YS III.2 tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam

“Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward that object.”

—Swami Satchidananda

The previous step in Patajanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Dharana: concentration or focus of the mind. In the beginning, this practice is full of effort. The minute you sit down and close your eyes, the monkey mind starts jumping all over the place. It is only with patience and perseverance that control of the mind is achieved. Once this is accomplished, Dharana simply flows into Dhyana, which is uninterrupted concentration or meditation. It is a natural progression and cannot be forced. All we can do is practice and prepare for it, with strong will and intention.

Ironically, meditation is the opposite—or rather the absence—of effort, strong will, and intention. It is an easing back into our natural state. In other words, we’re not really trying to do anything; we’re remembering how to be. Once concentration is mastered, meditation is like coming home: warm, welcoming, familiar. The mind gives up its fight because it remembers as well, and it likes the way it feels when it is calm and steady rather than scattered and busy. The mind becomes our ally. And when body and mind are in sync, they create a space, a vessel into which spirit may enter, which naturally flows into the next and final limb of the journey: Samadhi, or Enlightenment.

So practice with effort and intention, yes, but do not cling to any of that. At some point, you must let go—even of the practice—in order to reach perfection.

by Laura Golden