One of the goals in yoga, if not the only goal, is to get rid of the mental modifications of the mind (chitta vritti in sanskrit).
When the brain starts to attach itself to random thinking that can be unproductive and/or unhealthy, this is called chitta vritti.
Okay, let’s say you are sitting in a car jamming out to your favorite song. Your mind is happy, your body is free!
All of the sudden you see one car cut another car off and speed through the rest of the cars.
This action sends your mind spiraling into emotions of frustration:
“Why are people so rude?”
“That bleep-bleep could have caused a major accident!”
“I can’t stand selfish people like that!”
Maybe you have even decided that person should get into an accident to teach themselves a lesson.
In an instant you have begun to attach yourself to an event that happened completely outside of you. That attachment becomes a cause of tension in your body.
Did that bad driver give that tension to you?
No, you gave it to yourself. You modified your “happy mind” so that now you have an “irritated mind”. You may have even found yourself becoming annoyed reading this.
However, that situation was completely hypothetical. You have performed a mental modification, chitti vritti.
The mind likes to do that though. The mind likes to grip on to things on the outside and attach itself to it.
We may even find ourselves hindering our own success because we are planning things for the future, yet we are giving ourselves an idea of what a terrible outcome may be. Do not assume what will happen in future. The future hasn’t happened yet.
Think about now. Where are you now?
In yoga, we practice one-pointed-focus. Literally, we tell ourselves during physical asana (poses) or meditation to stop thinking about anything that doesn’t serve or fulfil us in a positive way.
We tell ourselves to focus on what is right in front of us: our breath, our hand, the sky, a line on the floor. We tell ourselves to let go of everything else.
It’s simply not real. What is real is the breath in front of you giving you life.
Therefore, for our goal in yoga is actually “Yogas chitta vritti nirodha”. This is the second sutra of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Loosely translated, this means the purpose of yoga is to calm the mental waves of the mind-stuff.
Let us paint the picture a little more with this often used metaphor:
Your mind is a still lake. Clear and calm. You can see all the way to the bottom of the lake. A rock is thrown into the lake. Ripples start to form in the lake making the bottom of the lake unclear. Now, more rocks are thrown into the lake. The lake becomes wavy. We can no longer see the bottom of the lake. The lake is unclear. The lake is not calm.
This may explain what is meant but calming or clearing the mind. Don’t thrown mental rocks and pebbles into your mental lake.
However, if it is a real lake, then do, because it’s way fun!
Try this Meditation!
Find a comfortable seated position. You may option to sit on a pillow or folded blanket with your legs crossed. Sit up nice and tall with your spine erect and your shoulders broad. Soften your facial muscles, jaw, shoulders, arms, hips, legs, feet. Close your eyes. If “eyes closed” is uncomfortable feeling, look past your nose towards the floor. Allow yourself three cleansing breaths: inhaling through your nose and gently breathing out through your mouth.
Then bring your focus to your belly. Your lips gently touch, jaw is still soft and you breath in and out through your nose. Notice your natural breath rising and falling in your belly. You may option to watch the breath as it passes in an out through the nose if you are more familiar with a yoga or meditation practices. Allow your focus to be on your breath throughout this practice.
During this meditation you may find your mind wondering. When you catch it thinking random thoughts, attach a note to that thought, “thinking”. Then allow that thought to float away.
Perhaps you hear noise. Attach a note to that sound. “hearing”.
Perhaps a feeling of pain arises. Attach a note “feeling”.
Perhaps you smell something. “smelling”.
This is called noting.
While you are noting, try to NOT to label things “hearing a car horn”, “smelling cookies”. Just simply the one word, “hearing”, “smelling”, “feeling”, “thinking”.
You can practice this meditation for as long as you feel comfortable. I like to set an alarm for the amount of time I have available for my meditation practice. See how long you can go with your meditation if it is comfortable to you.The aim is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. To create Chitta Vritti Nirodha.
We can also take this practice into real life. The next time you see an impolite driver on the road and notice the mind-stuff start to ripple the lake, make a note “Thinking”. Take a breath and move on with the day jamming to the beat of your favorite song!
The light in me is honored by the light in you.
Thoughts and reflections by Christina Maldia RYT, CLMT