We know from Patanjali the 8 limbs of yoga – yama, niyama, pranayam, asana, pratyahar, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. All are essential as we mature as yoga practitioners and meditators.
Yogi Bhajan often calls Kundalini Yoga the “yoga of awareness”. What does he mean by “awareness”. Awareness is applied attention and focussed concentration (dharana) during meditation or yoga practice, and in daily living. This could mean attention on the breath, attention on the tip of the tongue while chanting, attention at the third eye point, attention to some part of the body in a posture, attention to a devotional feeling, attention to mantra – both repeating it or listening to it, attention to whatever arises as we practice, attention to the moment. What awareness is not, is thinking.
It is helpful to me to observe myself while meditating or practicing yoga and to catch the activity of the mind, recognizing when it is leading my awareness astray to follow some thought process. I try to get better at bringing it back to focus on the object of meditation, whether it be mantra, breath, chakra, eye focus etc.
I happened upon this quote by Yogi Bhajan (Master’s Touch, p. 4) that sheds some light on what it means to concentrate and be aware: “Your infinity is you when you stop thinking. Have you stopped thinking? That’s the end of it. Awareness takes these things away from you: thinking, reason, logic, argument, fantasies, planning, scheming, knowing, and worrying. These nine things must go before you can say that you are on the path of awareness.” The other aspect that could be included is “memory”.
If we are engaged in these processes while meditating, it diverts us from “awareness” (dharana, dhyana – concentration and absorption). If we are engaged in these processes during our everyday living, then we can also cultivate awareness (openness to all that is happening in the present moment) as we use our thinking mind and ego to navigate our lives. The cultivation of consistent awareness leads us to the recognition that “we” are not our thoughts and helps us to drop identification with the egoic personality..