Patanjali’s Path of Meditation
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers a path to discovering the full joy of meditation through pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana – i.e., the fifth, sixth and seventh of the eight limbs of yoga. The practice of pratyahara, Patanjali describes as “detaching at will from the senses.” In other words, by removing attention from the senses and the external world as a whole, we can become more introspective and better focused on internal development.
The practice of dharana teaches techniques for steadying the mind and slowing the mental process, such as thinking of a single thing, whether it’s repetition of a word or sound, following the breath or some other recurrent energy. By strengthening our concentration skills and by removing attention from the senses, we become better prepared to begin meditating (Stephens 2010).
Unwavering concentration brings us farther along the path to the pure meditative state of dhyana. In dhyana the quieted mind is nearly free of thought. “Acknowledging the daunting, seemingly unreachable nature of such a feat, the seventh limb also provides the reminder that yoga is an ongoing process, no matter the amount it is practiced.” (Yoga Life, Newsweek 10/2016)