Breaking Negative cycles
The word Samskara comes from the Sanskrit words, "Sam "( whole or complete) and "Skara" (action, doing, root cause). In the Vedic tradition, Samskaras are mental impressions, recollections, or psychological imprints we carry within us. They are believed to be formed karmically, or through programming from others or ourselves. They are the roots of the philosophy behind Karma. Every action or intent of an individual creates a Samskara in that person's mind.
Samskaras are created by the senses ( feel, touch , taste , vision, smell) our perception of the world, our feelings and our "Chitta" ( mental self talk). Samskaras are stored in the brain's limbic system, where we hold memories. It is the vehicle for attaching an emotion to an experience that then creates a memory. We then act out this Samskaras when our subconscious memory is triggered. They manifest as habits, addictive behaviours, tendencies, karmic impulse, and become part of our innate disposition. They enforce our inner subconscious or unconscious drive or will power. We attach and associate these subliminal impressions with emotions that could then lead to suffering. An example of this is someone who lives in the past and "the good old days". This mental "modus operandi" program then causes a sense of loss and suffering for past experiences and doesn't allow space to enjoy the present moment.
All physical, verbal and mental actions create Samskara and influence Karma.
Negative Samskaras can manifest as addiction, unstable emotions, verbal abuse or lashing out when triggered, laziness or any form of harmful, indisciplined behaviour. In order to clear negative Samskaras and retain the purposeful ones, we must purify the mind. Yoga asana is used to clear and focus the mind prior to meditation. It cultivates Vidya (awareness) so we can identify these patterns. It is in mediative practices that we come to know the self without attachment. We discover our true nature and come into self realisation. We can then objectively, honestly observe the trigger to the patterns and choose to change how we react. How can we shift from negative thoughts and reaction to positive ones? According to the Hindu tradition, one of the best practices to help us detach and clear out negative habits is through TAPAS or purification through fire.
One of the Niyamas, Tapas, is an austere form of self discipline to cultivate transformation into a self rebirth into positive change. Tapas based asana practice can help shift a dull mind from a stuck pattern. It is believed that through practicing postures that fire up the Agni ( our physical and spiritual digestive fire located in the solar plexus), we can burn away the undigested thoughts, emotional pain and impressions that hold us back. Engaging the core or abdominal muscles for longer holds in postures like Phalakasana, Vasisthasana, Navasana and Bakasana are all a form of Tapas. Purifying and heating Kriyas like Kapalabhati, can also help de-carbonise the blood, detox the body and clear the mind. Mudras such as Kalesvara or mantras like Kali Mantra can help shift Samskaras. Tapas may also include self sacrifice, such as fasting, offering to do repeated Japa mantras or ultimately asceticism.
How can we begin to shift from negative thoughts and reactions to positive ones? Shani (slowing down) can be implemented by training the mind to slow down impulsive emotions. Taking a "breather" before we respond to stress or a trigger. Giving our mind a waiting period to catch up with highly charged emotions. We can then question if they are valid and if they serve, before we act. This prevents unwarranted, explosive conflicts. We can chose not to react explosively but act from a rational, calm state. This helps us to control and shift the Samskara we wish to change.
Positive or purposeful Samskaras can take the shape of healthy habits through Sankalpa.
Sankalpa is a positive intention made in unison between the heart and mind. In Sanskrit, "San" means "connection to the highest truth" and " Kalpa" means "vow". Sankalpa is a commitment to honour your highest truth. Sankalpa can be intuitive, such as an inner desire or calling, or it can be a goal fueled by a mission to embody and express our true nature. It helps create our Dharma, or purpose in life.
How can we get a clear picture of our Dharma? We can shift the focus away from harmful habits and replace them with constructive ones. We must be open to transmute new perceptions and abandon long engrained, toxic beliefs. One example may be to stop avoiding going to Yoga classes because you think you look fat in your Yoga pants! The Samskara of harsh self talk and self criticism can dissipate by just showing up! GO to the class, it's good for you, its healthy, it's positive. Ponder the question, how do I dissolve the Samskara of low self worth? Low self esteem is often rooted in fear. Where is the source of this fearfulness?
We have the right to choose how we live and we can alter the samskaras that may seemingly dictate that. We each have a purpose here on the planet. This is where "Abhaya" or fearlessness comes in. We need to release these patterns that we erroneously used to identify who we are. We have the option to live freely or fearfully. Most of the time we create our own superficial road blocks in an uncertain future. We orchestrate what we experience. We can choose old toxic patterns that hold us back or take positive actions to dive gracefully into the unknown.
Our perception creates our future. The fist step is changing the self talk by supporting your own well being. Go from self sabotage to radical self acceptance. When we accept who we are in each passing moment throughout life, we value it's impermanence and open up to experience true freedom.
I challenge you to create your own "Dinacharya" or a positive self care routine. All these transformations and new Samskaras can then inspire our Dharma.
Working through our Samskaras is a crucial step to personal evolution. This constant readjustment of the body and psyche connection helps to create a new and clear "Darshana" or vision for our life. The more we can support our dreams and goals through implementing positive actions, the closer we are to living in harmony with truth. That is the very goal of Yoga, union with truth. When we are free to wholeheartedly live our truth, we are boundless, blissful and balanced.
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