Pratyahara (last week’s limb) – or getting rid of distractions, is the set up for Dharana, or focused concentration.
The last three limbs of yoga are known as samyama, Sanskrit for integration, binding or holding together. The combined practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi is a pathway to deeper knowledge within. And peace.
The focused concentration of Dharana is meant to quiet the mind. To give you moments of peace. This intense focus, whether it is on a chakra, mantra or simply breath, will allow the mind to settle and get quiet.
This concentration pushes aside all the planning, grocery lists, conversations, arguments etc. that we tend to constantly mull over keeping our minds in overdrive.
Dharana is a bit like strength training for the mind. You can train this mind-muscle to focus on one thing and as the focus builds you will find more and more ability to control your focus and bring yourself back to the present instead of wandering off into the past or worrying and wondering about the future. A real cause of unrest for a lot of us, right?
Dharana in Real Life.
Oh the places we could go and the things we could do with a solid practice of Dharana on a daily basis.
The time we waste trying to multi-task is costing us in productivity and life quality. It is a scientifically proven fact that we cannot multitask.
So how do we do create this concentrated focus?
The next time you sit down to talk to someone, repeat every word they say in your head. Focus on the conversation at hand. Don’t think about your response to what they are saying—stay clear and focused on the conversation.
The next time you go for a walk, just walk and take in the scenery. Breathe in the fresh air and be grateful for where you are at that very moment. Don’t listen to your music, a podcast or talk on the phone with a friend. Just walk and be in nature. Let yourself have that pleasure and let your mind have the break.
Leave your cell phone in the car the next time you go on date night. No food pictures necessary, just enjoy your partner.
Set a timer for a full 45 minutes of concentrated work on one project. No multi-tasking, no music on, no email checking. Just a sincere effort to focus on accomplishing one task. Imagine what it would feel like to accomplish that one task and get it off the list? To be able to pat yourself on the back for a focused job-well-done at the end of that 45 minutes? It’s powerful. Try it.
Come back to the moment. Be IN the moment. If you focus on what you are doing entirely, focusing will continue to get easier as will life! And here’s a little side-bennie—you’ll also be more productive in whatever you are trying to accomplish. After all, a super focused laser light can cut through steel.
Think about that the next time you sit down to watch TV or multi-task with social media at hand.
No Dharana, No Rest.
Without focus, the mind is a restless place. When the mind is restless and unfocused, it’s nearly impossible for the body to rest as well.
Think about how many times you’ve gone to bed only to toss and turn with a million thoughts churning through your mind. Focused concentration on a place you love, a mantra, or even simple gratitude or your breath, will allow the mind and body to calm and you will be asleep before two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Why do you think counting sheep works? 😉
Take the Ego Out of Focus.
Ego, known as Ahankara in Sanskrit, is our worst enemy when it comes to focus. It’s not the TV, social media or our best friend on the phone. It’s our ego.
Our egos can be like a spoiled two-year-old with an incredible sense of self-importance. We “have” to take this call immediately, we must respond to this text right now, our to-do list is so long we don’t even know where to start and the social media feedback we get from posting, commenting and liking only feeds this ego even more. Social media can be a true addiction.
“Starve your distractions. Feed your focus.”
Multi-tasking and ego have led us to be a “jack of all trades, master of none” society. When we are busy mastering multi-tasking, we will never master anything.
Your challenge for the week: pick a task each day, set a timer for 45 minutes to an hour (sound easy, right?) and do nothing but focus on that task. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done when the timer goes off and the task is done.
And give the people you love the respect and focus of setting the phone down (or even turning it off) and having a real, meaningful and present conversation with them.
Should you choose to accept this challenge, we’d love to hear how it goes!