The seventh limb of yoga, dhyana means the development of witnessing awareness. It can refer to a form of meditation or to perfect contemplation. Dhyana can be defined as the practice of mind control by which you stop all thinking and seek to realize Truth in its essence. If you master dhyana, you never lose sight of your deepest self, instead you master the aspect of yourself that is witnessing these changes.
The most efficient way to cultivate dhyana is through meditation. It is good to note that it is normal and acceptable to have thoughts during meditation. When you get more experience with meditation, you learn to observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations and the sounds of your environment without attachment, judgment, chasing or analyzing. You simply notice your thoughts or feelings, acknowledge them, and let them pass. Like the clouds in the sky; they come and go. If you further develop and maintain your meditation practice, you learn to define these skills and bring it into your everyday life. The calm achieved in meditation infects all areas of your life with positive energy.
In terms of development of witnessing awareness, I found it really supportive to go on a silent retreat. Our thoughts are usually directed outwards and much less frequently inwards, since we are constantly concerned with the external world. During a silent retreat you will find opportunities to guide your mind inward and reconnect with your inner peace. I experienced the first few days of the retreat as quite awkward, since I was surrounded by other people, but not interacting with them. It almost felt a bit rude and selfish. But before I knew, I got used to spending so much time with myself. I practiced a lot of different forms of meditation which brought me back to my truth self or inner voice. My goals in life appeared frank and clear, so that I could not ignore them in anyway. In this state of being, I felt grounded and as a consequence I became more equipped to deal with life’s challenges.
Meditation has taught me to make better choices and take more appropriate actions. Consequently, the chances that my intentions will be fulfilled are maximized. On top of that, meditation helps you free yourself from your past and allows you to be in the present. You learn to let the past go and be more fully engaged in the present with the result of being more aware, more empathic, more compassionate, more mindful and more connected. How many more benefits do you need to be convinced of the effects and advantages of dhyana?