As I deepen my relationship with yoga, I continue to come face-to-face with my misconceptions and assumptions about the practice. The more I experience dhyana, the seventh limb of yoga, the more I understand that yoga is about attuning to a state of being, not a state of doing.
What is Dhyana?
When first learning about the 8 limbs of yoga, I was taught that dhyana meant “meditation.” However, through personal experience and reflection, as well as by reading the work of the Indian writer J. Krishnamurti and others, I have realized that dhyana has a deeper meaning. Meditation, by definition, means to think deeply, to focus the mind for a period of time in silence or with the aid of chanting. But, I believe Krishnamurti described it best: “meditation is choiceless awareness.” This means we can never calculate or control when we will experience dhyana because it is something that happens rather than something that we premeditate. It reminds me of the concept of grace. Grace is not something that we force, it is something that we must be receptive to. I return to this idea of receptivity often, reminding myself that…I can only clear the way. I can’t attain through force nor doing.
Experiencing Dhyana as Natural Flow
Ever notice how the majority of our bodily functions are unconscious and operate on autopilot without your control?
Yoga helps us return to our natural state of being—a state of “no effort.” When you access dhyana you reach a state of heightened presence, where certain mental constructs such as time, ambition, and opposition cease to exist. When we peel back social norms and cultural conditioning, we find the underlying truth of the nature of the life we live.
The more I continue my practice of yoga from a holistic perspective, the more I understand what my mother taught me as a child. She always told me that we’re human beings, not human doings. To me, this expresses true dhyana. When I am in a complete flow state, I am living life in the now. I have released my desire to control outcomes and can simply accept what is.
This year, Yoga Journal’s annual ambassador road trip—the Live Be Yoga Tour—is going virtual. We are calling it The Decompression. Recently, we’ve all been asked to journey inward, to take moments of pause and stillness, and to slow down, rest, and prioritize the things we value. Follow the Live Be Yoga 2020 series here, stay connected with us at @livebeyoga on social, and join the movement to find beauty in stillness.