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How to remove obstacles on the Yogic Path

In the pre­vi­ous post we dis­cussed the var­i­ous obsta­cles to the Yog­ic path. If there is a prob­lem, there must be a solu­tion. The best solu­tions come from with­in and not from out­side. Patan­jali Mahar­ishi, elu­ci­dates these solu­tions to focus the mind and they are quite mul­ti­di­men­sion­al.


Focus on One Principle

The key solu­tion he pro­pos­es is ekatat­tavaab­hyasa i.e prac­tic­ing one prin­ci­ple. Swa­mi Vivekanan­da said “Take up one idea and make that one idea your life..”. We some­times are so con­fused about the myr­i­ad of options avail­able, that it is impos­si­ble to stick to one thing. The huge body of yog­ic lit­er­a­ture has numer­ous solu­tions depend­ing on the body-type and the stage of mas­tery. How­ev­er, after many years of exper­i­ment­ing if we aren’t able to come up with that one thing that works, we feel unful­filled. The best would be take up one thing and put it into prac­tice.

Counter thoughts

A calm mind is a absolute­ly nec­es­sary and one way to achieve this is by coun­ter­ing neg­a­tive thoughts with pos­i­tive ones and rein­forc­ing pos­i­tive thoughts so that the resul­tant feel­ing is that of pos­i­tiv­i­ty and hap­pi­ness. Cul­ti­vat­ing ami­ty towards those who are hap­py, com­pas­sion towards those in mis­ery, good­will towards the vir­tu­ous and indif­fer­ence or resis­tance towards those com­mit­ting sins is what Patan­jali Mahar­ishi rec­om­mends.

मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम्॥1.33॥

Pranayama

The mind and breath are strong­ly inter­linked. Have you noticed that you didn’t breathe when you were total­ly absorbed in work and then you exhaled force­ful­ly when you regain aware­ness. When you are agi­tat­ed, did you realise that your breath was very fast and shal­low? When you take a deep breath, are you able to notice that your mind calms down? These are all indi­ca­tions that your state of mind and breath are con­nect­ed. Patan­jali Mahar­ishi explains an advanced prac­tice of hold­ing the breath after exha­la­tion: prachardana vid­ha­rana. It would be good to start with sim­ple inhala­tion-exha­la­tion prac­tices before the breath is held out­side (after exha­la­tion).

प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य॥1.34॥

Observing Sensory Experiences

Our mind often wan­ders and it is dif­fi­cult to bring it to focus with­out sup­port. Patan­jali Mahar­ishi says that one could focus on the sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences and then bring the mind to one-point­ed­ness. Mod­ern day researchers and ther­a­pists rec­om­mend what is called inte­ro­cep­tion which is a process of sens­ing inter­nal­ly how the body feels and sens­ing the phys­i­o­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms of the body. This brings aware­ness and is a great heal­er. This also pre­vents the mind from going onward.

विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी॥1.35॥

Inner Illumination

We could also bring the mind to focus through inner illu­mi­na­tion that is full of light and with­out sor­row. When we close our eyes and focus on the space between the eye brows, we can see an inner illu­mi­na­tion. Focus­ing on that could help focus our mind.

विशोका वा ज्योतिष्मती॥1.36॥

Focusing on Detached Person

If by our­selves we are not able to bring the mind to one-point­ed­ness, Patan­jali Mahar­ishi says that we could con­cen­trate on a per­son who is detached and pas­sion­less. The role of the Guru becomes sig­nif­i­cant here. By con­cen­trat­ing and med­i­tat­ing on the Guru, who is detached from world­ly and mate­r­i­al desires, our own mind becomes calm, com­posed and focused.

वीतरागविषयं वा चित्तम्॥1.37॥

Dream and Sleep

When one under­stands the dream state and sleep state, one gains clar­i­ty of the wake­ful state. Through this under­stand­ing, we bring to our aware­ness the kind of dreams we have, our uncon­scious moments and the train of thoughts we enter­tain. Pon­der­ing over the dif­fer­ence between wak­ing state and sleep can give deep insights into how con­scious­ness works, the way we engage with real­i­ty and the nature of real­i­ty that we per­ceive. Are wake­ful­ness and dream real­ly dif­fer­ent is ques­tion that can unlock sev­er­al dimen­sions.

स्वप्ननिद्राज्ञानालम्बनं वा॥1.38॥

यथाभिमतध्यानाद्व॥1.39॥

Patan­jali Mahar­ishi does not stop here. He gives us the free­dom to explore oth­er forms and objects of med­i­ta­tion that suits us and can help us over­come the obsta­cles on the Yogi path.


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