Dharana leading to Dhyana

For the first time, I was away from my family- husband and two small children- for 5 whole days. I was happy to be, as I was with my beloved Anusara yoga community, with like minded yogis and yoginis, every one of them in focused pursuit of inner development and sharpened skills for the greater capacity to serve from love. It was wonderfully nourishing and a joy to be there with my full attention. Did I miss my kids? Sure! And yet my attention was so well established in such great presence of heart, I felt they were right there with me.

When attention is gathered in such a way– intensely, passionately, sweetly– similar to when you hold the flames of a fire in your awareness or fix your gaze on a new babe, it brings the love within us forward to meet the object of our attention. Once this merging of our inner presence with the outer object occurs, we can take it one step further, which is to connect more deeply to what we are not directing our attention towards, to what is not physically present but energetically palpable. This is a movement from Dharana to Dhyana (limbs 6 and 7 of the 8 limbs.) This is an important movement and it frees us.

Dharana is to successfully focus your attention on a single point. This leads to an enlivened connection to, and ultimately a merging with that single point. The gathering towards that deepens our relationship with what is right in front of us.

Dhyana is the state that emerges from this practice. When our focused efforts lead to a merging with what we are currently in relationship to, the relationship to all points in the universe can become better known and available. We recognize the potential to merge into the support of all that presents itself. We can connect to what is not right in front of us.

Dharana is not possible if we aren’t able to hold what confronts us with a persistently loving focus and willingness to meet. Thus we start practicing with a candle flame, a babe, or say, a community that you trust has a common intention, as these objects of focus are safe and more easily allow the initial movement towards vulnerability. But then we try it with an uncomfortable inner emotion, we try it with a person in our life that only seems to push our buttons. We don’t drop our necessary boundaries of self respect and personal needs, rather these strengthen with such a practice. But we do soften and look deeper, listen deeper, until love is what wells up within and speaks its reason.

When these moments of magic occur, the world opens up. We can heal what has us still bound, we can connect to those whom are far away, and we can actually know that the infinite is present, listening to us. If we want to know that absolute – never absent – presence of support – that always has our back, we have to be willing to relate to reality just as it is. With what life presents. Then we can say, the universe has our back.

There is so much depth to our every day reality. But we need to practice so that we see it. We need to remember again and again that it’s right here. There is only so much that we can attend to at any one moment, and yet we are forever in relationship. I know I am blessed, being in close relationship to so much beauty, but it doesn’t always mean I see it. Luckily, there are many, many moments that I am able to really welcome and commune with what life is offering me. So in those moments I also feel our greater connection, and in that, nothing and no one, is missing.


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