Our minds are complicated and can be tricky to control. They are restless, oscillating, constantly fluctuating, forgetful, cluttered, conflicted, confused, even infatuated. And these obstacles are caused by too much information, too many distractions, too much wandering, too many screens, and too much leisure. Too much to do…and not enough time for stillness, silence, or a sense of quietness within. The practice of yoga aims to clean out all that mental rubbish in order to secure a healthy mind and reach the super conscious state. It is at this stage that the mind is clean, knowledgeable, in complete stillness, present, and may experience epiphanies. In a super conscious state, the mind is unaffected, focused, and able to pick and choose the flow of thoughts. At that stage, the individual rises above and beyond the self. It is because of this mindfulness that a super conscious state is considered the most desired state of mind. However, to achieve it, one must practice. Mastering the ability to control the flow of thoughts doesn’t always come easily.
Dharana is the sixth limb out of the eight limbs of raja yoga. Dharana is the practice of concentration or steady focus. The practice involves placing 100% of your focus on one single object or idea, whether internally or externally. While this practice is easier to theorize than to actually do, with practice anything is possible. Your mental powers increase as you practice and diminish if neglected. Dharana helps to strengthen your willpower and opens your vigorous mind to a whole field of knowledge.
The overall practice of yoga can help you exceed and accomplish far more than the average person. Anyone can concentrate at one point or another, especially if it is just a passing thing- we are innately able to do so. But the person who has trained themselves to concentrate despite external distractions, after the thirst for initial knowledge has been quenched or the fire of passion has extinguished, will most certainly triumph.
Full concentration is rare although it might not feel so, as it is often exhibited by the men and women we admire and talk about most. The great intellectuals, the great doctors, the great scientists, the great engineers, the great lawyers, the great athletes, the great writers, the great artists. Anyone who has accomplished notable success in their lifetime did not allow themselves to be absent-minded or distracted by nonsense. They did not succumb to their moods or emotional baggage. Instead, they are masters of their minds, clear thinkers, observers. Needless to say, concentration can go a long way both in your professional and personal life.
Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory. Bill Russell
The first requisite for success is to develop the ability to focus and apply your mental and physical energies to the problem at hand -without growing weary. Thomas Edison
That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. Steve Jobs
A clear and focused mind will last a lifetime. Getting your mind in shape is nothing less than the key to sustainable success in the world. Russell Simmons
If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that’s concentration. Serena Williams
The practice of Dharana requires effort, time, patience, and full focus on the present moment. The journey can be quite frustrating and this practice is anything but easy, but it is well worth it.
5-step concentration practice
- Sit in a comfortable lotus position or staff pose against the wall, choosing the pose that allows you to relax into stillness.
- Focus your attention upon some part of your body, like your hands or feet.
- Think about that part of your body, its purpose, or use, its phases, its wrinkles, its color, how it looks externally, how it feels internally, describe it, dissect it, analyze it, observe every detail, inhale into it, wiggle it around, feel the essence of just this one, singular part of your body.
- After you have studied your chosen body part, close your eyes and continue to focus your attention upon it. You will start to feel stimulation within that chosen body part. You will start to feel its life, its temperature, its connection.
- Make sure to shut off all other thoughts which may creep in that have nothing to do with your chosen body part. (Note: This is normal. Your mind will want to distract you and bring your attention elsewhere.)
- Practice holding your attention in just that particular part of the body for 10-15 minutes.
Note: You may also try expanding this practice beyond the physical self by placing your concentration on an object or subject, anything that may involve mental exploration. The practice will help strengthen your memory, open your mind, and develop mental power. The subject or the object is of no importance. The important part is to practice holding your attention on something singular, even if you run out of thoughts or run out of ways to think about it. Dharana exercises help to train your mind to obey your WILL.
Practice dharana. Be at peace. Be present.