Yoga Sutra 1.4 reminds me of the chocolate lover’s dilemma. Sometimes chocolate lovers love chocolate so much they want to be the chocolate. Or, we eat so much chocolate our bodies begins to feel full and sticky to the point we don’t even feel like ourselves anymore.
The traditional translation of Yoga Sutra 1.4 is ~The Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, taking on the identity of those thought patterns. What this says to me, using the metaphor of our thoughts being like chocolate, is sometimes we begin to identify so closely with our thoughts that we become our ‘colored’ thoughts. And, we begin to believe we are our thoughts.
STOP! We are NOT our thoughts anymore than we are the chocolate we eat or think about!
Think of consciousness as formless melted chocolate. The ingredients are memories, beliefs, traumas, dramas and all our past stories of what we think has happened — they whirl around like hot batter. The yogic words for this is ‘vrittis’. There are times the batter spatters on us in the form of red hot painful memories or emotional triggers. Yet, though painful, we begin to get addicted to our own bitter-sweet thoughts, which keep us stuck in a binge-like cycle.
The three mindfulness practices of single-pointed concentration, non-attachment, and conscious choice begin the process ‘uncoloring’ negative or not-so-useful thoughts, allowing the klishta vrittis (colored thought patterns) to change into aklishta vrittis (uncolored thought patterns). The result is liken to a spiritual detox. Under the layers of false identities you find your true self.
An outrageous declaration might be: I am NOT my chocolate-like thoughts! When I am true to me, I see my sweet soul!
The first few Yoga Sutras teach us the importance of becoming more consciously observant, do a better job of discriminating, and to repeatedly commit to the basics expressed in the acronym PRAY:
- PAUSE in contemplation and commune with the Divine.
- REFLECT on your thoughts, noticing them without judgment. Notice the books you are reading, the teachers you are studying with, the music you are listening to, and the conversations you are having with your family and friends. Mindfully choose what is serving you and your spiritual growth and what is not.
- ASK that your ‘colored thoughts’ become uncolored and clear. Request and seek clarity of thought and purpose.
- YOKE with the Divine on all levels.
The yogic masters speak of five sheaths, layers or koshas, from with we can connect to the Divine. One of the koshas is physical body, the annamaya kosha, often referred to as the ‘food sheath’ because the very food we eat effects it.
(As for me, from this day forward I will think of the annamaya kosha as a body covered in chocolate. Ha!)
Our thoughts crystalize into sticky addictive formations that, in yogic terms, are known as samskarasor latent imprints — deep grooves or mold-like structures in our mind. It is our samskaras that manifest into habits of acting and thinking. Sometimes the molds, or pathways in our mind, keep us on track, while more often than not, these unconscious structures keep us stuck in a dysfunctional rut.
These date-expired thought-molds present themselves when we face familiar situations, conversations or experiences similar to those we have had in the past. It’s why we jump to conclusions and react, rather than respond to what is happening in the moment. The result is we end up forgetting our true essence — before we were formed, molded and hardened. These negative, self-lacerating mental patterns are the underpinnings of low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships, as well as a huge hinderance to our positive evolution.
Samskaras are not always negative. We can form positive, sweet mental ways of thinking and behaving as well. Mindfully take note of a positive experiences such as eating an size-appropriate serving of chocolate, or the feeling of gifting someone a decadent molten delight . . . if that is their ‘language of love’. We can create positive samskaras by consciously programming, and registering, the mindsets we want to encode into the many layers of our being.
Recipe for uncoloring your chocolate-like thoughts:
- 1 heaping cup of Intention ~ Changing samskaras is not an accidental process — it must be intentional. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, created the termed ‘call to awakening’. A sacred sankalpa, a committed personal pledge, unites our mind with those deeper parts of ourselves that can be hard to access or has gotten addicted to a sugary-unhealthy mold of thinking. Starting with aroux intention, a new mental delight can be created.
- A pinch of Shani ~ Shani is a yogic discipline of slowing down our breath, then our mind. The deeper and longer our prayers or meditations are the more we are able to slow our thoughts and reset oursamskaras from the past.
- A boat load of Vidya ~ Our prayer must be for vidya or the awareness to see clearly. Vidya helps us recognize our thoughts, behaviors, and movements as samskaras. Once we intentionally seek clarity we can go from “Why is this happening to me?” to asking “What does this pattern or experience have to tell me?”
- Sprinkle with Abhaya sauce ~ Abhaya is Sanskrit for fearlessness. You know the old adage: “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t!” When it comes to our samskaras we tend to prefer the familiar to the unknown. There is an alluring property to samskaras. We can get mesmerizes by our repetitions life patterns, and experience a food-like comas, concealing the fears, needs, and beliefs that lie beneath due to the protective ego we all have. We must be fearless as we choose to change our mental addictions. Abhaya helps us face the unknown with commitment and inner confidence.
A charming book, written by a group of kindergartners from Cheltenham Elementary, is entitled “We Are All Alike – We Are All Different”. Through not specifically a yogic philosophy text, it could be. The verbiage goes like this: “We are all alike; we all have hearts and brains. We are all different; we do not think or feel the same.”
As we seek to understand the yoga sutras, and translate them as we understand them, our combined mantra may be something like: “We are all alike; we all have hearts and brains. We are all different; we do not see things the same. Some of us are milky, others dark, semi-sweet, or even a bit couverture, meaning rich butter and boldness! One thing is for sure — when you melt us down we are all the same inside.”
Day 4 Invitation ~Pray for a boat load of Vidya and the discovery of your own brand of Abhaya sauce.
Blessings ~ KC Miller #Seeker