One and All

Meditation in Yoga

How long can you concentrate for? That is, how long can you keep your mind fixed on one thing and one thing only? Most of us might struggle to maintain attention for more than a few seconds. Ancient Yogis developed ways to maintain concentration over extended periods.


Being able to hold attention like this is a key milestone for meditation in Yoga. Staying focused and undisturbed on one thing is called eka grata dharana or one-pointed concentration. When this becomes effortless, it’s called dhyana


In dharana, the person is still aware of themselves as a person meditating. You could say that there are three things present in dhyana:


  1. The meditating person.
  2. The thing they are concentrating on.
  3. The act of concentrating.


If this person sticks at it, something quite different happens. Eventually, they become completely absorbed. The boundaries between the three things listed above dissolve. They experience themselves as one with their chosen object, not two things connected by concentration. This is called samadhi


This one-ness is an important facet of Yoga practice. We might go to classes to manage stress or injuries; we might go to get fit and stay in shape but all the practices are designed to move us towards this state of one-ness. The premise is that all things are one. Not just one as in: all people are one human family, not one as in all families near me make up my local community. No, the suggestion is that all are One – all are somehow the same thing. For instance, each of us is all of our loved ones, and all of the people we don’t like, at the same time. So how does that work?


There are lots of different ways of creating some kind of explanation. Here’s some personal reflections to give you some food for thought.

Breath of life

Have you ever looked into the sky, or over some beautiful natural scene, and just felt a sense of awe at the vastness of the scene? Imagine that this vastness had a personality. The suggestion is that it is alive in some way. 


In discussing it as “alive”, we would say it’s more like our notion of a female than it is a male. This is because, when it comes into contact with earth, water, sunlight and air, it grows into the plants, trees, animals and people we see. Into everything that is here in fact. You and me included…our bones, skin, organs, every cell in our bodies, our minds and every thought that arises from our minds, every emotion we might ever feel is Her blossoming in this moment. 

The science?

“…I think we need to zoom out. In doing so, we may see that everything there is, including such seemingly fundamental things as space and time, fragment out of a unified whole. This might sound like philosophy or mysticism, but it is in fact a direct result of applying quantum mechanics to the entire cosmos. When you do that, you realise that the universe isn’t fundamentally made of separate parts at all, but is instead a single, quantum object.”

The above quote is taken from a recent New Scientist article. The article does a good job of explaining the complex physics that led Heinrich to the above statement. He goes on to claim that we are on the verge of a whole new approach to science – one which acknowledges a fundamental unity that links the smallest and the largest and everything in between. It remains to be seen , but it’s interesting that science is now beginning to speculate about concepts put forward by Yogis a very long time ago.

Do it for the sake of doing it

Weird, huh? Why would “She” do that? Again I just offer a thought here as I don’t have any answers. Maybe She does this so that she can experience. Remember She – so the thinking goes – is eternal, omnipotent. There is nothing outside or beyond Her…and so there is no scope for experience. By living as all of us, as all of this, as every corner of the universe, she can experience herself in infinitely many ways.


The problem with the human condition – in this way of thinking – is that we forget. We forget She is so much more than the ego She grew into us when She grew as us. We pretend we are not Her, that we are independent and separate, more important than the beings She has grown into on this planet. We act like we are not subject to natural laws. Heavens, we can’t even keep to human laws! Look at the hunger, pollution, inequality, corruption and general mess our societies are in (even the “advanced” ones…).

Light and dark

It’s important to remember that all this is Her as well. She is all of the brazen, boastful, disrespectful and selfish thoughts and actions, just as she is all of the caring, inclusive, generous, and loving ones. Why would she choose to experience herself in a negative and destructive way?


I really can’t speak for an all-powerful deity. The only thought I can offer is that perhaps She has grown this avidya (the forgetting of true nature as The One) to experience self-doubt. If that is true, then She is fearless. She will even enter the fantasy of her own non-existence by living as if separate and independent. That road leads to death of course – we can all see how desperate the polluted, ravaged, depleted modern world is – she will even experience death and in so doing, return to Herself. 


This is one of the things I really like about Yoga’s philosophy. All have eternal life already. Either we buy the story about being a separate thing and die – and return to the One. Or we realise in life our true identity as this Primordial One-ness – and return to the One. There is only life: death is an illusion, a dream in Her mind.


This is one way to cut it when you hear the expression: recognise the many on the One, and the One in the many.


The ideas expressed above are not given as a complete statement of any particular school of Yoga thought. In fact, the different schools have differing ideas about exactly what “one-ness” means. The above is a summary of the ideas that are closest to those I have been taught, and that resonate best with me personally.


My personification of the personality of the vastness as “She” is not meant to cause any offence. It’s based, again on teachings, and because somehow new life is born from bare rock here on earth – in much the same way that women are able to create new life within their bodies. In other earth species, it is almost always the female that brings forth the next generation. The parallel with bringing life to a cosmos that is otherwise full of burning stars surrounded by chunks of rock is probably obvious.


All of this is just food for thought. As always, never take anyone else’s word for “the truth”. Always check it out for yourself and draw your own conclusions. What do you think? Is all life on earth the result of a series of clumsy, remarkably unlikely accidents? Or is there something greater…and if there is, how can your life show it respect? 

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