I have been rereading Patanjali’s sutras in preparation for the coming weekend teacher training. One reason I love the teacher trainings is I have the chance to reread the Upanishads, Gita and the sutras every year. Each year something new is found, maybe because I am in a different place, maybe my mind skipped a moment when reading in the past, not sure. But this year I have been particularly drawn to the 5th limb- Pratyahara. The bridge between the physical world and the subtleties of the mind.
I do think that in most of our experiences with the sutras, within our personal or teacher practice, much to do is made about getting the first 4 limbs so we can get on with the meditation. But how can the deepness of being with the inner most calm of the mind when we are still pushed and pulled in subtle ways by the senses (and the senses include the thoughts of our minds). Pratyahara is the practice of inward concentration, not refusal of the senses but the allowing of them to be without being directed, pushed or pulled. We leave them alone, in acceptance, and turn our attention inward. What if we think of pratyahara as the inclusion of all without the distraction of labels, perceptions, ideas and beliefs about the world around us.
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