Paying attention and why it’s important

Category : General advice, Philosophy 4th February 2019

Inside Yoga 259 (4/2/2019)

Are you paying attention? Then I will begin. Yoga is that simple. It asks us to pay attention in order to train our mind to focus and avoid distraction, yet we often slip into a distracted state of mind and spend so much time there we might think that is our normal state of mind.

In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, one of the lines states that: “The mind is capable of having two states based on two distinct tendencies. These are distraction and attention. At any one moment, however, only one state prevails, and this state influences the individual’s behaviour, attitudes, and expressions.” (Commentary by TKV Desikachar, Sutra 3.9)

In BKS Iyengar’s commentary he uses more precise language explain the same verse: “Study of the silent moments between rising and restraining subliminal impressions is the transformation of consciousness towards restraint (nirodha parinama).”

He explains: “Through nirodha parinama, transformation by restraint or suppression, the consciousness learns to calm its own fluctuations and distractions, deliberate and non-deliberate. The method consists of noticing then seizing and finally enlarging those subliminal pauses of silence that occur between rising and restraining thoughts and vice versa.”

In other words, Iyengar is saying is that we train our mind to be less affected by intrusive and distracted thoughts, and more focussed on the silence between thoughts when our mind is still and clear, when we are paying attention. As we practice we become better at spotting the rising thoughts and distractions before they grow, and stopping them there and then… in effect, nipping them in the bud.

Desikachar adds: “When the state of attention prevails, our pose is serene, our breathing quiet, and our concentration on our object is such that we are completely absorbed in it and oblivious to our surroundings. But when we are in the state of distraction, our poise is far from serene, our breathing is irregular, and our attitudes give little indication of any capacity to be attentive.”
The breath is the key to attaining this level of control over our mind, and in particular, it is the gap between our breathing which reveals to us the silence that is possible. When we experience this silence we have greater control and clarity to maintain attention.

Explore this yourself – through your practice.

Related blog:Why we must concentrate –

Reading reference:
The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar

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