In essence, yoga is the practice of stilling the patterns of consciousness, fluctuations in the mind. Mental perceptions and associations have the power to color our experiences, distorting our understanding of self, other, and nature as a whole. Only by stilling the patterns of mind can one attain true freedom from the chaos and churning of consciousness and learn to interact with the world as it truly is. While it’s easy to say, it can be extraordinarily difficult to bring the mind to a standstill, especially when we live in a world of high activity and stimulation. Patanjali, writer of the Yoga Sutras, makes it clear that both sustained effort and nonreaction are essential pieces to this practice.
“At first the stilling process is accompanied by four kinds of cognition: analytical thinking, insight, bliss, and feeling like a self. Later, after one practices steadily to bring all thought to a standstill, these four kinds of cognition fall away, leaving only a store of latent impressions in the depth of memory” (The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali translated by Chip Hartranft). Once nonreaction has been mastered in regards to thought, the practice continues in the observation of subconscious memories as they rise from the pool of collective consciousness. By releasing any emotional charges connected to these latent impressions, lasting and sustainable change in our mental/emotional/physical patterns can be realized. These emotional charges, sparked into life by the sympathetic nervous system, can be released through bodywork, movement, meditation, mental reprogramming, detoxification methods, and even through dreams.
This is not to say that all your memories and emotions will disappear through the practice of yoga. In fact, you’re likely to remember and feel more as you start dipping into this normally unconscious layer of mind. You may encounter repressed memories from early childhood, or even from your ancestral line. Every memory, whether it be your own or from the species as a whole, is stored our DNA. The emotional and mental associations we have with these memories are what subconsciously drive many of our decisions and reactions to events in every day, waking life. This is what is meant by the playing out of karma. Reactions become more automatic and compulsory the more they are played out, which perpetuates the repetition of both harmful and beneficial patterns. By consciously re-experiencing emotionally charged latent impressions from the lens of nonreaction, the associations tethered to that memory will start to fade and the opportunity to consciously respond to events and stimuli in a new way is gained. As you start becoming aware of the programming and patterning of your subconscious memories and associations, you can come to understand how you became the person you are and find full freedom in the ability to rewire mental and emotional patterning.
Through faith, practice, mindfulness, integration, and wisdom, realization is near. Isvara, “an incorruptible form of pure awareness, utterly independent of cause and effect and lacking any store of latent impressions,” exists beyond karma, and is the ultimate goal of this practice. By sinking into this space of true mental stillness, beyond space and time, one can experience all things as they truly are and interact with life from a place of true free will.
Not sure how to start this process? Start by simply observing your mind, your thought patterns, your emotional triggers. Start to notice what patterns aren’t serving you and form new thoughts and intentions to cultivate the qualities of being you wish to embody. The easiest, and one of the most effective practices to start with is Yoga Nidra, meaning Yogic Sleep. In this practice, all you have to do is lie back and relax as a teacher guides you through each layer of consciousness to the point of pure stillness. From here, holding patterns will automatically start to fall away and new thought patterns can be establish in fresh, fertile soil.Try these Yoga Nidra recordings for free:
Personalized recordings are also available through Mahamuna to address specific mental and emotional issues.
Featured Image by Daniel Abbott, “A Moment of Clarity”
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