Yoga Sutra 1.4
vritti sarupyam itaratra
At other times (the Self appears to) assume the forms of mental modifications.
The Ego vs. The Self
As we struggle to find the authentic self we can see glimpses. Most of us do not live fully in the truth of that self. Why? Partly because our society encourages the individual. However, individuality does not lead to liberation or self-realization. It only leads to separation and labeling. Both slyly distorting the reality that we are all essentially the same. The ego is “I”. We are all pure consciousness. The differences are only external, we only appear to be separate because of modifications in the mind a.k.a. the broken and dirty mirror.
Ashram Life, Easy?
Some say the sannyasins (ones that have chosen to live spiritually dedicated lives) living in the ashrams (spiritual centers & homes of yoga masters) have it easier because they don’t have family to care for on a day to day basis on top of their daily physical work and their Sadhana (spiritual work and study). Life is easier in the ashram in that there is no temptation, you are stripped of anything that could hinder you form the spiritual path. But don’t pack your bags just yet! You do work from sun up to sun down and without all those distractions your only left with the self, and cleaning the mirror is not an easy process!
Who am I?
The most important thing is to not lose who we really are. Many of us have suffered abuse, neglect, or trauma in our lives. These negative experiences leave impressions in the mind (vrittis). Overtime we identify with these vrittis; they begin to determine ‘who we think we are’. Thoughts such as “I am happy.” “I am sad.” “I am damaged.” Even “I am a survivor,” are all misidentifications. The true self does not identify with ‘I’ and is not recognized when the mind can’t get past the ego. Remember the self is not past memories, attachments, aversions, (likes or dislikes), that is the all ego!
Did Someone Say Chocolate?
The chocolate comparison for this sutra:
Take formless melted chocolate, a candy mold with diverse sections, pour in the chocolate and let it cool and you have many different chocolate candy pieces. But, even though it seems that we have many very diverse individual pieces of chocolate, really it remains that it is only the same chocolate we began with.
Now, the yoga scenario:
Consciousness is like formless melted chocolate, memories and beliefs are the candy mold, consciousness wraps around these memories and beliefs, we begin to mistake these individual thoughts and ideas for “who we are”. So, when we see clearly, or whenwe resonate with the true self, we rest in pure consciousness. Without clarity, we misidentify with the vrittis (our role in life, our job, our abuse, our beliefs, etc.) and we end up forgetting who we really are.
The Horse Race
Living in the world and sticking with a consistent yoga practice is one of the most difficult things to do. And that is the position most of us have! In the world we have children, extended family, jobs, and other responsibilities; then on top of all that our Sadhana. The world has many temptations and since many of us were not born into yoga there is a lot of renouncing and purging to get where we are now. However, renouncing every worldly desire may not be realistic; it’s necessary at times to make mistakes and it’s natural that we struggle. Forgive yourself, evaluate the lesson, and move on. I heard once: be like a horse in a race, keep your blinders on, and keep your eyes on the prize…. the light, the end goal of enlightenment.
Unfortunately, many of our friends and family are not seasoned yogis and probably don’t quite understand the path we’ve chosen. We try to balance our new life and our old, struggling to find support and consistency. The best thing is to seek out the same, put yourself out there and make new friends that are on the path. Not to say that you let go of all the old, but begin spending time with like-minded individuals, they are the ones that are going to encourage you when you feel all hope is lost. Join in a group, a class, or seek yoga counsel from a trusted source. Yogis love to talk about all things yoga!
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