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Mirror of the Senses

“The senses are like a mirror. Turned outward, they reflect the outside; turned inward, they reflect the Light within.  By themselves the senses are innocent, but when allowed to turn outside they attract everything and transfer those messages to the mind, making it restless. Turned inward, they find peace by taking the form of the mind itself.”
Sri Swami Satchidananda

2017-11-06T21:54:37+00:00 November 6th, 2017|Comments Off on Mirror of the Senses

Pratyahara:  Seeking the Inner Light

As the hrs of daylight decrease and darkness creeps into our lives a little earlier each evening, there’s a natural tendency to withdraw from outward activity.  As winter approaches, many animals migrate or prepare to hibernate.  Some plants shed their leaves and will wait for Spring to grow again.  Though we’ve mechanized our lives sufficiently to ignore the rhythms of nature if we choose to, we can recognize this inborn prompting to slow down and go within.  For this reason, we chose to practice Pratyahara for November.

Pratyahara, often translated as withdrawal of the senses, is the fifth of the eight limbs of Yoga.  It is practiced to gain control of the senses both for the purpose of developing concentration and to make good use of that control as we move through the world.  It is inherent in any meditative practice in which we purposely turn our senses inward in order to sustain our meditative focus.

Pratyahara deepens our practice of asana and pranayama since it enables us to be more sensitive to the messages of the body, and the subtle movements of prana.  When we meditate, the mental energy that would normally be directed outward through the senses, can be channeled inward, strengthening our focus.  A regular meditation practice develops this ability to easefully direct our senses as we choose to.

This ability is of immense benefit since it is through the senses that we contact the people and objects around us.  As we perceive things, we may automatically experience either desire for it or aversion towards it.  If we have developed some control of the senses, we can circumvent this dynamic by exercising some control, retracting our senses and redirecting our attention.

When we walk down the street, can we smell fresh-baked goods or see glittering jewelry in a storefront window without getting sidetracked?  Can we enjoy a bit of sweet after a meal without eating the whole container of ice cream or the whole bag of cookies?  If we cannot, we may need to avoid unhealthy temptations until we develop sufficient strength of mind to remain neutral.

Ultimately, our practice of Pratyahara serves as a great preparation for controlling subtler distractions — our own compelling thoughts.  Through steady effort, we gradually learn to sustain our focus, withdrawing our attention from all the many thought-forms that arise, an effort that requires patience and persistence.  It’s helpful to remember that every little effort we make toward controlling our senses moves us that much closer to experiencing the deep, peaceful ocean of Spirit within, a source of tremendous healing and guidance.

2017-11-03T19:34:46+00:00 November 3rd, 2017|2 Comments

Witness the Mind

The mind is sometimes compared to the wind — impossible to control.  The genius of Pranayama is that it engages the breath, which is easily controlled, to influence the subtle energies, prana, that animate all movement in the mind.  A regular focused practice of these techniques has a direct impact on the mind, bringing a calm, clear awareness that empowers us to witness the mind, focus it at will, and make conscious choices instead of impulsive ones.

2017-10-26T22:11:36+00:00 October 26th, 2017|Comments Off on Witness the Mind

Attention to Pranayama

Since our attention is constantly pulled outward by sensory stimulation, even a dedicated practitioner may forget the subtle yet profound effects of pranayama practice.  We have become so accustomed to jumping quickly from one device, image or message to another, that we are losing the capacity to focus on one thing, and to exercise choice over what we think.  Pranayama practices make use of the breath to engage our attention in the present and steady our physical and mental levels.

More importantly, these practices cultivate the refined awareness that enables us to observe and examine our own thoughts, and make conscious choices over what we dwell on.  Over the long run, what we focus our attention on determines our ability to be happy, to experience love and to be free of the cultural conditioning that can close our hearts and imprison us in a me-centered way of life.


2017-10-23T20:46:47+00:00 October 23rd, 2017|Comments Off on Attention to Pranayama