It seems like we have been on our exploration of the eight limbs for a long time (since the beginning of the year in fact!) While it seemed to take forever to get through the first two limbs, the Yamas and the Niyamas, there is a reason to take the last three together. The last three bring together the internal practices of concentration and meditation that lead us to the realization of higher consciousness.
They are as follows:
Sixth Limb - Dharna – Concentration, taken from Sanskrit “Dhr” which means to hold, meaning holding the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. This is when the mind focuses and concentrates on one point in beginning a meditation.
Seventh Limb - Dhyana – Meditation or the uninterrupted flow of the mind toward a chosen object. Dharna comes before Dhyana as the mind must focus first before the connection is made. Dharana is the contact and dhyana is the connection.
Eighth Limb - Samadhi – To become one or absolute union. Samadhi means to “bring everything together, to merge”. Desikachar says that in samadhi “our personal identity…. completely disappears.” He goes on further to explain that nothing “separates us from the object of our choice; instead, we blend and become one with it.”
We all have our own ways to “meditate”. For me, walking meditation in nature is easier than seated meditation. We have so many distractions competing for our attention, getting outside, unplugged, can be a wonderful way to connect with ourselves in meditative practice.
I have often referred to Desikachar, and how much I enjoy his book
Heart of Yoga. When thinking about this topic, I have reviewed several articles, but I always come to Desikachar and his diagram. My YTT class knew that I was almost giddy over this diagram which made what was for me some very murky (not banker-friendly) concepts become easier to understand.
Diagram 1 shows the focus of the mind (circle) on the object of meditation or focus, this is dharana. This could be the breath, a sound, the image of the moon, etc. The mind links with the object of the attention and maintains the link (diagram 2), achieving dhyana. As the mind blends and becomes one with the object of meditation (diagram 3), samadhi is reached.
For additional information on these three limbs and how they work together, see the attached article, I liked it very much.
Our Practice – Meditation: Seated or Walking
This week we will try a short, seated meditation in class. When we do this (or you try on your own), find the most comfortable seated pose you can find. Use props. This position is our foundation to meditation, and we want to be as comfortable as possible. We will focus our attention on something whether it is a physical object, a mental mind photo, a sound, a mantra or perhaps a candle flame. Eyes closed usually works well. Breath is gentle and steady. We will find stillness in our mind and will keep coming back to it. Our mind may jump around, just continue to coax it back, gently and without judgment, to stillness and focus. If thoughts arise, gently push them away and return to your object of attention. 5-10 minutes maximum is a great start.
Walking Meditation – Thich Nhat Hanh
I have been a walker for over 25 years (gave up running and, truth be told, I likely walk as fast as I used to run!). While I love walking with a friend or listening to the news, I find that when I walk alone with no outside stimulus, I can, sometimes, achieve a meditative state. I try to get lost in the walk, observe nature, and really look at the world. I have found that I often notice many things I would normally miss like deer, foxes, the beauty of the sun on the water, a sunrise, a sunset. I am a consummate multitasker, and these walking meditations are extremely challenging yet often nurturing and restorative.
Instead of a long walk or long meditation, tell yourself 5 or 10 minutes is fine, get outside and move, relax, breathe. This too is yoga!
Thich Nhat Hanh (deceased), who has written much on walking meditation, was ordained as a monk in Vietnam at age 16. He envisioned a kind of Buddhism that would respond directly to the needs of society. He was a teacher and social activist in his home country before finding himself exiled for calling for peace. In 2019 he was the first recipient of the Gandhi Mandela Peace Medal.
Walking Meditation – Thich Nhat Hanh
Take my hand. We will walk. We will only walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere. Walk peacefully. Walk happily. Our walk is a peace walk. Our walk is a happiness walk. Then we learn that there is no peace walk; that peace is the walk; that there is no happiness walk; that happiness is the walk. We walk for ourselves. We walk for everyone always hand in hand. Walk and touch peace every moment. Walk and touch happiness every moment. Each step brings a fresh breeze. Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet. Kiss the Earth with your feet. Print on Earth your love and happiness. Earth will be safe when we feel in us enough safety.
For more on Thich Nhat Hanh and walking meditation, please visit the following article.
Nurturing With Food – Minty Farro Salad
I have been doing some gardening and notice the (invasive) delicious mint sprouting all over. I started thinking about what I will use all that mint for. While I will certainly make a lot of tabouli, I was thinking about this farro variation. It is a forgiving recipe that you can modify with whatever you have in your crisper. Think Spring!
See you on the mat!