PRATYAHARA – role of the Senses

Pratyahara – the word means restraint, withdrawal or detachment.
Regarding Yoga practice it refers to the ability to withdraw consciousness from the dictatorship of the senses at will. The classical definition is that Pratyahara is ‘a restraint from acceptance of the food of the senses.’

Detachment applies to the aspirant’s attitude to worldly and material things, in order that he may attach himself completely, in the spiritual sense, to God. It in no way should be interpreted as an indifference to things of the earth.

It is obvious that the senses can produce distractions for the mind and can even weaken the will unless one is willing to prove the mind superior to the impulses and waywardness of sensory habits. Pratyahara can be directly related to a need to improve concentration by overcoming sensory distractions. Beyond this basic need, the aspirant aims to withdraw awareness from the material world in order to increase his perception of the spiritual or non-physical spheres. The usual five senses need to be subdued as a prelude to meditation when the extra sensory mechanism or intuitive sense begins to function.

The first discipline of a student is to develop each of the senses in a balanced manner. Only when the 5 senses are observed, developed, then controlled to come under the direction of the mind can an impartial state of detachment be claimed. This will ensure that there is no undue accent upon any of them to cause any bias or distortion to one’s impressions from the outside world, which we seek to register as clearly and truthfully as possible. In seeking truth, it is usually the senses which offer the first distortion or diversion from truth or Reality.

Pratyahara is practised for relaxation purposes in the position known as Savasana.
A degree of pratyahara is necessary before being able to apply mental concentration which in turn precedes meditation. It is often practised in the body position known as the Yoni Mudra. In this follow the directions of your teacher or Guru.

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Mantra helps Self-Programming

Personal programming of our brain and thought is possible and includes the technique of Mantra. As well as the fine well known classical forms of yogic mantra we can find real value in devising our own. These can be comprised of sacred words and prayers from religious and philosophical teachings that we repeat for confirmation or identification with spiritual principles and qualities. The simplest of course are affirmations we use to help ourselves strengthen the virtues to which we aspire in our Sadhana.

The ancient teachings remind us of the several forms of mantric expression – these being strong, vocalized word or words often chanted in group meditation; the gentle whispered mantra applied in our private meditations; and the one considered to have most potent direct effect upon the individual being the unbroken silent cyclic mental repetition that encourages us to link with the greater Universal Consciousness through our breath as in the sacred “Om” or “Aum”.

Many singers unconsciously or consciously use the science of sound to help voice skills or to stimulate moods and feelings that when magnified in a group emit considerable power and influence. They undertake specific exercising of the vocal chords and apply unique dedication to their art beyond the average understanding. Most of us who could be described as ‘shower time singers’ are not as self disciplined. So for the majority of us the simple guidelines we learn in improving breath control to help formulate and extend the power of our voice and our chanting through pranayama are satisfactory.

The principle of a 3 word mantra is simple but helps us isolate and focus upon our individual purpose or values that gives us a wide range of more mundane application e.g. Strength, truth, harmony. The more profound impersonal spiritual chanting of the sacred “AUM” recognizes the triune principles of divinity when intoning. The first “a” focuses upon the solar plexus, “u” upon the chest and heart and “m” upon the brain.
The 5 fold focus upon the Natural Elements of fire, earth, air, water and ether requires concentration and some imagination to harness one’s mind to an aspiration to understand all the natural spheres of life both outside and within our own nature from the solid physical to the subtlest and invisible realms of the soul.

As a popular choice of nature lovers and artists the 7 fold concept can be related most directly to the seven colours of the spectrum (red, orange, gold, green, blue, indigo and purple) and ultimately to White Light than is the synthesis of all.

The 12 fold mantra is often the choice of astrology students who wish to cultivate each of the human virtues exemplified in the zodiacal signs. Christians find it easy to attune to the mystical symbolism of the 12 disciples or the saints’ calendar as others associate particular powers to the 12 rays used to reflect the radiance of Divine Light. Yogis combine appropriate Sanskrit chants with the traditional physical exercise of Surya Namaskar that is used also to focus upon the Lord’s Prayer.

Find words that comfortably suit your understanding and your aspiration.

All affirmations and mantra when combined with our powers of visualization and concentration become potentially powerful tools in helping ourselves and indirectly, contribute a positive influence upon those who share our environment.

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DEEPER MEANING OF YOGA

Yoga is a system of training the body to enable free, rhythmic movement, developing good posture in walking, standing, sitting or an ability to take specific postures which are called Yoga Asanas. These are designed to benefit both the outer form as well as the wonderful inner natural mechanism with its miraculous powers of self healing and recuperation. Gradually as we go along, every organ and function is understood and with this knowledge it is possible to claim some degree of conscious control over it. Understanding the body mechanism gives one the power to keep and maintain its health. So physical health is the first consideration in Yoga and this aspect is called Hatha Yoga.

