Once you are comfortable in dharana (concentration), dhyana comes gradually. Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward the object upon which you are meditating. This can only be achieved after you have mastered dharana, which takes practice. And all of the limbs that may have come before – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana – help you come to this moment and beyond.
Swami Satchidananda has some insightful words on dhyana:
When would you know that you have really meditated? There are some signs for that. Say you come and sit for meditation at 4:30. Meditation is assigned for an hour. The bell rings at 5:30. If you feel, “What, who rang the bell this soon? I just sat down five minutes ago,” then you may have been meditating. But when you feel five minutes as one hour, you are not meditating; you are still concentrating. Time has no meaning in meditation, and space also is lost. You don’t know where you are. If you break that meditation all of a sudden, you may wonder, “What happened to my body?” Even the body is forgotten in real meditation. You are above time and space; you are out of the body.
Sometimes meditation is achieved without consciously sitting down. It can be as simple as knitting, hiking, swimming, praying or any other activity that you enjoy and can get lost in. In the book The Sivananda Companion to Yoga, it says, “For when our attention is fully engaged, the mind becomes silent; when we succeed in restricting our thoughts to one object, the incessant internal chattering stops. Indeed the contentment we feel when our minds are absorbed often comes less from the activity itself than from the fact that, in concentrating, our worries or problems are forgotten.”
But the book’s authors continue by saying that those activities are not lasting. True peace only comes with a regular meditation practice.
So why is dhyana beneficial to mothers? Well, consider how meditation affects the body. When she meditates, her heart rate slows down and the breath begins to quiet. Her mind is tranquil and not dwelling on the pressing worries of the day or of things to come. Studies have indicated that meditation reduces stress and equips a person with better coping mechanisms to handle tough situations. Research has also said that meditation can curb ailments such as high blood pressure, sleep disorders, depression and fatigue – all things that busy mothers can suffer from.
Parenthood can be so difficult, and sometimes there are additional worries: lack of child care, unemployment or underemployment, physical or emotional abuse, homelessness and/or illness and the medical bills that come along with it. Life can be so uncertain. Meditation can be a glimmer of hope in a life where you feel you are chained to the bottom of the ocean. Dhyana can be thought of as recharging a battery and a respite from our hectic life. The mere act of meditation can make a positive difference in children if they witness you do it regularly and with passion. Your children will want to be part of such a positive event of your day. If children meditated, it would provide them such great coping mechanisms as they grow up, giving them a greater chance to lead more peaceful lives.
See the next chapter: “Eight Limbs of Postpartum Yoga: Samadhi”
Series sources can be found here.