Week 8: Gaining Control Of The Mind Through Practice And Non-Attachment (Sutra 12)

“[M]ental modifications (vrittis/distortions) are restrained by practice and non-attachment.”

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Sutra (Thread) or Lesson 12: Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah

Abyasa: practice | Vairagya: non-attachment (abhyam: by both) | Tad (tan): they | Nirodhah: restrained

The two key things that are required in order to gain control of our mind, and achieve results on our Eightfold Path, are practice and non-attachment.

Everyday, we must make it our goal to practice our Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayamas, Pratyaharas, Dharanas, and Dhyanas as we strive to reach Samadhi. And everyday, as we practice, we may experience slip ups as we work towards perfection.

It is, therefore, vital that we not only make it our habit to continue to practice each day in order to move forward with consistent effort toward our goal of self-mastery, but that we also make it our goal to remain unattached to any outcome of our practice within any given day or moment in time as well.

When analyzing one’s mindscape, it is sometimes challenging to remain in a non-attached state that prevents emotional involvement with past internal and external experiences, especially if one has a history of trauma.

As you practice walking down your Eightfold Path each day, you are prone to not only create attachments to illusions through memory, but you are also prone to judging yourself due to these attachments to a sense of identity around a story about how things should or could be (based on your culture, desires, etc), or on how things were (based on your history and/or past experiences).

Working to remove these Smrtayahs (smrtis/memories) through non-attachment and non-judgment/non-violence through neutral observation, can, therefore, be a very important part of your Yama and Niyama (lived values) practice. And acceptance of things as they are/were helps you to stay present moment in order to do this, and to also become more available for higher expressions/experiences.

Your mind, however, likes to stay attached to the past for the “safety” of familiarity that comes from an ego-identity and sense of historical context, so, at any given time, you may need to work through the memories that get stored in your mind as well as your body in order to make progress on your path (especially when working in the areas of your body that are deeply connected to your brain/nervous system, like your gut and spine–but also in every single cell within your body as well through your breath and blood since they are all connected and communicating with your brain through your electromagnetic, hormonal, and circulatory systems).

Objects, words, smells, feelings, phrases, sayings, and just about anything that you can imagine as existing in the sensory world, all have associations with past smrtis (memory) and have a way of pulling our minds and bodies out of wakeful present moment awareness into egoic reactive states based on psychological and emotional wounds, desires, social pressures, and so forth. Although it is difficult to remain unattached to our stories, identities, form, creations, and sense of self, etc, remaining attached to these illusions through our memory of false senses of self (built with the bricks of the four others types of vrittis discussed last week) causes us to experience and create further suffering as we miss out on the experience of being, and being in, our ever-present higher Self and self-expression.

So, even if one has not experienced intense trauma during their lifetime, the experience of simply living life and suffering in one’s own unique way, and through one’s vritiis, creates “trauma” in one’s mind that has strong attachment force through memory in more ways than one. These small “traumas” come in the form of everything from minor losses and gains, to the discomfort or pleasure of mood and physiological variations throughout time. The resulting accumulated stress from the karma of these attachments (the act of energizing or reenergizing past disturbances through any number of vrittis or just through memory) are first felt through bodily tensions. Over time, the act of living everyday life attached to past lived and historical experience in the forms mental and physical muscle memories, therefore, creates manifestations that need to be worked out with our Asanas/body-work and Pranayamas/breath-work (limbs 3 and 4 of our Eightfold Path) as well as with our social (limbs 1 and 2), and mind-work (limbs 4-7).

The traumas that we carry from the context of our existence as homo sapiens in the world, the context of our existence throughout history and societies (stored in the form of our DNA), and from living our personal journey in our lifetime, all get stored within our minds and bodies and can cause not only attachments to our past, but also to the expectations and desires of a future that are bound to these past experiences as well, leaving us with less “room” within ourselves to fully experience our present moments. When we get attached in these ways through memory and fail to live out our existence in the moment, our memories of our past then begin to color our present-day experiences through our distorted thoughts, words, and actions. This is a big waste of energy that could be better spent on our Pratyaharas (control of our desires and senses), Dharanas (concentration/devotion), and Dhyanas (meditations) in order to reach Samadhi and gain freedom from suffering through our connection with our highest expression.

This week, your assignment is to gather up some old memories that you wish to release attachments to in your mind and body. After writing these down in your journal, picture these vrittis gathering in a canoe designed to fit them all.

Each day, sift through your mind, deciding which vrittis to let go of (remembering that the canoe can fit them all), and then, at the end of your week, let the canoe, with all of your chosen vrittis flow peacefully away from you on a long cleansing river of light.

Ask yourself: How does it feel to let these distortions and attachments go? What does it mean to free up space within myself to invite my higher expression into my full being and lived experience?

Suggested Reading

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