Each season (of nature, of life) brings its own beauty. Later this month marks the official beginning of winter, although we’ve been moving toward winter for several weeks. In this part of the world, the days have become shorter and by late afternoon the darkness is setting in; this is an invitation to turn inward. Along with the rest of nature, we can take this time to slow down, to settle into ourselves and reconnect with the sacredness of life.
There are many ways to reconnect with the sacredness of life, and sharing celebrations is one way, but we also need quiet time to do our inner work. If we want inward time in this busy season, we have to choose it.
Whenever I go out the door or start any work, I never forget to remember God.
Winter is a naturally quiet time of year, a time when nature rests: plants are dormant, animals hibernate. We too need rest – not just physical rest (although that too), but resting our overly busy minds. Many of us are drawn inward by music, art or being in nature. Traditional spiritual practices focus on ritual, chanting and other practices, especially meditation.
The fifth limb of the 8-limbed system of classical Ashtanga Yoga is pratyahara, withdrawing the mind from its preoccupation with the outer world. This practice is the bridge between the outer world and the inner world, leading to meditation.
Pratyahara is practiced by repeatedly pulling the mind back from going outward.
There are many methods that support pratyahara, including mantra (repeating sacred sounds), nada (listening to inner sounds), japa (repetition of mantra or a name of God), puja (worship), tratak (gazing) and kirtan (chanting). These practices help still the mind, supporting us in reconnecting with the peace that already exists within us.
In the beginning when we practice pratyahara we have to avoid objects of pleasure in order to save ourselves from creating a desire to have them. This is called austerity (tapas). But when we master pratyahara, then we can live in desires without desire. We observe all social rules, but our mind is not attached to anything. Our balance becomes so perfect that we can function in the world without a thought of balancing.
Sometimes our lives seem so busy that we can’t imagine taking time to slow down and turn inward, but this shift doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Turning inward is an attitude of mind, a recognition that we need we need rest and peace in order to reconnect with the sacredness within and around us. Our inner well-being then radiates out to others. May we all find peace and balance in this season and throughout our lives.
Om shanti shanti shanti!
contributed by Sharada
All quotes in italics are from writings by Baba Hari Dass
Sharada Filkow, a student of classical ashtanga yoga since the early 70s, is one of the founding members of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, where she has lived for many years, serving as a karma yogi, teacher and mentor.