“You have taught the essence of yoga
is equanimity, Krishna;
but since the mind is so restless,
how can that be achieved?
The mind is restless, unsteady,
turbulent, wild, stubborn;
truly, it seems to me
as hard to master as the wind.”
—The Bhagavad Gita
In my last post "What is Healthy Aging?" I added “wisdom” to the list of tools yoga provides for healthy aging. But since then, I’ve been thinking about how reading a bunch of wise words in an ancient (or modern) text is so different than actually living wisely. Haven’t you all watched someone close to you—or even yourself—be drawn irresistibly into self destructive behavior, even as they know exactly how unwise they’re being? As Arjuna says to Krishana above, the mind seems to me, too, “as hard to master as the wind.”
In The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna replies to Arjuna’s question above by saying that constant practice and detachment are what allow you to move toward wisdom.
"You are right, Arjuna: the mind
is restless and hard to master;
but by constant practice and detachment
it can be mastered in the end."
|Gaudi Stairway by Brad Gibson|
Acknowledge the pattern. Study it. Observe it. Respect its power. And, if possible, make an intention to interrupt it just at its very end point. For most of us, that endpoint is the reaction to the reaction. Self-hatred. Negative self-talk. Moralizing. Guilt. Let’s begin by deleting a little of that, and then a little more.
When we pare away judgment, something remarkable happens. We’re free, for the first time, to observe how the pattern really works.
He says our behavior patterns are samskaras, which are like ruts in a road that deepen through repetition so becomes inevitable that a car will slide into them unawares. But with our newly gained awareness of our patterns, we can use tapas, the energy of restraint, to stop the slide:
Tapas requires a particular kind of attention—precisely the kind required when driving on a rutted road. We need to be awake. We need to be concentrated in order to avoid the edges of the ruts. And sometimes we need to pull the car wheels—with considerable effort—out of the ridges in the road.