Sutra 2.54: sva vishaya asamprayoge chittasya svarupe anukarah iva indriyanam pratyaharah
Sense-withdrawal is the imitation as it were of the own-form of consciousness [on the part] of the sense-organs by disuniting [themselves] from their objects. Translation by Georg Feuerstein
There is psychological freedom when the senses function spontaneously in complete harmony with the inherent intelligence (without thought – or will-interference) without being drawn into contact with their objects by cravings or false evaluations. This freedom is the fountain-source of energy since in it there is effortless (and therefore non-) movement of the energy. Translation and interpretation by Swami Venkatesananda
Does consciousness have a nature? Is there a manner of being that is inherently without obstructions, confusions, and illusions?
Yogis propose that there is indeed such a nature and sutra 2.53 identifies it as revealing itself in pratyahara, wherein the focus of your senses goes inwards, so that light, sound, smell, and texture do not disturb your steadiness.
Drawing the senses inward leads to a heightened awareness of yourself. You might close your eyes to recall visual memories, perhaps you go to a quiet space to rehearse sounds in your head, and most people cover themselves to remove the effects of changing air currents (and keep warm).
We withdraw from outward connections with the rest of the world to find connections that live inside of us, be they in the experience of our own blood coursing its way around our tissues, or of our thoughts growing quieter and quieter as our brain is overwhelmed by the awareness of such a complex thing as our own body. We do not stop sensing in pratyahara, we begin to sense more deeply and finely than the external senses can allow.
Or at least, that’s a little bit what it feels like to me –it’s as if my awareness has expanded to touch my deepest center and the most distant star all at once. I believe that this is a process of the brain relaxing as it relinquishes the attempt to be conscious of a wealth of data: in a moment, our senses take in hundreds of thousands of bits of information, of which only 40 or so do we process.
When we shift into pratyahara, perhaps the attempt to process those hundreds of thousands of bits of information calms, and the experience of internal awareness is one of deep relief inside the peace of a single focus, of a focus on a world we can and should know intimately –our own self.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.