Use this guided meditation to draw the senses closer to connect with the body in the present moment.
Pratyahara is a word that’s often translated to mean “withdrawing the senses.” I like to think of it instead as a way to draw the senses closer, to work with what's already happening in order to connect with the body in the present moment. Pratyahara meditation reframes distraction as a tool for meditation rather than an impediment, so it can be done even in loud, chaotic places like the park, your office, or on the bus—as long as it's safe to be still and close your eyes. Traditionally, it is used as a preparation for deeper meditations, but I find it's very effective on its own.
Pratyahara is especially useful for moments of high anxiety, stress, or distraction because it uses what's already happening around the meditator rather than trying to force attention away. Pratyahara practices can teach us that, while we can’t always control the distractions around us, we do have some control over our attention and our awareness. For this reason, this may be a useful form of meditation for some people with attention disorders like ADD or ADHD.
Remember that the key isn’t to block out the sounds around you, but to use them to return, again and again, to the body in the present. Your attention will get pulled away from time to time—that’s okay and totally normal. Just keep listening for the sounds around you and let them help you return to the body.