Maintaining health requires balance and depends upon a number of factors. Yoga outlines a course to follow which rules hygiene and cleanliness as first priority. By the various other disciplines, exercises and postures a healthful state is accomplished and often leads to the body remaining becoming more youthful and vital.  Certainly different ages require particular practices and adjustments made.

One of the exercises is Pranayama, or breath control, teaches us how we waste our life and energy through leakage of energies. Prana is the vital energy that is expressed in physical, emotional or mental activity.  Our vitality is affected by misdirected force and breath as occurs with emotional upsets and mental anxiety as well as neglected psychological disciplines and codes of living.  Through the study of pranayama we find greater relaxation as well as a practical tool to help provide us with the energy we desire for our purposes.

Desire is generally related to emotional energy and to our ultimate purpose to experience loving and happy states of consciousness.  Bhakti Yoga focuses upon love as the motivating force of our lives and encourages both passive and active expression of loving kindness, learning to extend the capacity to love beyond self and self- interest to embrace everything and everyone.

In order to discipline the total personality we need the benefit of mind control. This is the basis of Raja Yoga. We learn how to quieten the mind to know peace; to practice positive thoughts that will guide us in our actions; to meditate in order to be enriched by our intuitive thought and inspiration, and to draw upon the inner resources of the soul so that we know how to live true to ourselves.

In our disciplines the one that sounds simplest is most difficult.  We must learn to still our random thoughts. Then we can expect to experience the pleasure of creative free thought.

When we reach a stage of being in total harmony, having accepted and integrated the different facts of ourselves we know the beginning of fulfillment through Yogic practice.

Beyond this is to be in harmony with others by embracing spiritual wisdom that leads to wholeness and intimate knowledge of life. This increases to expand as our soul grows in understanding of Nature and our Creator and allows us to offer our own unique contribution to the world, a purpose for which we were born.

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HELPING OUR OWN GROWTH

It may seem to us a natural time to be part of the surrendering processes involved in growth as we appreciate in the southern hemisphere the beautiful peaceful atmosphere that co-incides with autumn.

In the north however, everyone is eager to perceive the bursting of new life as the sap rises and the spirit accordingly responds to an exciting sense of new beginnings.

Both are part of the annual  cycle that is symbolized in several ways in our religion or culture but which we must realise for ourselves as we consider the twin processes of yielding and the effort that follows to initiate new life and growth. The principle applies to all growth in nature including our own.

Whatever symbols appeal to us we usually enthusiastically embrace whether through logic, or religious teachings, philosophy or that created by our own imagination. All have the potential to remind us of the need to surrender things of lesser value for the sake of something greater, as is implied in our word ‘sacrifice’.

At this time, nature helps us in a special way, if we choose to respond to observe and follow the teachings that allow us to grow as human beings. As with all skills, practise in the magic key in finding when to relax and when to make effort toward our personal goal and purpose.

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LOGICAL THOUGHT – CAUSE AND EFFECT

The process of human thought can seem very complex. However, there is some comfort in one line of thinking that is known as logic or reasoning. Compared with those that aim to analyse thought as physiologists seek to explore the physical body processes, our basic interest may appear simple.

It is based upon the fact that reason represents sanity or right thinking. This is supported by our innate common sense as upon the aim or direction of our thought or studies. The other consideration is that we understand the fundamental natural law of Cause and Effect, knowing
that our conscious thought provides the motivation or initial cause and will be followed by subsequent effects.

Logical thinking builds up edifices of understanding and allows us to reach conclusions. These certainties may be temporary, being incomplete as far as our aspirations go and will therefore soon require our voluntary review, or become established as longer lasting concepts that support our chosen philosophy about life. In either case we arrive at certain points that allow us confidence enough to acquire knowledge and guide us in our decision making, knowing that thinking violent or negative thoughts will soon have the effect of making us feel depressed just as happy thoughts cause us to feel free or joyful.

What thoughts we choose to hold in our minds, what thoughts we choose to entertain or consider, what thoughts we reject and what ones we build upon are up to us and will produce effect in our lives, circumstances and relationships accordingly. Experience teaches us of the reality that
as every action has a reaction, every thought creates a reaction and every feeling generates a response.

Then we are prepared to work with and to trust the law of Cause and Effect, known by many as the law of Karma, both in our personal life and in its universal application so that we may acquire a confidence in Life itself.

