Nurturing and Cultivating Love through Presence and Awareness
Happy April, Yogis!
Welcome to Spring, 2023! With the change of season, many of us may be noticing a lightening of our burdens, an openness in our minds, a lifting of our spirits, and yes, a spring in our steps! The change in season is nice, and our weather is (mostly) lovely, but what do the teachings of yoga say about why so many of us are giddy with Spring Fever and others, not so much?
We’ll explore a potential answer to this question with one of the fundamental teachings of yoga: energy follows attention. Whatever we are placing our attention on, this is our experience of life. Energy flows where attention goes. This principle is contained in the sixth limb of yoga, Dharana.* The practice of Dharana refers to focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all others. When we focus on that one thing, whether intentional or not, the other typical distractions begin to fall away. Before exploring this concept on a deeper level, let’s illustrate how it works in everyday life using a few examples with which many of us are familiar.
Ever experienced that romantic phase of love where everything and everyone is beautiful? In this phase of a relationship, our hearts are full, and we are naturally drawn to and see all the good in the world. The joy we are experiencing has our attention and our energy, which leads us to focus on the love and joy around us. Not the romantic type? How about when you first bought the car you are currently driving; did the same make and model suddenly seem to pop up everywhere? Or, ever look into one of magnifying mirrors and discover pores and hairs that, previously, you were blissfully ignorant of their existence? Some of us can disappear for hours into this new world of follicle magnification!
Our attention is like that of a light on a mining cap; the light of the hat illuminates wherever we turn our heads and becomes our point of focus. The miner may be working in a vast, enormous cave, but only the small area which is illuminated by the miner’s headlamp is what holds the miner’s attention. Energy follows attention. Whatever we are placing our attention on is where our energy is going and soon becomes our world.
Maybe this theory helps to explain those of us swooning with Spring Fever? Our attention may be centered on the pleasantries this season has to offer: the music of the birds singing, the bouquets of color now revealing themselves, or perhaps the scented, gentle breeze, any one of which brings a smile to our face.
Excited about this concept and ready to take it further? For the dedicated seeker, the typical way to implement the sixth limb is through seated meditation practice, using a candle, Aum symbol, or some other meaningful object. As you might have guessed, the meditator directs her focus on the object and nothing else. And as you might have also guessed…it’s not easy! It is a challenging practice, requiring the meditator to continuously bring her wandering attention back to focusing on the object. I liken this to putting a dog on a leash for the first time. In the beginning, the dog is constantly pulling away, lunging forward, or lagging behind. This is where the person new to meditation says, “I can’t meditate; my mind is too busy. It won’t stop.” We in the yoga profession hear this one A LOT! But like the dog pulling away the first few times he’s on a leash, so will the mind wander the first few times we attempt to contain it. Remember, this is a practice, and it takes repeated efforts to develop this powerful discipline of one-pointed mental focus. For some of us, going to “obedience school” at a yoga studio, ashram, church, or spiritual center does the trick. For others, taking short, daily walks in nature is well-suited and incredibly helpful for our temperament. Be kind to yourself and find what works for you.
Has yoga changed your life? Has it transformed you from the inside out? Send us a message and let us know! We’d love to hear from you.