Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Imagine these spirals to be the behaviors you have on a daily basis. Each time you continue the behavior, it goes around again. As the spirals get larger, it becomes harder and harder to control. These behaviors become patterns, and they start to show up in everything we do.
Now let's imagine that orange colored spirals are our negative patterns, and the navy colored spirals are our positive patterns. How can you change the pattern so there is more navy than orange?
In Hinduism and Buddhism, these patterns of behavior are called Samskaras. It is believed that these patterns travel with you across lifetimes in a cycle of death and rebirth called Samsara. So deeply imprinted on your soul, one will experience these Samskaras through the Samsara cycles until they learn how to undo them. Learning to undo them comes from reaching Nirvana, or Enlightenment. Yoga is often practiced in these religions to reach Enlightenment, and thus freedom from this cycle.
As we have learned, yoga was born from Hinduism and Buddhism, but maintains a separate identity. In the Yoga Sutras, the author Patanjali writes:
Sutra 1.50: tajjah samskarah anya samskara paribandhi
Translation: Right knowledge reconditions the deep impressions in the mind and obstructs the creation of new deep imprints within the mind.
"Right knowledge" has many translations. I say that it is what you know in your heart to be right. It is living by your values. In yoga, it is living by the Yamas and Niyamas. When we choose "right knowledge" we take the power back from our Samskaras. The more we do this, the more we recondition our whole mind. The more we become reconditioned, the more we can ward off new negative behaviors, and foster the positive behaviors (more navy spirals, fewer orange spirals).
Learning about Samskaras was a game-changer for me. The imagery of the cycle, the spirals, helped me realize that I needed to find a way out. It put me in the driver seat of change. Practicing yoga allowed me to slow down so I could choose better thoughts and actions. This month at JFY, our monthly mind focus will be doing just that.
Remember, you are ONE decision away from changing a negative behavior. You are a FEW decisions away from beginning to break a habit of negative behavior. You are SEVERAL decisions away from stopping the entire negative cycle from continuing on, thus creating a positive cycle.