How to start on the path of Meditation: Pratyahara - Sense Withdrawal

Before we can move onto the path of meditation, we need to prepare our environment, body and mind. Initially we do this by making changes in the way we interact with ourselves and others, practicing asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing) to bring balance to the bodymind and help to make physical and mental hygiene.

From this point, with less distraction in our body and mind, growing our concentration for meditation becomes easier.

Below is an extract from Mark Stephen's 'Teaching Yoga' on the path of meditation concerning pratyahara, described by Patanjali as "detaching from the senses". Stephens himself describes pratyahara has "a bridge departing the material realm of sense awareness," and gives us the following backdrop for more understanding;

"Where ever you are, there are always sounds, sights, aromas, and other vibrations entering our senses - or, to put it differently, to which our senses are attaching.

Sitting in class, it is likely that sounds are reaching you from outside and from others in the room. If there is any light, then there are visual impressions coming about through your eyes. The heart is felt beating in your chest, clothing or a draft is felt on the skin, and perhaps there is a sense of more subtle energy pulsating through one's entire being.

There are all these vibrations, what Alan Watts termed as "so many happenings".

With pratyahara, the idea is to just let them all be there.

Sounds and vibrations will come and go. Meanwhile, there are the happenings of the mind, habitually taking in all these vibrations and reacting to them with more thoughts. The thoughts are also reacting to other thoughts, typically chattering away, re-actively and imaginatively adding more vibrations.

Without focusing on the breath or anything else, just following the breath as another source of vibration, you will notice that when empty of breath there is a natural quieting, an opening to the bridge from the world of the senses to the world of the true self.

Staying in that awareness, without thinking about it, you are on the other side, the inside, in pratyahara, even as vibrations intrude."