Sensory Mastery (Pratyahara). This is about discovering the limits of perceptions when attempting to quite the mind, but also understanding the importance of doing so. This is also about learning to use the senses moderately and to be undisturbed in most situations. This word is made up of two words. The first is Prati, meaning “to call back’, and ahara, which means, “to take in “. The first time we look at this is when we start exploring the postures. As we quite the mind in our postures, we start to see the benefits to being still from within. The inner stillness allows the outside to appear still and calm even when we may not be. This is the fifth step to the eight-fold path. We started with yamas, then niyamas, next was asanas, and then the Pranayamas, and now Partyhara. This is linked in with Dharana, which I touched on when talking about the attitudes of postures. Dharana is translated to concentration and comes from the word dhir, which means, “to hold or retain”. Partyhara and Dharana are closely related to each other, because in order to achieve sensory mastery, you need to concentrate. Essentially sensory mastery is just having control over your senses. This does not mean that you cannot have senses or feel certain ways about anything, but being able to react or not react and control the reaction to be what you need it to be would be sensory mastery. In a class recently we had a discussion about how to do to this, and as it turns out I have a much different opinion, or view on how to do this. In class we discussed the gunas and how people move through their reactions from Rajas, Tamas, and Satva. People move through these three points when making decisions with Rajas and Tamas being the base of the triangle and representing low and high frequency feelings such as anger and ego. Satva is the top point of the pyramid and represents the purity and balance of being in a zen-like state. As people move between these people forget to see things from another persons view point, and that only through seeing things from another’s view point do we come to understand what happened and can we then come to a proper reaction. However we react represents our side of the action rather than the entire picture. Basically until we understand we are just supposed to assume that we do not know (since we don’t) and work to understand. Personally I don’t want to know. I do not need to know, I am not one to judge anyone or anything. First of all I am in no position to do so being as that I am human. If I was in charge of understanding everyone and everything that they did and why they did it, then I would become entirely too overwhelmed. Plus who is to say that I should be deemed responsible to take of all of this. I have my own prejudices about things, and if I were to control things, then the world would be way messed up. I know that our discussion did not say that I need to control everything, but instead come to and understanding of it all, but I do not want or need that on me. For me I give that up to a power greater than me. To get to this step there are a few things you need to do first such as believe that you are not the greatest thing in the world and that you are not fully in control of everything, second believe that there is something else at work out there that is a bigger and greater than you that can help you, and lastly take action to turn your will over to this power.
So first we need to understand that we are not all powerful. When thinking about yourself in your own life, think about if you are really in control of everything and everyone? Personally, I am not. I cannot make people do what I want them to do. I can try and sometimes it works, but then who am I to have trying to manipulate them, their lives or the situation? I am not all-powerful or all knowing. I could never understand every angle in order to understand why people do things the way they do, nor could I understand every angle in order to manipulate it for the good of all. Understanding that you do not control others is one thing, but now take it a little bit deeper; can you control yourself? I know I can’t. I can control my physical reactions, yes, but I don’t control my first thought. My first thought is impulsive as is anyone’s. It shows your prejudices or feelings. It shows your upbringing, or history, and no one can control this. You may control your second thought or how you react to your thoughts or the situation, but that first thought shows you how you are not fully in control. Now take it one step further, and realize that not only are you not all-powerful, but in essence you are powerless. This may come as a shock and you may resist the idea at first, no one wants to think about the fact that they are completely powerless in this world. Of course you control what you do, but do you really? We just saw that you don’t even always have control over that first thought that pops into your head so how can you truly control anything after that? Then how do you control how the other reacts to your reaction? The answer is that you can’t. This is not a bad thing, in all reality it is a good thing, it can relieve stress in some way since you no longer need to feel as though you need to control everything you do and how everyone reacts to it. This first step helps you to understand that you are not in control of anyone including at times yourself, but now you can not just go through life unresponsive to others, and you don’t so what next?
