The New Year is often a time to reflect on where we have been and where we want to be. It is always interesting to look at this spiritual journey that we create and to notice where we are in this moment and our intention on this path.
In this reflection, and in preparing for some of my courses for the year, I am constantly amazed and inspired by how much we can learn through this path of Yoga. I am particularly fascinated right now with the idea of Samskara. Samskara, or subliminal impressions, or habits are latent tendencies of thought that often underlie our actions in the world. These habits of thought often lead to action even before we realize what is happening. We can often trace our actions back to a thought which can be traced back to a belief about ourselves and ultimately to a habit of ways and conditioning around how we feel about our place and existence in the world.
So much of what we create in our world is a result of these habits or Samskaras. Our beliefs and conditioning are powerful influences to how we think, live, interact, connect within and connect with others. As we develop a sense of who we are in the world we begin to live our whole life within a fortress of validation of that belief. We begin to only let in experiences that support that view of who we are and push away anything that threatens it. Over time this creates greater and greater distortion until it becomes more difficult to connect with the spaciousness and bliss of our being within and even more so the space of connection within all beings.
In both the Sankhya Karika and the Yoga sutras we learn that our experience of the world is here to teach us and show us the difference between material nature and Self. Each experience in life has the capacity to help us dive deep into connection with the essence of who we are as well as the connection between all of us. Each thought that arises or action that occurs can be seen in this light of awareness to show us the difference between nature and Self, to show us and connect us to the essence of our being.
The Sankhya karika has two metaphors that really embody this capacity to see nature and spirit and to see our samskaras. One is that nature is like a dancer that when seen by the spectator, or spirit, ceases to dance. There is nothing left to be seen or known. When we see our actions and thoughts simply as these impressions or play of nature, we can become free of the attachment and expectations created around them and we can come back to the essence of who we really are underneath these patterns. In our everyday awareness as Nature dances, as thoughts arise, we often run to them and act from them before we realize it. This action can often create separation as we become so busy acting on these impulses we forget to sit back and feel whether these actions and thoughts are creations of nature or experiences that connect us and show us the truth of being within. When we build discernment we can allow these impulses and samskaras of thoughts and actions to rise up, to move through our awareness unencumbered and through the differentiation between truth of Self and Nature, we experience freedom, peace and connection as we allow ourselves to move from the space of Self instead of the pullings of Nature.
The second metaphor that the Sankhya Karika likens the realization of the difference between nature and Self to is that of a potters wheel that will continue to revolve after the potter ceases their effort. Once we are situated in the Self, our samskaras or habits of thoughts, sensations, emotions and pull to action will continue to rise up and move about in our awareness but we are no longer pulled by them. The knowledge and connection to the Self as distinct from Nature allow us to change our relationship to these samskaras. It is a powerful experience to sit back and to watch and feel Nature moving around the essence of who you are without following these impulses. It is powerful to allow every thought that is followed to be the one you choose, to be the ones that lead you to connection within and connection within all.
As it says in the Yoga Sutras: “YS: 4.4-6: individual thoughts are constructed from a measure of egoism. A single thought produces the diverse activities of many thoughts. A thought born of meditation leaves no trace of subliminal intention”
The thoughts and actions that arise from meditation, from the knowledge and light of our essence of being, leave no samskara. This way of being in the world is built on deepening the awareness of truth, light, love, compassion, connection within all beings.
As we practice yoga we strengthen our connection to the truth and light that is within. This connection to the essence of the Self, as the same self in all, creates greater intimacy and compassion in our relationships and interactions with ourselves and others. As this connection to inner truth builds, we learn to interact with our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and others in a way to cultivate greater love and connection and to let go of the constructs that create dis-harmony and separation.
– Marlysa Sullivan