The Path to Liberation (continued)Dharana is concentration. It is the last of the limbs that can be actively practiced. Once you have made your body supple and healthy you can begin to sit for extended periods of time. When you are sitting for extended periods of time, if you are ethically sound and personally disciplined, then you will be less distracted by personal and societal ramifications of your actions (guilt, hunger, the police hauling you off to jail for stealing, envy of another person, dissatisfaction with your job, these sorts of things). Without all those mental distractions you can start to calm the mind and withdraw your awareness from the physical space outside your body to the physical space inside your body and also to the metaphorical space within your self. Then you can concentrate on this physical and metaphorical space enabling you to contemplate its depth and subtlety.
This step is what is commonly referred to as meditation. In fact it is not actual meditation, but rather meditation practice. You are concentrating on a single point as a practice at making the body ready for the next step, Dhyana or Meditation. It is impossible for all but the enlightened to sit down and say I am going to Meditate in the proper sense of the word. Dhyana is a state that happens spontaneously when a person who is observing becomes completely involved with that which he or she observes. Have you ever looked at a piece of art or read a book or watched a movie and completely forgotten yourself? That would be a lesser version of this phenomenon.