"Withdrawing the senses, mind, and consciousness from contact with external objects, and then drawing them inwards towards the seer, is pratyahara." (Yoga Sutras)
Better still, from Wikipedia:
"Pratyahara is the fifth element among the Eight stages of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga. At this stage, the consciousness of the individual is internalized in order that the sensations from the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell don't reach their respective centers in the brain. It is also termed as the 'withdrawal of the senses'. With this, the Sadhaka, or disciple, is free to meditate without distractions."
Given our fast paced, sensory overloaded lifestyles, this whole concept of pratyahara seems so unattainable. We never sit still long enough to just be. If we do sit still for a spell, we are still adding to our sensory input (excluding sleep) by way of conversation, reading, watching tv or whatever.
We all wail the same complaint that we never have time to sit and just be. Why is that?
Me? I am guilty as charged. I can't even get myself to practice daily meditation, so how can I ever expect to get to this stage? But, hope springs eternal. I figure if I at least put it on the horizon, somewhere along the line it will be a closer target.
I can't help but think how lovely it would be to be able to achieve such a state where the world's distractions do not exist; at least they are suspended somewhere in time like call waiting. Where I have the luxury to wander within my own mind and explore what is in it. On one hand, it sounds so grand and glorious.
On the other, it seems totally terrifying!