I can hardly believe we are up to the sixth limb. For over a year now I’ve been blogging on the limbs and now we have finally reached the final three, known collectively as samyama. These limbs are the most subtle and internal so I wondered during the year if I’d have something to say about them. I do. Today let’s talk about Dharana.
Dharana may be translated as holding, holding steady, concentration or a single focus. It’s about bringing the mind to one point of attention. Why is this so hard? These days articles are written almost daily about social media, video games, our over stimulated lifestyles, and our inability to concentrate, but what really is going on?
The issue with concentration is not the concentration itself. When we are engaged, all our senses pull toward the object of engagement and we concentrate. The problem is in choosing the object. Concentration by definition means choosing a single object to focus on, to the disregard of everything else. Before we can practice deepening concentration, we must choose a place to put our focus.
Why are we so scared of making a choice? One fear is that we will choose incorrectly. We should understand that avoiding making a choice is much worse than choosing poorly. Firstly, in many instances we can’t choose wrong. There is no actual wrong choice, just different choices that all work out in time. But let’s say we do choose incorrectly. A wrong choice is at least feedback. The moment we sense it is wrong, all we have to do is re-route. We have more information about what other options may not work and can settle more closely on a right choice. Lots of successful people have spoken at length about the power of a mistake and the growth it brings.
We know the whole essence of focusing is attaching ourselves to one thing and leaving all other options behind, so we refuse to choose at all, and instead never fully experience anything. What we don’t realize is that by understanding one thing absolutely completely, we can know all things. Until then, we are just floating around taking no control of our lives. This approach will bring no fulfullment. Our fleeting moments of concentration will be random and even more troubling, will be navigated by the wills of others.
Take comfort in understanding that even in just this one life, we have many lives. Did you know I got my BFA in theatre? I’ve been an actress, writer, director, waitress, insurance agent, and a million and one other things. I’ve had at least three to four fully distinct lives and I plan to have many more.
There is always an opportunity to reinvent, but please make a choice. All the good that comes in life comes after we stop trying and testing and finally make a decision. Some people claim they want to be well informed before they make a commitement to one path. While this has validity, we must recognize when the investigation has become an excuse for indecisiveness. We will never know every variable. In the end we must choose.