For some, the mere act of concentrating on something for a certain amount of time can be difficult, especially for a mother. That is why dharana (concentration) is so important.
Swami Chidananda says:
“Concentration is a question of persistent, persevering endeavor. It does not become fruitful in a day. It is not a process which at once gives results overnight. In the beginning it is a very unpleasant and painful process. Because the very nature of human mind is to be scattered and to oscillate between numerous things. Oscillation from one object to another is the characteristic of the mind. It never stops. It is like a grasshopper.”
For mothers, there is always something to be done, especially if it is naptime for your child. There are always things you should be doing, like dishes, laundry, paying bills, cleaning the bathroom, taking a shower or just relaxing. Your diet may be making it difficult for you to concentrate, or perhaps you’re unhappy being a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. Some (well, most) are constantly thinking about their child, like that really annoying thing they did at breakfast, the mess they created in the living room, the milestone that they haven’t achieved yet or that class in which you were unable to enroll your child.
For new mothers, it’s difficult to reorganize your life to make time for yourself and also take care of your child, your partner and your home. And there are always distractions in your home: TV, smartphones, books, newspapers, friends, neighbors, pets. So you may be wondering, how is it even possible to devote five or 10 minutes to pure concentration?
It is possible – if you want it to be possible. You have to work at it. First, designate an area of your home that you will devote to meditation, and to meditation only. That keeps the space sacred to your practice. This can be a room, corner, closet or even a window sill. Then, commit to a span of time every day. This may be tricky with your child’s sleep schedule, so you have to be flexible. But try to stick with a general time if possible. Next, if you need physical help in concentrating, decorate your meditation space with meaningful objects or beautiful things, like a bouquet of flowers, a pretty candle or a picture of your guru or role model. For mental assistance in concentrating, you can choose a mantra. Mantras are Sanskrit syllables, words or phrases that can bring an individual into a higher state of consciousness. A common mantra is soham, pronounced “so-ham.” It means, “I am” or “I am that,” which helps remind us that we are all interconnected: people, animals, dirt, air, water, etc. As you breathe in, in your mind say “so,” and then as you breathe out, “ham.” By repeating this mantra mentally, you can help train the mind to remain focused. Then just sit, for five to 10 minutes at a time.
Another option is just practicing mindful awareness. Just focus on your breath, taking notice of how the breath feels as it enters your nostrils, travels down your trachea, fills your lungs and expands your belly. If you notice that you have begun to think about something else, just acknowledge that thought and return to your breath. Be gentle with your thoughts, instead of internally criticizing yourself. It takes much practice. Try to do this first for five minutes, and then ten minutes and then longer as you get used to the practice. Know that your mind will wander during this time, and that’s OK. It is impossible to achieve a quiet mind right away.
It is important to seek out a guide for your path of concentration. This person may be a religious figure at your house of worship or a yoga teacher. They can give you specific advice as to how to apply dharana in your life and to help you with any questions that may arise as you practice.
Swami Satchidananda says:
Never give up. And never think, ‘Oh, I am unfit for meditation.’ That is the biggest mistake many people make. They think that the minute they sit and close their eyes everything should be beautiful. If the mind runs here and there they say, “Meditation is not my thing.” But it’s like practicing a piano or playing guitar or cooking. How many times have you cooked your fingers instead of the vegetables? Nothing is learned that easily. While learning to bicycle, how many times did you fall down? So, keep trying. Persevere. Remember what Patanjali says in Book 1, Sutra 14: “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.”
See the next chapter: “Eight Limbs of Postpartum Yoga: Dhyana”
Series sources can be found here.