The theme of my classes this week is Pratyahara. Pratyahara is one of the 8 limbs of Yoga, the one that Swami Shivananda said was the most important; in fact is IS Yoga. . “Pratyahara itself is termed as Yoga, as it is the most important limb in Yoga Sadhana.” I have been describing Pratyahara as a drawing inward of the senses, that is, your mind becomes less reactive to the swirling distractions of the world around you. More specifically, the term pratyahara is composed of two Sanskrit words, prati and ahara. Ahara means “food,” or “anything we take into ourselves from the outside.” Prati is a preposition meaning “against” or “away.” Pratyahara means literally “control of ahara,” or “gaining mastery over external influences.” It is compared to a turtle withdrawing its limbs into its shell — the turtle’s shell is the mind and the senses are the limbs. The term is usually translated as “withdrawal from the senses,” but much more is implied. When we are distracted by external forces, whatever we see, taste, touch, experience gets reflected back to us; where our mind goes, our attention goes and our energy follows, etc. If we tune inward, our inner light is reflected towards us and we see our true nature.
BUT, how easy is this? As I was telling my class today, even my distractions have distractions now. I like to watch a little football on Sunday, and it’s what I consider a nice distraction. But now, my husband Seth, is playing Fantasy Football, so we can’t even just watch a game; now we have other things to think about with individual players in a league that is superimposed over the NFL. Yep, even my distractions have distractions now.
Or, today, when I have a few hours to work uninterrupted. Wonderful! I’ve been waiting so long for this day. I’d like to finally send a blog post (yay, done!) plan the rest of my classes for the week, and do further work on my workshop and book concept about how Yoga can improve your effectiveness in the workplace. I’ve let go of my daily meditation as things have gotten busier, and today I have time to regroup on that. Great. Well, so far I have checked in on FB a couple of times. Made a soup for dinner. Made an unnecessarily labor-intensive lunch for myself, and made a chocolate pie for dessert tonight, using my brand new fancy Blendtec blender that we bought after being wowed by a demo at Costco last week (It is really a pretty cool blender, but definitely a distraction). I have sent a few e-mails, signed up for my 30th High School reunion. I have combined several days’ “to do” lists into one list. Distraction after distraction after distraction. Once my computer beeped to let me know it was time for an appointment. The appointment was “work time at home”. So at least that’s a step in the right direction, carving out the time. And now it’s time to do it. Why have I not so far? Because I don’t know what I’ll find. I may be scared or sad, or not know what direction to take. I may be unsure; I may face self-doubt (ugh, a biggie for me). But if I don’t stop and look, I’ll never make progress.
So, Pratyahara is hard. And getting more difficult by the day as the world moves faster and offers more and more fun outside of ourselves. Sometimes it’s just plain difficult to take a long look at ourselves. That is definitely my issue today. When I realize now that I must end this blog and get to work, I get a little knot in the pit of my stomach. But I will breathe through it. I will look inside and not second-guess myself. When sensations come up, I will not look away. And there will be more distractions soon enough. So, give it a try. Sit down with yourself today and look in, not out. Aren’t you curious to find out what’s there? I know I am…
Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -Unknown