In our evolution to modern working man something got a bit mixed up.
We developed many a gadget or system to use our time or labour far more efficiently and yet we seem to have only cleared time to do more things, whether they be work or just activities that keep us ‘busy’ (such a loaded word). Hmmmmmm…
There is a concept in yoga known in Sanskrit as ‘pratyahara’, which loosely translated means withdrawal of senses. Now why on earth would anyone want to withdraw their senses? Certainly I’ve never envied people with hearing impediments or blurred vision. Such pearls of yogic wisdom are never as straight forward as that though are they? Pratyahara is step 5 on the 8 limbed ladder toward enlightenment so it’s not exactly an easy rung to jump onto, asana (the postures of yoga) are way below at number 3.
Another translation I read describes it as an ‘inward flow of senses’. The ancient yogis appear to have believed that the senses are like a mirror – turned outward they reflect the outside (busyness, to do’s, action, distraction) turned inward they reflect pure light (peace, calm, stillness, clarity). The outward world begins to blur as the inner world comes into focus. The senses are in effect a gateway to the mind, having some control over them allows us to to have some control of our minds.
You should sit for meditation at least 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy – then you should sit for an hour.
Energetically our asana practice usually leads us toward a few key postures that encourage this sense withdrawal before we take our final pose for the class – savasana. I have a feeling that complete control of the mind is rarely achieved before we take our final savasana on the earth but then if we were to take the advice of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (one of the for-fathers of modern yoga) we’d at least stay at it awhile longer,
practice practice and all is coming
A pose that really embodies this profound practice is kurmasana, the tortoise pose. It’s not an easy pose to get into and may require the patience of a tortoise to really perfect. As with any challenging pose we are presented an opportunity to observe not only the body but the minds resistance toward it. Like the tortoise withdrawing all it’s limbs into its shell when challenged we are encouraged to withdraw our senses of perception inside in order to be less reactive to the world around us. Quiet centredness is the aim as we work toward kurmasana and a quiet centre is our best bet against the challenges of modern man.