|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 503 ]
Dharana is the Sanskrit word for "concentration." First we must understand that in this sense the meaning of the word is quite different than what the average person might mean by concentration.
According to modern psychology, the mind cannot remain fixated on any solitary object for any considerable period. Rather, it must in some way remain moving, although the boundaries of that movement can be constrained, which, it would seem, is then the definition of concentration: "a constrained movement of the mind."
For instance, one can remain concentrated upon a book to the exclusion of all external attentions, yet that concentration is dynamic in the sense that one’s mind is engrossed in the lively fantasy of the story, or intellectual analysis of the subject matter.
Similarly, one could be performing a very focused task, such as drawing or painting, building a highly detailed model, playing chess, rock-climbing, playing a musical instrument or bird-watching, yet the mind remains active, albeit contained within a defined range of things.
It is true that in this 'restricted place' one can achieve certain noticeable affects, and the more skilled or adept one becomes in this restriction of the mental field the more proficient one becomes at certain tasks. This mastery is exhibited by people who are at the forefront of all fields in life, be it sportsman/women, artists, brain surgeons, etc.
The Eastern View of Concentration
According to Eastern psychology, though concentration begins with this form of controlled or contained movement of the mind, it is possible to attain a further state whereby all mental movement stops. At this point, the mind 'becomes one' with the essential nature of the object of concentration, and therefore can go no further...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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