Click here to read Pratyahara part 1
Mind - Pratyahara Part 2
The second part of Pratyahara is prompted by the sheer importance of the subject, focus in spirituality. All the treatises deal with the interaction of the sensory apparatus between the mind stuff and the objects of the world. All the time we receive, process, ponder and act on the impulses and signals. Various states of the mind are compared from that of a monkey to that of a monkey drunk with alcohol and then bitten by a scorpion to make life worse!
The simile gives the true description of a mind in motion to say the least. Constant motion of the mind is considered to be an impediment in spiritual progress. Resetting the mind to a peaceful calm state is the challenge the student must face. One of the easiest of asanas in yoga is the shavasana, the corpse pose. Practise of this asana is intended to lead the mind to peaceful states. Here is a test to find if you are able to reach the preliminaries.
Lie down on your back with limbs stretched out but relaxed. You may place a rolled towel between your neck and your head to give support and rest to your head and neck. Close your eyes and take long deep breaths. Your objective is to detect pulse at the tip of your fingers, hands and feet. As you move deeper and deeper into relaxation, you will remove all thoughts and attention to everything else except the focus on pulse at your fingertips.
Maintain the breathing rhythm slow and regular. Continue the focus on feeling the pulse at your extreme fingertips. Soon you will notice the steady tingling of the pulsating flow at your extreme fingertips for real. Keep feeling it for as long as you want. Do not count the pulse or do not try to quantify anything. Continue to enjoy the moments.
The next step could be to increase the frequency of this experience. By practice this should be possible for everyone. Pratyahara is the place to learn to rest the mind to the most peaceful state of relaxation and turn the mind into a platform of unwavering focus. The ancient rishis compare focus to razor sharp imageries. The point to note is your ability to shut out everything else from the mind with the sole objective of being able to apply Focus on an object, idea, theme or an ideal as unforgivably sharp as the cutting edge of the sword.
The rishis and the scriptures compare that relaxed but focused the mind to that of a highly polished surface. A mirror so clean that it reflects to the truest best. The imagery excludes even tiny specks of dust that may mar the surface of its sheen. The specks mean the shard of stray thought that block your route to true Focus!
The ancient books also aptly compare the calm states of the mind to the calm waters on a windless lake. The ripples are caused by external events, an object falling into water, a stone, raindrops and so on. Events occurring beneath the surface of the water too could produce ripples and waves at the surface. It is to be understood that external events (objects) as much as internal events (stray, uninvited thoughts) can also produce a 'stirred and shaken' mind.
One of the brightest imageries available on ways to help you still the mind is in the Gita. The guide encourages you to to imagine a flame on a lamp so steady that there is not a whiff of wind to sway it hither and thither!
These are roughly the comparisons our epics provide to the student of Pratyahara. What happens once you achieve success in focus?
Yogis speak of various experiences. We discussed the example of physically detecting digital pulse. We found that we could continue to hold that feeling for as long as we wish, depending on the focus we decide to apply consciously. We succeeded in not falling asleep during the period of deep relaxation. We experienced this the dual states of relaxation AND focus at the same time. It is up to you to take the tests and the results to the next stage. Swami Vivekanada speaks of the various experience you can have as you train yourself to apply focus on various parts of your body-mind structure.
While the author encourages readers to always seek the assistance and advice of an accomplished guide and never to engage yourself in complex contortive exercise regime it proves none the less that Pratyahara is essentially the ability of everyone to go after gathering the powers of focus already within us and be able to develop, train and experience levels of relaxation at the same time pin-pointed focus on particular objects – to the exclusion of all else.
Practice should take over once you have achieved success at focusing and relaxing. Practice with the aim to prolong your exposure to the experience for long periods in time. It might be a waste of space and an overstatement of sorts to glib over the results others have achieved on Pratyahara. It is left to the practitioner to go after the experience and enjoy the moments.
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