In the previous post we discussed the various obstacles to the Yogic path. If there is a problem, there must be a solution. The best solutions come from within and not from outside. Patanjali Maharishi, elucidates these solutions to focus the mind and they are quite multidimensional.
Focus on One Principle
The key solution he proposes is ekatattavaabhyasa i.e practicing one principle. Swami Vivekananda said “Take up one idea and make that one idea your life..”. We sometimes are so confused about the myriad of options available, that it is impossible to stick to one thing. The huge body of yogic literature has numerous solutions depending on the body-type and the stage of mastery. However, after many years of experimenting if we aren’t able to come up with that one thing that works, we feel unfulfilled. The best would be take up one thing and put it into practice.
A calm mind is a absolutely necessary and one way to achieve this is by countering negative thoughts with positive ones and reinforcing positive thoughts so that the resultant feeling is that of positivity and happiness. Cultivating amity towards those who are happy, compassion towards those in misery, goodwill towards the virtuous and indifference or resistance towards those committing sins is what Patanjali Maharishi recommends.
मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम्॥1.33॥
The mind and breath are strongly interlinked. Have you noticed that you didn’t breathe when you were totally absorbed in work and then you exhaled forcefully when you regain awareness. When you are agitated, did you realise that your breath was very fast and shallow? When you take a deep breath, are you able to notice that your mind calms down? These are all indications that your state of mind and breath are connected. Patanjali Maharishi explains an advanced practice of holding the breath after exhalation: prachardana vidharana. It would be good to start with simple inhalation-exhalation practices before the breath is held outside (after exhalation).
प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य॥1.34॥
Observing Sensory Experiences
Our mind often wanders and it is difficult to bring it to focus without support. Patanjali Maharishi says that one could focus on the sensory experiences and then bring the mind to one-pointedness. Modern day researchers and therapists recommend what is called interoception which is a process of sensing internally how the body feels and sensing the physiological mechanisms of the body. This brings awareness and is a great healer. This also prevents the mind from going onward.
विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी॥1.35॥
We could also bring the mind to focus through inner illumination that is full of light and without sorrow. When we close our eyes and focus on the space between the eye brows, we can see an inner illumination. Focusing on that could help focus our mind.
विशोका वा ज्योतिष्मती॥1.36॥
Focusing on Detached Person
If by ourselves we are not able to bring the mind to one-pointedness, Patanjali Maharishi says that we could concentrate on a person who is detached and passionless. The role of the Guru becomes significant here. By concentrating and meditating on the Guru, who is detached from worldly and material desires, our own mind becomes calm, composed and focused.
वीतरागविषयं वा चित्तम्॥1.37॥
Dream and Sleep
When one understands the dream state and sleep state, one gains clarity of the wakeful state. Through this understanding, we bring to our awareness the kind of dreams we have, our unconscious moments and the train of thoughts we entertain. Pondering over the difference between waking state and sleep can give deep insights into how consciousness works, the way we engage with reality and the nature of reality that we perceive. Are wakefulness and dream really different is question that can unlock several dimensions.
Patanjali Maharishi does not stop here. He gives us the freedom to explore other forms and objects of meditation that suits us and can help us overcome the obstacles on the Yogi path.