You’re out of your senses. All the time. Like those cows on Delhi streets.
It never fails to amaze. Minutes away from the internationally acclaimed Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi, you can find cows sitting casually on the streets, the traffic driving casually past them. These are not feral cows. These are gentle, beautiful souls that belong to a stable, and once in a while you can find an urban cowherd who will walk these cows back to their stable. To be sure, these cows will soon walk back out into the streets, where they will amble where they wish, eat whatever garbage they can find, and gather wherever the sunshine is the most in the cold November mornings. They aren’t lost. They are just out and about.
I’m writing about #LivingDeeply all this month, and today is day 20.
Patanjali’s eight-limb system pivots from the material to the spiritual on the fifth limb of प्रत्याहार, pratyahara, the gradual withdrawal of the senses from the material world for the process of dhyana (meditation).
The word गो, Go, in Sanskrit could refer to गौ, gau- or cows, or could also refer to the senses– the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. So this is an apt analogy.
We behave like the urban cowherd of Delhi, as we are negligent of our senses. We let them out, chasing whatever catches their fancy. We go eat an ice cream, for taste, when we crave something sweet and creamy. We watch random TV or newscasts when the eyes want to see some fast paced action. We have made a habit of being out of our senses, and these senses are always calling to our attention. The Apple Watch buzzes to alert us to a new WhatsApp forward, and we jump to see what has come.
The process of meditation begins with this process of finding and reminding our sense awareness to return back into our selves. Back into the body, the breath and the mind. You may have to tie them down initially because, out of habit, they will again call to attention. You’re sitting in meditation, and the sound of the truck outside makes you think maybe the Amazon package is here.
This takes patience. The habit of letting our cows graze on garbage has become so deep, the grooves (samskaras) are so ingrained, that we will continue to fail at this attempt initially. You have to persist. Patience and persistence are your friends.When the senses come marching in, you may finally sit down to bring your awareness under your direction.