Sunday, November 29, 2009

Simple Steps: #31 The Meaning of Dhyana

Dhyana is the seventh limb of yoga and it means "to worship."

It is perfect contemplation and involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it.

The concept holds that when one focuses their mind on concentration of an object, the mind is transformed into the shape of the object.

For the practitioner of dhyana, when one focuses on the divine, they become more reflective of the divine, and as a result they know their own true nature.

Todays Simple Step

Imagine today that you are the Budda - the sage - the wise one.

How do you express the divine within yourself?

How do you keep yourself worthy of delivering the message you carry?

Practice being true to your message today.

This is your simple step.

Till next time...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Simple Steps: #30 Inner Awareness

This is the fifth example on the limb of yoga called dharana or concentration.

You are moving into the practice of meditation, which sits firmly on the bedrock of your work on focused inner awareness, so this is your readiness step.

Todays Simple Step
Center yourself in a quiet place with a journal or notepad.

Breathe deep and adjust your position so you feel relaxed and aligned.

Give yourself a few minutes to thoroughly answer the question "Who Am I?"

Write it down for yourself.

This is today's simple step.

Till next time,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Simple Steps: #29 Perception

The objective of the sixth limb of yoga called dharana is to achieve the mental state where the mind, intellect and ego are all restrained, and all the faculties are offered to the Divine for creative use and in service.

Once the mind is steadied through the practice, there there is no feeling of "I" and "mine."

Todays Simple Step

Devote all of your actions to your Higher Power

No action is too large or too small to be received as a blessing.

You are the instrument today.

This is your simple step.

Till next time...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Simple Steps: #28 Contemplation

"When the body has been tempered by asanas,
when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama,
when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara,
the seeker reaches the sixth stage (limb) of yoga, dharana."

B.K.S. Iyengar

As we move through this series of posts exploring practical applications for the eight limbs of yoga, we can see that each step interconnects with the other.

The objective in the practice of dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some apparently stable entity.

The particular object selected has little to do with the general purpose...the objective is to stop the mind from wandering through memories, dreams, or reflective thought by deliberately holding it single-mindedly upon a static object.

Have you ever wondered - or laughed - at the stereotypical new age character who is depicted as a hippy-dippy airhead doing nothing more then "staring at his navel?"

Get ready to appreciate what he's actually up to...

Todays Simple Step

Choose a simple object nearby - it can indeed be your navel, or your hand, a flower, a stone, a piece of fabric...whatever catches your fancy.

As always, set aside a few minutes to concentrate, slow down and breathe.

Soften your focus and simply observe the object of your choice.

Notice absolutely everything about it that you can.

Most importantly, notice every time you are thinking of something more "interesting" and just let it go, returning again to your chosen object.

Acknowledge it's beauty, it's usefulness and it's part in Creation.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven." Ecclesiastes3:1

Enjoy the time you spend here - it is a sacred acknowledgment of your connection without attachment of the World of which you are a part...
This is your simple step.

Till next time,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Simple Steps: #27 Focus!

In the eight limbs of yoga, dharana means "immovable concentration of the mind."

The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. Here the seeker is concentrated wholly on a single point, or on a task in which he is completely engrossed.

The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.

Todays Simple Step

Candle Concentration is a classic training for the yogi.

You need to sit in a quiet place where you have a few minutes and light a candle.

Breathe deeply, and clear your mind.


Now soften your gaze and gently observe the flame...absorb yourself in it...concentrate on it's dance...

When you feel your mind is still and your concentration has peaked, close your eyes and hold the picture of the candle flame steady in your mind's eye.

Do your very best to keep the memory sharp and intact with no interruptions.

Keep breathing and repeat.

This exercise is a simple step that will improve your ability to hold your focus.

Tuill next time...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Simple Steps: #26 Concentration

The limb of yoga that demands discipline of the mind is dharana - concentration!

Too many scattered thoughts can all begin to feel the same. We get overwhelmed and then nothing makes any sense.

