Ancient records indicate during the year of 350CE the Yoga Sutraswere written. These writings were created by Patanjali as a guide through the practical arts and process of understanding our own realities. Su being defined as ‘to thread’ and tra ‘to transcend.’ The Sutras provide an opportunity to discover how we can free ourselves from the constraints we place upon our lives. These habits or patterns we’ve formed often keep us from living our lives fully, in Sanskrit they are known as samskaras.
Samskara saksat karanat purvajati jnanam
This Sutra is one of the rare ones, in 195 sutras, to address a teaching through looking at the past. One translation of it reads: “Through sustained focus and meditation on our patterns, habits and conditioning we gain knowledge and understanding of our past and of how we can change the patterns that aren’t serving us to live more freely and fully.”
Often when I find myself stuck it is usually a samskara rising up to challenge me. I have fallen deeply into its groove. I can visually see a mini version of myself stuck in a trench-sized groove on a big vinyl record spinning around and around – doing the same stupid think over and over. Once I’ve recognized I am stuck in a pattern, eventually I can no longer to stay in it, and then commit myself to using this habit as a point of focus to grow. Samyaya is the name given to this practice of mental refinement. I try to be gentle and curious with myself as I go through this procedure. It often leads me to greater clarity. My labors are consistently rewarded by a reduction in my daily agitations and a deeper sense of satisfaction with my life.
Consider a relationship that challenges you. We tend to fall into patterns of interacting with individuals, especially close relations – partners, family, children, and parents. Each time we encounter this person(s) we are at choice on how we will relate to them. We may forget this power we possess and unconsciously fall into the same old discourse arrangement silently contracted over time with the person. I have several people in my life with which I desire a deeper relationship; and still somehow we are stuck. I realize if I keep being unwilling to step into parts of their world, that I may not like, I am being unwilling. I am not saying I have to like it, but a willingness to ask, support in some way, or acknowledge it to them won’t kill me. And my doing so can mean a lot to them. Worse yet is when I unconsciously and solely blame them for something I could also be contributing to the demise of. I wrote a bit about a lifelong pattern I had akin to this with my father in my memoir, Inspired to Live. He and I have taken turns shunning the other due to our judgments of each other. Somewhere along the way we both stopped the insanity of holding onto the past. We each realized our part and stepped up to be different. I know for me this was a long process, almost a decade, of reflecting on my own attitudes and actions towards him. Now I am deeply grateful I did the work of svadhyaya (reflection) so I don’t miss out on having my father in my life now.
As we move into 2012 I wish for you the willingness to gain a greater understanding of your samskaras. May this inner dialogue bless you with purvajati jnanam, the recognition of your historical choices. May you resolve to evolve, and your svadhyaya of these conditionings lead you to live more freely and fully from the deepest part of your heart where your wishes and dreams reside.