Samskara

June 15, 2011 § 6 Comments

Yoga Therapy. I have seen the physical benefits that the Primary series yields after (fairly) consistent practice over a certain period of time. I’ve also experienced the emotional and mental benefits – a more optimistic outlook, a better mood, deeper awareness of the volatile world of emotions and thoughts that constantly rage inside.

I’m beginning to see how the therapeutic effects of the practice apply not just to our lives in the present, but also in working through the scars accumulated from the past. It’s effects have been described as ‘peeling away layers’ of the self we’ve become to reveal who we really are. While I’ve found the experience to be really enlightening, it’s also a painful one. Dots are connected. Pieces fall into place. Explanations are found from incidents in the past that have been buried and left to harden into scartissue, one on top of the other.

Recent reflections into how I approach my practice as a ‘Pusher’, led me to think about the concept of Ahimsa and its role in my life. Since reading about the Eight Limbs, I make an effort to avoid squishing the mosquitoes/slugs/spiders I encounter, refrain from saying things that may hurt others and try to carve out time to be ‘kind’ to myself in the midst of busy periods. But I’m starting to see that these actions, while relevant, completely miss the point. Fundamentally, I’m still being violent to myself, in my internal monologues and self-perception. By constantly downplaying the value of the blessings I have received and the achievements I’ve worked for, choosing instead focusing on what I have failed to master, I’m locking myself into the samskara of seeking external approval and affirmation in order to validate my identity. I’m tearing myself down so that I can have someone lift me up. Over and over again.

I’m starting to see the roots of this attitude in a childhood spent with an emotionally volatile and insecure mother and a distant father locked into an unhappy marriage. Of being ‘disciplined’, both physically and verbally with the harshest words a parent can say to a child, where every ‘discipline’ session turned into melodramatic affairs replete with tears and screams over a few hours. Where achievements were met with far less fanfare in comparison, accompanied by a nod perhaps, or, if one was lucky, a tentative smile. The gross imbalance hardly did anything to nurture self-esteem, reinforcing instead messages of rejection and inadequacy. Messages that have only started unravelling in the past few years, courtesy of a healthy marriage and yoga.

As hard as it is to come to terms with insights like this, there is hope. There can be no growth without pain, no progress without some shedding of emotional baggage. This is only the start of the unravelling and I can’t wait for the rest of the journey, because it’s only by identifying the obstacles that hold us back that we can do something about them and free ourselves from the past.

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§ 6 Responses to Samskara

  • Claudia says:

    Yes, very true. I can very much relate. I find that when old psychological conditionings come up to the light it is good, cathartihc even… usually tell to myself “great notice”, and observe, just as I gather you are doing… it is a lifetime of cleaning up. Nice article!

  • Nicely put, D. Something that was said to me that may be helpful though,. is that you don’t *necessarily* have to know what the issues are that are coming up for you through the practice to be able to deal with and help clear them away. Of course from what you have said there are some pretty clear pointers to what it is you have deeply buried, but I know for me for a long time I had the fear of pulling a thread and coming completely unravelled if I tried to actively figure out why a particular asana made me want to cry every day. Knowing that this practice will help to clear these patterns without us especially having to assess and analyse what our issues *are* was helpful to me to realise.

    • D says:

      Good point Mel, and I agree with you. Sometimes there are just no answers andhonestly, having an emotional release without knowing why exactly is the easier route! I tend to be an analyser type who loves to ask ‘Why’ but I’m conscious of not letting it get in the way of moving forward. For this post though, the pieces just fell into place yesterday, I just had to write it out. I feel like I’ve been relieved of a big weight I’ve been lugging around!

  • Nobel says:

    Very nice post, D. I quite relate to what you are saying, especially the part about being a person who seeks external approval as a result of being “disciplined” both verbally and physically in our early years. But I think that Mel is right when she says that we don’t necessarily have to know what the issues are in order for us to be able to deal with them and clear them away. After all, the practice is not psycho-analysis; it transcends it 🙂

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