Long nights and Pratyahara

The last week has seen the clocks change, as Britain and Ireland adopt daylight saving and it certainly feels like we’ve transitioned from summer to winter. This change is not just external, we ourselves are obviously deeply effected, not only are our activities changed by this, so is our sense of perception and experience. The dark nights lead us to spending more times indoor, at home etc and subsequently we focus more inwardly than outward.

In the summer we expand outwards, think of our daytrips, holidays, jobs around the house, yet come this time of the year withdrawal and hibernation arise as we move in accord with nature.
The yoga practices, such as those expounded by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Pradapika, Shiva Samita etc, put great emphasis on the withdrawal of our attention from what stimulates the senses and hence the mind. This is Pratyahara, a drawing in from the senses and is the bridge between the more gross Yoga practices such as Asana and Pranayama, to the more subtle, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
With this withdrawal of the attention from sensory input, the mind quietens, it becomes easier to focus on our breath, our being and as this occurs we effortlessly move into the state of meditation and therefore the state of yoga where the experiencer and the experience merge together and a harmony arises. This is a simple way of describing a series of steps, much investigated over the millennia, but it is easy to see how the winter can aid us to achieve this.
One of the features of modernity is that we have 24 hr access to the world, via the internet, mobile phones, non stop television programming, electric light and thereby continual stimulation of the mind, but if we exercise some limits to this we can have an experience similar to that of previous generations, where we have less input, reduced light and sink into an absorption in our being. It’s easy to recognise people here a few generations ago, gathering around the fire, looking into the flames and being entranced by it, and thus being absorbed in the moment.
 So perhaps try an evening free of tv, social media, reduce the number of electric lights that are switched on, or replace these with candles, or light the fire, maybe do some Yoga Asana and Pranayama, allow yourself to sit and be, meditation arising on it’s own.
  This absorption in our being, meditation – Dhyana, giving rise to Samadhi, residing in sameness, this is also translated and described as bliss,  This is a bliss that comes from the effortless harmony when self and other, subject and object, observer and observed sit and merge and rest within each other. when fulfilment and completion are discovered to exist within ourselves, within our surroundings, within life arising just as it is in this moment, in all it’s richness and magnificence.
  The photo shows Yoni Mudra, one of the classical Pratyahara practices.

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