So if you understand that you are not in control, then you must next come to believe that there is something that does. This thing would be a power greater than your self, I call this power god, because higher power and god are interchangeable words to me. I don’t always believe that they have interchangeable meanings, but to me the words themselves are interchangeable. This power can take many forms weather it be Mother Nature, God, Allah, Vishnu, the Universe, your higher You, etc… It can be whatever you want it to be; the only requirements are that is it bigger and greater than you. This does not have to be a religious thing seeing as though some of these are more scientific like the universe. If you were to choose to see it as a religious thing though, that is fine too. Understanding that although you do not carry the weight of make decisions and reactions for people, there is something out there that does. As I review earlier, I could never understand everyone’s situation in order to make them do what I think is best, and who is to say that what I think really is best. If everyone acted for my best interest and the way I would want them to, then there would be a lot less diversity in this world. Yoga Bob pointed out that 10 people collectively will always know more than 10 people individually, and this make a lot of sense to me since we all study different things, come from different backgrounds, and are headed in different futures. In some instances after understanding the collective knowledge of a group, there are those who choose a higher power to be a group. It does not matter who is in that group as long as it is more than one. If you are alone making decisions and choosing fates for others than you are acting in your will and not in the best interest of others, however in a group there are other points of view. So there will either be a never-ending argument as to who could be right (which shows that no one knows), or a conclusion that you do not know and that that is ok. Either way no matter what you are to chose as a power greater than yourself you can now begin to put some trust into this power that it is greater than you and can help you if you were to ask for it. If you do not know, you can ask this power, and that is what brings us to the next step.
Once you have picked a higher power though then you no longer need to hold the weight of everything else on your physical shoulders. You can turn it over to this power, which is able to hold it for you. You no longer need to understand why anyone does anything, because it is not your responsibility. Your first thought may be “he’s a jerk” or “she’s so mean” or even “that’s too nice” but your second thought is then “not my problem, I can turn this over” When you turn things over you are accepting your role in the situation and getting rid of anything else. Some people refer to this as “staying in your own lane” and it applies perfectly to this idea. As we saw before you cannot control anyone else, so why should his or her actions and reactions control you? They don’t have to. You may not like what they are doing due to a past experience or due to a different background or education. In the end its about accepting the fact that they are different from you and that you do not need to understand the why, nor control the what that whoever is doing. If you stay in your lane and keep your side of the street clean by reacting appropriately then everything will be ok. So what is an appropriate reaction? What happens when you want to make things go your way again? What if I don’t agree with them? What if you cannot keep your will turned over all of the time and allow your higher power to carry the weight for you? This is ok. First of all, its not like you just wake up one morning as say “(insert higher power name here) take my will and guide me through life”. It’s a decision you make millions of times a day, and if you mess up its ok. Every time something happens that throws you off balance emotionally or spiritually, you just turn it over. You tell yourself “this is not my problem” accept it and let your higher power take over. So, just to clarify, when I say “accept”, I do not mean “agree with”. Just because you accept that some one is different does not mean that they are wrong or that you are wrong, it just means you understand that they see things differently. This is like in France people speak French, and in England they speak English; neither one is wrong, but we can understand that they are different. Some people are Catholic, and some are Hindu; neither is wrong, but they are different. Some people are Republican and some are Democratic; neither is wrong, but they are different. See accepting does not mean that there is a wrong or right it just means that there is an acknowledgement of the other and understanding that the beliefs or values may differ. Any reaction is appropriate since this is your action, but it is important that you react in a way that is for you. Don’t give people the reaction they want and become a doormat, but don’t be so assertive in your opinion that you are hurting others. I have found that the best way to stay neutral is to simply let it go at first. Accept that I do not understand and that I never will, and that this is ok, because that is not my job or responsibility. When I have time I then turn to my God and tell him how I feel, let out my anger and frustration until I realize once again that its ok. I am not all knowing or all-powerful. I am not the decision maker for all nor do I need to be. My role is to simply be me, accept others for who they are and keep on going about my day.