Most people are familiar with the asanas (postures) and even the pranyama (breathwork) but I suspect many would think the dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) are much the same, perhaps confuse them as to some degree is almost seems like splitting hairs. Judith Hanson Lasater does a good job at showing how one flows into the other, which then leads to samadhi (union). It also explains why samadhi is going to take me a while to reach. The ability to sit still and keep one's mind on a single thing is dharana; when that becomes continuous and uninterrupted one has moved to dhyana. Lasater states that meditation is not about "going somewhere else" with the mind but rather being here and now, fully. "Only in this state of raw presence can we experience samadhi, the Self realization that is the ultimate goal in yoga." Good thing to remember when after months of effort my diaphragm continues to spasm at the mere suggestion of a shoulder stand.
In looking at niyamas (observances) there were two of the five that stood out in meaning for me. The second niyama is santosha (contentment). The author suggests that it might seem odd to practice contentment but it makes sense to me; contentment doesn't just arise when conditions are right, contentment is about the willingness to be at peace with whatever is, even if one is not actually content in the moment. This feels like something I have been practicing for a long time, but especially in recent months where little about my next step is known to me, where I am working on being happier inside myself it has taken some leaps of faith to be at ease. The last one is svadhyaya (self study) which involves looking at "our attachment to and belief in our own thoughts so that we can understand how they keep us from the deepest connection with our true Self". Certainly I have been looking at my attachments to negative thoughts which in turn affect (or is that effect, I can never keep those two straight!) all my thoughts and behaviors. The niyama that I need to devote more attention and effort to is tapas (discipline). No surprise to anyone who knows me at all. The remaining two are saucha (purity) and Ishvara pranidhana (devotion). All of them deserve my time and focus.
Balance is so important. This summer at NCDC, there was a wall hanging of Buddhist imagery that I was not familiar with, but there was a note stating it was Yab-Yum. Never running across this one I of course went online to search and found this on Wikipedia. The notions of balancing duality spoke to me, seemed to repeat my thoughts of paying attention of all my desires, all my strengths and limitations, and honoring different sides of my sexuality, my role in partnership with someone.
The symbolism of union and sexual polarity is a central teaching Tantric Buddhism, especially in Tibet. The union is realised by the practitioner as a mystical experience within one's own body.I purchased the wall hanging, though I have not hung it anywhere, as a reminder of my goals, my work. Soon, it will hang somewhere, somewhere I can view it, meditate on it's meaning, on the images letting myself enter dharana, perhaps moving into dhyana and maybe one day I will glimpse samadhi.