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Personal Mantra – to help mind and mood

Personal programming of our brain and thought is possible and includes the technique of Mantra. As well as the fine well known classical forms of yogic mantra we can find real value in devising our own. These can be comprised of sacred words and prayers from religious and philosophical teachings that we repeat for confirmation or identification with spiritual principles and qualities. The simplest of course are the affirmations we use to help ourselves strengthen the virtues to which we aspire in our Sadhana.

The ancient teachings remind us of the several forms of mantric expression – these being strong, vocalized word or words often chanted in group meditation; the gentle whispered mantra applied in our private meditations; and the one considered to have most potent direct effect upon the individual being the unbroken silent cyclic mental repetition that encourages us to link with the greater Universal Consciousness through our breath as in the sacred “Om” or “Aum”.

Many singers unconsciously or consciously use the science of sound to help voice skills or to stimulate moods and feelings that when magnified in a group emit considerable power and influence. They undertake specific exercising of the vocal chords and apply unique dedication to their art beyond the average understanding. Most of us who could be described as ‘shower time singers’ are not as self disciplined. So for the majority of us the simple guidelines we learn in improving breath control to help formulate and extend the power of our voice and our chanting through pranayama are satisfactory.

The principle of 3 word mantra is simple but helps us isolate and focus upon our individual purpose or values that gives us a wide range of more mundane application  e.g. Strength, truth,  harmony.  The more profound impersonal spiritual chanting of the sacred “AUM” recognizes the triune principles of divinity when intoning.

The 5 fold focus upon the Natural Elements of fire, earth, air, water and ether requires concentration and some imagination to harness one’s mind to an aspiration to understand all the natural spheres of life both outside and within our own nature from the solid physical to the subtlest and invisible realms of the soul.

Seven is a popular choice for artists and those who are attracted to the use of natural light and the symbolism of Light itself.  Perceived by us split through the natural spectrum of the beautiful rainbow colours the study of colour itself allows a 7- fold mantra technique that giving a single word to each colour that represents one quality of light itself – red, orange, gold, green, blue, indigo and purple.

Twelve fold mantra is often the choice of astrology students who wish to cultivate each of the human virtues exemplified in the zodiacal signs. Christians find it easy to attune to the mystical symbolism of the 12 disciples or the saints’ calendar as others associate particular powers to the 12 rays used to reflect the radiance of Divine Light. Yogis combine appropriate chants with the traditional physical exercise of Surya Namaskar. Others choose to exercise blending in the Lord’s Prayer as their Mantra.

Find the words that comfortably suit your understanding and your aspiration.

All affirmations and mantra when combined with our powers of visualization and concentration become potentially powerful tools in helping ourselves and indirectly, contribute a positive influence upon those who share our environment.

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Practical Sadhana

The aspirant undertakes certain self disciplines when following the spiritual path of Yoga. These are essential for everyone who wishes to apply themselves to the art of living with spiritual values replacing the material ones that dominate at present.

Classical yogic disciplines have remained unchanged for centuries. Although they can be adopted and also adapted by people of any culture or religion, the fundamental principles do not alter. Many aspects are incorporated in the lives of people of every nation and culture.

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Sadhana – Self-Image

Imagination is the fundamental tool for the individual when forming a self-image.

Unless one creates a self image the personality is apt to become pressured and influenced by what others think, and this may not be as you would wish.

Use your self image to become whatever or whoever you wish to be – to pattern your future, determine your habits and reactions and help you to succeed in your achievements.

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Hints for Sadhana

Most spiritual teachers teach the value of balance and have indicated to us that any quality can be exaggerated to our detriment even those qualities we consider are virtues.

As reminders of the need for balance in your personal and private self discipline or Sadhana, the following offer a helpful guide for you when drawing up your own personality needs to avoid extremes……

Balanced – Not fanatical

Beautiful – Not vain

Courageous – Not rash

Devoted – Not enslaved

Flexible – Not weak

Helpful – Not intrusive

Humble – Not submissive

Impartial – Not indifferent

Independent – Not isolated

Keen intellect – Not cutting

Kind – Not condescending

Loyal – Not undeserving commitment

Passionate – Not aggressive

Patient – Not procrastinating

Perceptive  -  Not hypercritical

Persevering – Not stubbornly persistent

Sensitive –  Not to personal hurt

Strong – Not domineering

 

 

 

 

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Teach Meditation – A Simple Learning and Teaching Tool

In any teaching situation there is a place for meditation.

It is a tool for the instructor as it is for the student.

A few quiet moments interspersed with learning can help us, as students, absorb information in a relaxed state that better allows its processing by our subconscious mind. It is surprising how this can be effective in selecting material that is particularly helpful to us as well as offering an appropriate time for any remnant questions to surface.

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