Samskara

We are all schizophrenic. Inside each of us are many different personalities that are triggered by specific situations. Inside me is the Scholar, the Employee of the month, the Artist, the Chef, the Loner and the Liar. This is a shortened version of all the personalities that live inside me, but it’s a pretty good start. These personalities show up unconsciously when a situation arises that they specialize in. My true self steps back and the alternate personality steps in and handles it. These personalities follow deeply entrenched patterns in our psyche. According to Stephen Cope, “in order to remain present we would have to deconstruct these unconscious patterns” (114).

To destroy these patterns we have to really look at ourselves and recognize our triggers and out patterns of behavior. We also have to understand how these patterns were created. This can be a difficult and even painful experience. Many of our alternate personalities were created to protect our feelings. They can be created from actions based on craving or aversion that leave deep impressions on our minds. These impressions are called Samskara. Samskara literally translates to “subliminal activators”. These are the triggers that send us down the deep patterns in our subconscious.

“Samskara is universal; it’s one of the elements that define the human condition. We are, undeniably, creatures of habit, and the physical, mental, and emotional places we often gravitate toward are the well-navigated galaxies of negative samskara.” (http://www.yogajournal.com/article/balance/stuck-rut/). The good news is that we can change our samskaras, we can dig ourselves out of that rut.

Bo Forbes of Yoga Journal defines seven steps for changing our samskaras.

Step one: Sankalpa, Intention

Settingintentions can be one of the most helpful techniques for change. Taking the time to set an intention allows you to acknowledge what you need in your life. Setting an intention make it far more likely that you will achieve your goals.

Step two: Tapas, Intensity

Tapas literally translates to fiery discipline. Tapas is the intensity you apply to the discipline of changing your patterns of behavior and adhering to your intentions. Tapas is the fire that fuels our actions

Step three: Shani, Slowing

To explain shani, Forbes compares it to a world class athlete watching a performance in slow motion. Without slowing down our reactions and behaviors it is very easy to slip back into old patterns. By slowing down our thoughts and scrutinizing our reactions we are able to see where we make our missteps. Shani can also help us identify the triggers that activate our samskaras.

Step four: Vidya, Awareness

The fourth step, vidya allows us to change our perspective on our behaviors. Together, shani and vidya encourage us to ask “what does my pattern of behavior tell me” instead of asking “why is this happening to me”.

Step five: Abhaya, Fearlessness

Fearlessness is the step I personally struggle with the most. Change is scary, even if that change will improve your life and overall being. Samsakara, as destructive as they may truly be are comfortable and easy. To change, you must be brave. You must be fearless.

Step six: Darshana, Vision

We must envision what will come once our old behavior is gone. Darshana is the practice of visualizing what we and our lives will look like once our behavior changes. Forbes recommends practicing this visualization during meditation or savasana. Forbes encourages us to focus on the details. What things will look, sound, feel, smell and even taste like. The more real our visions are in our minds, the more real they will become.

Step seven: Abhyasa, Practice

When we are developing any new skill, practice is key. The same can be said for creating new behavior patterns. Knowing our triggers can help us strengthen our new behaviors and avoid slipping back into old patterns of behaviors.

Improving our samskara can cause dramatic shifts in our overall being. We can shed negative behaviors and thoughts and bring us closer to our true nature.