The 6th limb of yoga is dharana,which means “holding the mind steady”. This practice involves training the mind to remain fixed on an object of concentration, such as the breath, sounds, body sensations, a mantra, deity, or idea.
Cultivating single pointed concentration prepares the mind for the meditative absorption needed to attain enlightenment. Called shamatha in the Buddhist tradition, dharana channels the energies of the mind away from distractions, providing a firm foundation from which reality can be experienced.
When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a candle in a windless place – Bhagavad Gita
Dharana tends to be intentional, effortful and vigilant. The mind wanders and we bring it back again and again to the intended focus of attention. With the many stimulating distractions of the modern world that pull at us from every direction, our attention steering muscles have become atrophied. It takes time, patience, and repetition to strengthen these muscles and regain control. With practice, a firmness and steadfastness of concentration is attained. When longer periods of undistracted focus come more easily, we are ready to move into the next limb of yoga, dhyana.
From practice wisdom springs,
lacking effort wisdom wanes:
having known this two-fold path
either to progress or decline
so should one exhort oneself
that wisdom may increase.
– Dhammapada, verse 282