“Sometimes, what you’re looking for is already there.” —Aretha Franklin
Weekly Focus: Dharana + Dhyana — concentrated focus + meditation (sixth + seventh limbs of the 8-limb path)
An advantage of winter is the lack of distraction from activity, buzz and inertia. How do we see this quietude as an opportunity to build a meditation practice with consistency? “Dha” means “holding, carrying, or maintaining”, and “ana” means “other, or something else.” The difference between dharana and dhyana can be a bit confusing. Dharana is the active focusing and concentration on one point. Dhyana is a state of mind where one’s focus is maintained or absorbed in the point of focus. What we commonly think of as meditation is truly a form of dharana. These two limbs bleed into one another, but the second requires the rumination or constant attention of the first. A strong practice helps us to acquire the state of observing the consciousness, and winter naturally calls towards this inclination. It is within this state that we may find spontaneous bursts of vision, intention or bija, that help us to recognize our true nature.
Passive Pose of the Week: Sama Vrtti — square breathing
Use this pranayama practice to find dharana, your concentrated focus, to help prepare the mind for dhyana, sustained meditation. To practice your sama vrtti breath, follow these steps:
- Come to a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair. If you are sitting on the floor, you may even sit near a wall to help support your back.
- Start to focus first on your breath, just noticing the natural pacing that you have. It can feel helpful sometimes to place a hand at the heart and the belly, to feel the breath move in and out.
- Being to inhale to a count of four, counting at a comfortable pace for you. You want to feel a long inhale without making yourself gasp for air.
- After the inhale, hold your breath at the top and again count to four.
- Now exhale to a count of four, trying to keep the same pace.
- Finally, sustain the breath at the bottom of the exhale for a count of four. Continue to inhale once again. Repeat for 2 – 3 minutes.
Active Pose of the Week: Tripod Headstand
Any balancing inversion requires great focus to stay in the moment and to stay upright. This more compressed inversion is a great place to practice your focus. Come to tabletop. Start in a tabletop position. Bring the crown of the head to the ground in front of your fingertips, making a triangle from head to hands (you should be able to see your fingers). Lift the hips straightening the legs (they don’t have to come completely straight). Walk the feet in until the knees can come to rest on the elbows, using the elbows like little shelves. Try to squeeze your feet in towards the body to make yourself small. Be sure that you are pressing strongly with the hands to engage the shoulders. While you will feel some pressure on the head, you should feel most of the weight in your shoulders. Stay here without lifting the feet overhead and focus on breathing for 7 – 10 breaths. Resist the urge to take full headstand.