into the world of awareness. These are the deepest levels of meditation and lead into the darkest fathoms of the unconscious mind. Stay tuned for the 7th limb of yoga, Dhyana in the next blog in the series.