March 20, 2016

Noise? What Noise?—Thoughts on Applying Pratyahara.

travel dance

It was an unseasonably nice day yesterday and a warm, inviting evening.

The studio windows just begged to be opened, but as soon as I did, a truck went by and I had second thoughts about my decision. I turned to the student closest to the window and gave her the option of closing it if the outside noise became a bit much.

But my next thought was, maybe the noise is an opportunity.

Pratyahara, or the withdrawing of the senses, in what I see as its simplest form, is moving beyond the noise and distractions that we gather from our senses to turn the focus inward. The street noise gave us an opportunity to practice and discuss.

In our discussion, one of the students in class (who also happened to be my mother) said, “Just remember pratyahara the next time your kids are fighting and whining and screeching. A more challenging task than a little bit of street noise, right?” For sure. But also a really valid point.

The practice of pratyahara has so many applications in our everyday life. In a world where our senses are constantly bombarded by distraction, I know that I could benefit from a better ability to turn inward, remove some interference and awaken my intuitive mind.

This is no easy task with the constant influx of technology and sounds and flashing lights and smells and screeches, but we can be more aware of the things that we are letting ourselves be distracted by. We can make an effort to notice when we are mindlessly thumbing through our phone instead of doing what we told ourselves we were about to do. We can give ourselves permission to focus and breathe and do despite the barrage of stimuli that are vying for our attention.

Sometimes I find myself so distracted by what is happening around me, that it seems like I am struggling to accomplish anything at all. I will set out to complete a task and pick up a new task, or 12, along the way. I’ll hear an argument and pause to mediate; see a toy in the middle of the floor and stop to grab it; hear a vibration and check a text message; hear the dryer buzz and stop to fold some laundry; see a pop-up notification and check my email. Wait, what was I doing?

While some of the distractions of day-to-day life may truly be a reason to drop whatever we are doing to deal with them, most of those distractions are certainly not. For me, real-life application of pratyahara means working to avoid letting those less-pressing distractions have the opportunity to be so distracting. The world will not stop spinning if I do not immediately answer that message or if I step over that toy in the middle of the floor.

These things can certainly wait until I accomplish the task at hand.

Bringing it back to last night’s class, the window remained open for the duration of our practice. Throughout class, I didn’t notice any street noise. The first time that I was actually reminded of my concern was as I was holding court over my students in savasana. For a moment, I worried that the noise would be disruptive to them. But they all had that blissed-out look as we closed our practice, so I’m calling it a win.

Now if we could only keep that bliss as we get bombarded by distractions outside our safe studio space.


Author: Corrin Rockwell

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: sima dimitric/Flickr

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Corrin Rockwell