Last week I had lunch with my recently retired Aunt. We were catching up and talking about my daughter starting Middle School. My Aunt began to recount her (not so fond) memories of her own Middle School experience; a time of social awkwardness and angst that many of us experienced. We then went on to discuss what she was up to; she was starting classes at a community college and she was having trouble connecting with the other students…many of whom are around her age and life stage. She mentioned feeling anxious and socially awkward and we joked about the parallels to Middle School. She then told me, she wasn’t giving up. She was going to work through this to create the life she wanted, even at 76.
The conversation inspired me to think about Samskaras (habitual thoughts) and the process of self-awareness as the first step towards changing negative patterns that can occur. The inspiration was this: Our journey is ongoing and with self-awareness, positive change can always happen.
Our past thoughts and actions leave impressions (Samskaras—habits) stored in our subconscious memory. They are like grooves or ruts in our unconscious mind, which manifest as our mental habits and tendencies. They can be both positive and negative. In fact, we all have supportive habits that we perform. Yoga teaches that our past actions and thoughts have created the template out of which we have the opportunity to grow and evolve, right here…right now.
As we began practice, I asked my students to be observers on their mats; to begin to create awareness around their personal Samskaras both on their mat and off. As we flowed through a challenging practice there were many poses that were the same as a typical practice but we transitioned into them in different ways–to explore breaking from our habits, to be true observers of the mind and the body.
Just as on the mat we can create repetitive stress injuries from bad habits in our bodies, off the mat we can repeat cycles of thoughts and actions that sometimes do not help us on our path. The first step is awareness, and from there comes change. This concept of repetitive thoughts and actions setting up patterns ties in to several principles of Karma. As we continued our Asana practice, I shared three of those principles.
Principle 4: The Sacred Principle of Growth: Wherever you go, there you are. For us to grow in spirit, it is we who must change and not the people, places, or things around us. The only given we have in our lives is ourselves. That is the only factor we have control over. When we change who and what we are within our heart, our life changes too.
Principle 9: The Sacred Principle of Here and Now: Looking back to examine what was, prevents us from being totally in the Here and Now. Old thoughts, old patterns of behavior, old dreams….prevent us from having new ones
Principle 10: The Sacred Principle of Change: History repeats itself until we learn the lessons that we need to change our path.
As practice began to slow and the students prepared themselves for their final rest I asked them once again to observe any habitual thoughts in Savasana; to continue the awareness. I also asked them to connect to the sacred principles of Karma and to use them to continue on the path of awareness and change. I reminded them that what we need to alter our journey lives inside us. And as I watched them surrender into stillness, I was again inspired by my Aunt and her journey. It was a reminder that with the Continual Process of Self-Awareness, Amazing Change can Happen. Namaste.