How to Practice Dhyana: A Guide to the Seventh Limb of Yoga
A glimpse into the soul
“Dhyana is retaining one’s tranquil state of mind in any circumstance, unfavorable as well as favorable, and not being disturbed or frustrated even when adverse conditions present themselves one after another” ~ D.T. Suzuki
Meditation is the tool and Dhyana is the state of being you are trying to achieve.
In 'active' forms of meditation (where one or more of the five senses is still engaged), there is an awareness of the observer (you), and the observed.
For example, in a guided meditation, where someone is helping you to detach from thought and sensation, you, the person listening, are the observer, the awareness that you bring to yourself in listening is the observed.
This type of meditation is great for beginners and brings about many blissful benefits.
Your body will achieve homeostasis, the nervous system goes into 'rest and digest', you will be calmer, more relaxed, and better equipped to deal with stress.
Dhyana is then, the state that follows active meditation... which can be referred to as 'continuous concentration' or 'passive meditation'.
This is where you are able to let go of concentrating on one thing (Dharana - the 6th Limb of Yoga) or even the breath, all five senses have subdued, you are awake but no longer aware of anything, and the fluctuations of the mind have calmed.
This can also be called 'a glimpse into the soul', or ‘slipping into the gap’, where you enter a peak state, and have no awareness of time or space.
The space between your thoughts is the gap, a transcendence of time.
This is the space of infinite possibilities, unbounded creativity and unconditional love.
This is your soul space.
Passive meditation is the most challenging type of meditation, but it can be the most rewarding.
You are completely still, but are unaware of anything until you come out of the state. The soul exists beyond memory, space and time, and therefore can’t be experienced within the parameters you are used to in measuring an experience.
As the soul transcends, so do these elements necessary for measurement and sound.
Silence is also necessary to get to this state and there is scientific studies that back up its healing powers.
Studies show that noise (at any level) causes elevated levels of stress hormones to be released in the body. Making it harder to making decisions, solve problems, concentrate, decreasing motivation and overall brain function.
Silence first began to appear in scientific research as a control or baseline, when scientists compared the psychological effects of noise and music.
It was discovered that:
- Silence is more relaxing for the brain than the relaxing music.
- Two hours of silence per day prompts cell development in the brain related to the formation of memory, allowing the brain to ‘recover’ its cognitive abilities and restore what was lost through exposure to excessive noise.
- Silence helps new cells to differentiate into neurons, allowing our brains to work at better understanding our internal and external environments. This helps us make sense of our lives and gain perspective, which is vital for our overall wellbeing.
When you are finished meditating, you might consider the parameters below to know if you traveled to the 'gap':
- Pure contentment
- Unexplained bliss and happiness
- Extreme ease in the body or no sensation at all
- No memory of what happened
- No idea of how much time had passed
Meditation is then a pathway to the state of Dhyana, which is a higher state of consciousness, self-awareness and love.
Love begins to reign the seventh limb of yoga.
Love flows from you, however, it’s not an attached state of love. Love with attachment is to objects or people.
Love with detachment is the vibration of pure love for something bigger.
In yoga, this type of pure love is called Bhakti.
Bhakti is an innocent love for the sake of merging in oneness to the Divine.
You can equate this to the type of love that an infant has for his or her mother. He or she longs to be bonded and merged with her and has totally surrendered himself or herself to her.
In Dhyana, love flows through you and creates a higher vibrational frequency within you.
This divine love has the capacity to heal, create miracles, and has compassion and empathy for all. The ego falls away in Dhyana and you transcend the confines of the mind.
Attainment of Dhyana will not happen by willing it to come.
The greater you seek it, the more it will slip away from you.
Your preparedness for the seventh limb of yoga will come with the consistent practice of the other six limbs before it.
Then, like a lotus flower, opening and emerging from muddy waters, Dhyana will seek you.
Want to learn more about all 8 Limbs of Yoga?