Withdrawal of the Senses

Pratyahara is the first non-physical step on the path to bliss. Once we have better control of our bodies and our breath, the next task is to remove ourselves from external stimulation.

Any novice to meditation will attest to the distractions of sound, sight, smell, and temperature interfering with concentration. While one can begin by blocking the distractions out, the ultimate goal is to find detachment from the distraction. So while you may hear your roommate practicing the drums, you do not react to the sound. You just hear it without forming judgment or action.

The first step to becoming skilled at Pratyahara is to literally block out the stimulation. Lay down in a comfortable position with a blanket over you to stay warm. Use earplugs to blot out sound and an eye pillow to block the light or sit in a dimly lit room. Even though you close your eyes, changing light patterns are still visible through the eyelids. Make sure you are warm but not hot. Sitting still will cool down the body. Make sure you are comfortable. If you are particularly stiff, sitting on the floor may be uncomfortable. Lay down if necessary until you can find comfort on the floor. There are many different seated positions and even a chair can be used to find your quiet time for meditation.

The ultimate goal of pratyahara is to find the quiet inside without having to physically block the outside stimulation. It is to hear the noise and not react. It is to see movement but not be distracted by it. It is to be warm or cold but not need to correct it.

Gaining gradual skill in pratyahara prepares us for the next step on the meditation path, dharana.

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