With dharana we create conditions for the mind to focus its attention in one direction, instead of going out in many directions.

Deep contemplation and reflection can create the right support to help us develop the ability to focus on the point we have chosen, and make it more intense.

Once the mind is able to focus efficiently, and not until then, can we unleash the great potential that lies within for inner healing.

What power lies within...develop this gift and it is yours.

Todays Simple Step

Take a few minutes to simply notice the thoughts and conversations running through your mind.

Slow down and observe.

Notice the nature of your scattered thinking.

See if you can take just one thread out of the many and keep your attention on that.


A slow breath will slow down the perception of time.

Just for today return again and again to the observation of your thoughts and make an effort to take them on one at a time.

I'll give you more techniques in the posts to follow.

For today, this is your simple step.

Till next time,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Simple Steps: #25 Pratyahara in Relationship

As the limbs of yoga explore all aspects of mankind's relationship with himself and others, we see that sense control is the limb that invites us to withdraw our senses from attachment to external objects so that we may constantly return to the path of self realization and internal peace.

This objective is never more difficult than in relationship with a significant other, but it does most profoundly apply.

Todays Simple Step

Allow that your loved ones are not your property!

Allow that your lover is fiercely independent and must walk his/her own talk rather than be spoken for by you.

Allow that what loved ones do is their own choice, and you can guide but not force as you respect free will for all.

Allow that the most profound work you can do is on yourself, and release your attachment to fixing someone else.

Till next time,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Simple Steps: #24 The Pratyahara of Shopping

We go to the mall. We shop online. We fill our basket. We've gotta have it.

It pleases us... and then it plagues us.

Pratyahara or sense control brings us back the truth that everything is temporal - and temporary.

What is real and valuable cannot be bought, and the next new thing will not guarantee lasting comfort.

Todays Simple Step

Take a walk through a store with no intention to buy.

Appreciate beauty without having to own it.

The World is yours - trees and flowers and gardens surround you.

You do not "need" to have more.

Practice having without owning today.

Till next time,

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Simple Steps: #23 Raisin Consciousness Through Tasting

When we practice pratyahara, or control of the senses, we will experience phenomena that might seem contradictory.

Rather than becoming dull and lifeless, with practice the senses become extraordinarily sharp.

This, of course, adds to our authentic enjoyment and appreciation of the interactions of our body-mind-spirit with all of our surroundings.

In short, the relationship we have with sense objects becomes more enjoyable, not less.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes the process of human unhappiness and uneasiness and relates it to our influence by outside events and our corresponding effort to suppress unwanted sensations while heightening others. This is a no-win situation.

When people seek out yoga, hoping to find the inner peace that seems so elusive, they often find it was theirs all along. (Ruby slippers anyone?)

In a sense, yoga is nothing more than a system which enables us to stop and look at the processes of our own minds; only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and thus transcend them both.

Todays Simple Step
As I look to the Yo-Ki-Bics of sense control (Yoking body/mind/spirit - expressing innate Ki energy - into effective Bites of action) I remember this story...

I once went on retreat with a Buddhist monk who did a process with us called "Raisin' Consciousness."

It involved a deep meditation on appreciating the journey of a small handful of raisins from their initial seed stage to bursting on our tastebuds. This guided meditation seemed to take for-ever !

All the while we simply listened and contemplated the raisins in the palm of our hands.

Rich and varied, our guide took us through the sunny orchards into the harvesting, the processing, the production, the box, the crate, the buying and the market, the truck and the driver... and finally to me and my own shelf in the kitchen.

We stopped along the way to appreciate the life, work, time and sacrifice of every single person who greeted some portion of the tiny raisins journey.

Then we were invited to slowly and silently eat the raisins one by one - knowing - feeling - and relating with gratitude to all aspects of their glorious journey.

You can bet these were just about the best tasting raisins anyone in the group had ever had.

PS - In entirty it took us a full hour to swirl six raisins around our mouths, hearts and minds.

It was worth every moment.

I invite you to do the same with something lucious and alive with flavor.

This is your simple step.

Till next time...