The Yoga Sutra are one of the most studied texts in yoga. Reverend Jaganath Carrera describes the yoga sutra as:
“the science of joy and a blueprint for living a deeply satisfying life. It is a timeless spiritual classic whose appeal is founded on a profound and unerring understanding of the human condition. Not simply a philosophy it presents a holistic system of practices that provide clear progressive steps towards the elimination of suffering and attainment of spiritual liberation. These teachings reach beyond age, occupation, gender and faith tradition. They touch the heart of the struggle to find peace amidst a world of uncertainties and challenge. They boldly proclaim that the joy we seek is within us, as none other than our true identity.”
Nirodha is the “cessation” of the “Vritti”. Vritti are the natural way your thoughts swirl looking around for connections so that your mind can process your environment. Nirodha is not cessation in a forced way, not a mechanical process of forcing an empty mind. It is a process of redirecting and holding attention on one object or idea. This naturally restricts the usual routine of the thoughts and frees the mind of habitual patterns of perception. With practice these thoughts that obscure our true self are quieted, or begin to bother us less.
“In the context of the Yoga Sutras, nirodha is best understood as a multifaceted approach to mental mastery, capable of transforming self-identity. It requires the cultivation of discipline, the redirection of attention, the attainment of discriminative discernment, the development of non-attachment, and is supported by clear moral and ethical principals.”
With consistent practice we can lessen the influence of subconscious impressions on behavior and perception. Reducing limitations on the direct knowledge of our true self and the calm we seek.
“Imagine that you have never seen your own face. You’ve heard that it is beautiful, and now you’ve developed a longing to see it for yourself. But you cannot see your face because it is the face that does the seeing. If you want to see your face, a mirror is needed to reflect the image back to you.
But to see yourself as you truly are, the mirror needs to be free of distortion and dirt. If you look at your reflection in a cracked, warped, or unclean mirror, you won’t see your face as it is, you’ll see a distorted image. Perceiving that you are deformed, you become disheartened. It should be obvious that you are fine and that the distorted image is dues to a deformed mirror, but you persist in identifying with the reflected image.
Enter Sri Patanjali. He knows that your misery is caused by confusing the reflected image with the Self and begins gently to guide you out of ignorance. He doesn’t spend much time talking about the nature of your face but instead suggests practices for gently but surely cleaning and straightening the mirror. As you persevere, the changes in the mirror cause the reflected image to change. Little by little a divine image emerges. When the mirror becomes perfectly straight, your face is revealed to you as it has always been.
The mind is the mirror in which we perceive ourselves. It is distorted by virtti, we often see ourselves as limited, frail beings, not one with the Self. We are fooled by the reflection in the mind-mirror again and again, missing the truth of who we really are. Vritti swarm like locusts, clouding our discriminative faculty and reinforcing the faulty self-assessment that ignorance impresses on us. Nirodha is the means to regain the memory of who we truly are. We cease to identify with the vritti. We realize that all of our turmoild, fears, doubts, anger and depression are in the mind.not in our Self. … We are not the reflection but the face.”
Our minds are creatures of habit. Constantly running all over the place often without any understandable pattern. “What should I make for dinner? Did the kids eat? Did I lose the back to school list. It’s so hot today. Maybe I’ll get an ice-cream on the way home. Ice-cream is not good for me. I need more vegetables. Is Mom ok in this heat? I forgot to go to the grocery store….” When one thinks that the only way to stop this flow is to sit cross legged and force an empty mind it can lead to frustration and despair.
Yoga teaches us that there are many ways to clear the distortions of the mind and find the inner calm we seek. Cultivating helpful habits to help lessen harmful ones. We do this with the purposeful redirection of attention. Moving and breathing mindfully, study and introspection, connecting to bliss (prayer, walking in nature, anything that connects us to something bigger than ourselves), community and service, and personal integrity. Even something physical to loud music can become a meditation if it helps bring your mind to singular focus. There is no “right” way, only the way that works for you. Many paths, one goal.
“Training the mind is like training a puppy. Having a well-behaved and happy pet is accomplished by a firm, loving, redirection rather than harsh words or stern punishment.”
May we know love, light and connection.