CALM THE MIND
“If restraint of the mental modifications is achieved, one has reached the goal of yoga.” This is taken directly from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (pg. 3).
“Yoga is the experience we have when all vritti (fluctuations of the mind), the movement arising in our consciousness, is stilled.” This is the breakdown/interpretation from Tantra of The Yoga Sutras by Alan Finger (pg. 21).
Both explanations of Yoga Sutra 1.2 “Yoga citta vritti nirodhah” help us to understand what we seek in our practice and in our lives. What we seek is stillness, the decluttering and calming of the mind in order to exist and take action from a place of steadiness and discernment rather than from a place of reactivity, being steered by our emotions.
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THE 5 LAYERS OF THE MIND
The Tantric point of view seems to provide more space for the allowance of our natural human experience, which includes the 5 Layers of the Mind. These are explained in Tantra of the Yoga Sutras as follows:
- Undistorted Knowledge occurs when the mind creates an image from direct perception; for example, what you experience from your senses and/or intuition, deductions form partial information, and/or credible testimony from text, a teacher, or parent
- Misconception happens when the mind directly perceives something through the senses or intuition but creates a distorted image of what it is perceiving.
*This distortion may come from our samskaras, which are our underlying, deep-rooted patterns and beliefs, which are deeply connected to our ego and how we define ourselves by specific identities and experiences.
- Imagination is when we hear about something, and the mind creates an image that is based on anything other than words.
- Sleep—here, the mind experiences inertia. This is its own form of vritti, which helps the mind to reset and recharge. To calm the mind, mastering sleep habits is essential.
- Memory is when a previously perceived object, form, or idea comes back into consciousness.
From the Tantric perspective, these are natural occurrences of which we are not trying to “rid ourselves” but simply (or not so simply) trying to harness. These layers exist, and they are valuable to our human experience in this life. It is my opinion that whatever language we resonate with, both perspectives do offer us the ability to understand that we have the potential and competence to go beneath the surface of these fluctuations. “Going beneath the surface” can essentially be interpreted as calming the mind. When the fluctuations create chaos and/or anxiety, we become off balance, and the mind feels cluttered and busy. This is when and why we go to our yoga practice, meditation, and pranayama: in order to soften these layers.
How is this achieved? This is achieved through focus with intention. This can also be interpreted as well-placed effort, or abhyasa, which means “making your best effort to focus all the vritti on one single point, whether it is an action, object, thought, or image.” Finger, Alan. Tantra of the Yoga Sutras. Pg. 26.
Matt has this ability to effortlessly weave this into every class. Each breath, transition, and biomechanical setup is methodical and very intentionally expressed so that we have no choice but to move in a way that harnesses our attention within. We are focused on not only the movements but the sensations we experience throughout. These are the “aha moments,” if you will. Matt explains that it is when we go deeper, to the level of awareness of the sensations, that we actually experience stillness. This is when we go below the layers of the fluctuations of the mind. This is when we find more calm and presence in the moment.
At the end of today’s video, you’ll see how even what may appear to be a “simple movement” is executed with such precision and awareness that we have no choice but to surrender to the sensations and to the release of the “fluttering” of the mind.
In this particular class, Matt is preparing us for Side Crow. He talks about this harnessing of the mind within the movement, and he explains how we focus the body and breath in order to go deeper within. He then proceeds to the next actions in the physical body that will lead us toward what is necessary for Side Crow, but in the moment, we are fully engrossed in the stillness of the mind in the present moment and present actions. Now, as our muscles activate, building heat and tension, the fluctuations may want to rise and fall with more intensity again, but please note that all vritti are motivated by either pain or pleasure; whether the experience is difficult and challenging or easy and delightful, we can still place our efforts in a way that helps us maintain a sense of tranquility. Maybe when the vritti intensify due to challenge, the tranquility can come from an understanding that any particular challenge is ultimately happening for us and not to us and that by letting go of the outcomes (vairagya), we will come to see just exactly how they serve us in the end. On the other hand, when there is excitement, joy, and happiness, and the mind is wild with elation, we can enjoy it for what it is and yet recognize that these are the energies of life—the ups and the downs don’t determine our value; they simply reveal an opportunity to stay present.
WATCH THE VIDEO
“Calm the Mind with Meditation”
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