The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is a short but potent text that describes Yoga or union. It also contains dozens of formulas to get specific results, like knowing past lives, getting great strength, or flying through the air. You can go into any spiritual bookstore and find many translations of this text. There are also many yoga studios. And yet most have little clue of what the simple contents are describing.
This is because it’s experiential. It has to be taught properly so the experience can unfold.
Right off the top, the text defines Yoga.
Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind
Then the observer is established in the Self [in his own nature]
The text then talks about the nature of the mind and impediments to settling.
1v17 talks of the stages of this settling, known as samadhi:
Samadhi with an object of attention (samprajnatah samadhi) takes the form of gross mental activity, then subtle mental activity, bliss, and the state of amness.
We can also see these as transcending or stepping down the koshas into subtler and subtler layers of our being.
For a long time, people have been taught to use mental effort to control the mind and gain yoga. But this is doing it the hard way, partly because it’s using the mind to control the mind. Much more straightforward is an effortless meditation. This takes us directly through these stages and brings regular samadhi. Yoga becomes the habit of the mind.
Only when samadhi is an easy habit can samyama be performed. This is because samyama requires the ability to have an intention without disturbing the silence. That’s when the sutras begin to have real potency, when we can intend from silence without losing silence.
Samyama is defined at the beginning of Book 3 with three parts: Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Essentially flowing attention in silence into which you place an intention or focus. Samyama itself is composed of 2 root words: sama = evenness and yama = desire.
Based on regular samadhi, Transcendental Meditation began teaching this in the 1980’s as the TM-Sidhi program.
More recently, Lorne Hoff discovered that the clearly awake, who are in samadhi 24/7, can bring their attention to the exact point where liveliness first arises out of silence. Intending from the point of becoming is much more potent than simply intending in open awareness in general.
We can refer to the closing verses of the Rig Veda to understand:
Go together, speak together, know your minds to be functioning together from a common source, in the same manner as the devas [celestial beings], in the beginning, remain together united near the source.
When you intend from “near the source” you’re working more directly with the devas or laws of nature that make things happen. And indeed, the technique evokes the laws themselves rather than just “flavours.” Because we’re bringing cosmic awareness to the laws directly, we’re also waking them up and loosening them up in universal awareness.
3v5 Through mastery of samyama, the splendor [world] of complete wakefulness dawns.
Of course, such a process is superior if refinement is also well along so the fine details can be experienced directly.
This is really a much truer form of Samyama. Lorne and Lucia have begun to offer it in a retreat format.