Dhyana is the 7th limb in Patanjali’s 8 Limbed Path of Yoga. Dhyana comes from the Sanskrit term dhyai which means “to think of.” Dhyana is focused, single concentration on one thing—your breath, a chakra, a mantra or a pretty flower.
The point? More self-knowledge by separating illusion from reality and eventually reaching the 8th limb and ultimate goal of yoga—Samadhi or bliss. Who doesn’t want to be blissful? If you do, keep reading.
The purpose of Dhyana
The purpose of meditation is to hush our monkey minds. It’s to temper the technological stimulation that is constantly surrounding us in today’s world, our mind’s incessant need to continuously remind us of the past and regularly worrying about the future. If all this is happening in our minds, a state of bliss will certainly be unattainable.
Just like the Yama and Niyama, Asana, Pratyahara or any other of the limbs that come before, this one takes time and practice to learn. But the effort will pay in spades!
First, get comfortable in a sitting position either on a cushion, up against a wall or on your couch. You’ll need to be sure you will have at least 10 uninterrupted minutes each time you practice meditation—and then you’ll work up from there.
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you are too busy;
then you should sit for an hour.” ~Zen Proverb
Once you are settled, take a few deep, cleansing breaths and close your eyes. Once you close your eyes just let yourself breathe naturally.
For concentrated meditation, you can simply focus on your breath, a personal mantra, or a meaningful object in your mind’s eye. When your mind wanders, and it will, simply acknowledge the thought (without judgment) and refocus your concentration. Begin with 2-3 minutes for a few days, then work up to five, ten and even twenty minutes a day for the most benefit.
The Benefits of Dhyana (Focused Meditation)
So much research exists to back up the claims and many a successful, creative and happy person has spoken about the beneficial aspects of their meditation practices. Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Madonna, Kobe Bryant and Ellen Degeneres are just a few who maintain a regular meditation practice and sing its praises. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us!
Meditation has been scientifically proven to:
Boost the immune system
Grow gray matter (brain)
Decrease cellular inflammation
Increase emotion regulation and positive feelings
Improve creative thinking and problem solving
I have to sit in lotus position
I don’t have time
I have to know Sanskrit and how to chant
Meditation is a religious ritual
I can’t meditate because I can’t stop thinking
These could not be further from the truth about meditation. Just like the whole of yoga, it’s for everyone and anyone, anywhere and anytime. There are different types to choose from, different ways to do it (walking meditation is great), and something available to suit all personalities. Meditation and yoga have no religious affiliation of any kind.
Meditation in and of itself is self-care. You cannot pour from an empty cup (how many times do we have to say it). Take care of YOU to take care of others.
If you need some help try the Headspace guided meditation app/website. They have a free series to get you started and on your way.
Start with just 2-3 minutes a day and see how you feel. Commit to a week straight, no excuses. Just close your eyes, focus and breathe. Yes, you can.