Samadhi, the eighth limb of yoga, is defined at length in the first pada (chapter) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s. Most modern practitioners don’t acknowledge this part of yoga and see it as a something one achieves after many years of austere practice whilst sitting in a cave. But Patanjali gives many scenarios for achieving this state in the “or” verses I.33-I.39.
He first outlines achieving this state of mind by intense mediation with the goal of purging all thoughts. For me this is impossible as I suspect it is for most. This is the way of the renunciate.
But then he gives options. You can achieve Samadhi by chanting “OM.” You can achieve Samadhi by being friendly and compassionate. You can achieve Samadhi by doing pranayama. You can achieve Samadhi by looking at pictures of enlightened sages.. The list is vast and I recommend you read it.
Here is an example:
I.35 viṣayavatī vā pravṛttir utpannā manasaḥ sthiti-nibandhanī
Or else, focus on a sense object arises, and this causes steadiness of the mind.
I was teaching a class this week and a student revealed after class that she received bad family news. She said the class made her focus on straightening her leg, exhaling during twists, and externally rotating her arms. She said this was the first time her mind was able to “rest” in the gravity of the bad news. In light of the bad news, she probably did not reach Samadhi, but I have had many classes where my troubles became much less intense during the focus of the session.
Today I was working in my garden. I saw tender new buds. I was in a state of calm ecstasy which I have not experienced in a long time. Was this Samadhi? I cooked dinner for my wife and mother in law. The dinner turned out perfectly. Everyone enjoyed it. Was this Samadhi?
I have an inkling that Samadhi hits us when we are not trying to achieve Samadhi. If you are in your natural state doing your dharma without any expectation, I think you are ripe for the experience.
The interesting thing about the eight limbs is that most involve “doing” something. But Samadhi is something that is done to you.
So please don’t write it off if you don’t understand it or think it is way out there. Like fertile soil, once the conditions are correct within your mind, the seeds of Samadhi can easily take root.