Friday, February 28, 2014

Karmic Clorox

The Mahabharata tells us:
“When there is a stain and nothing will remove it, time will take it away.”

One way to think of these “stains” is some past action or event that informs our current life.  The word in Sanskrit for this is samskara, which comes from the roots sam (joined or together) and kara (action, cause, or doing).  These samskaras give us a sort of karmic inheritance, they are the emotional, physical and mental patterns that we find ourselves in again and again.  And although the Mahabharata says that time will take the stains away, for most of us, these “stains” actually become reinforced over time. It’s like carving a path through the woods – the first time you have to battle through, clear the branches and bramble, stamp down the grass.  But once you’ve done that it’s easier to find your way back to that path, and the more you travel down it, the more defined it becomes until, like one of my students said this week, it becomes a rut.  These patterns don’t necessarily even have to be “negative” - even when a pattern is uplifting and life-enhancing it keeps us, well, in a pattern.  Which usually means that we can’t see outside of it, can’t see that there are other possibilities and so it limits us to the known and the comfortable, which can be a recipe for monotony and lethargy.

I have been working through a fascinating, transformative practice recently with an Executive Coach (for lack of a better term) which he calls “emerging narrative” work.  Basically it’s a look back over my life to see what narratives exist – some are happy, positive, and life-enhancing, others are negative and keep me in patterns of self-limiting thought and behavior.  Unfortunately some of these more negative stories have become dominant and have whacked a veritable canyon through the path of my life.  And yet I can recognize that there are other, parallel stories, ones that have equal proof in supporting evidence, that exist simultaneously, and yet for some reason I have chosen to not make my dominant narrative.  The reason this work is so powerful and so transformative is that it’s not creating anything new.  It’s simply looking at the “stories” that exist, that have supporting evidence in my life, and that actually happened or are still happening right now, and choosing the ones that affirm the person I wish to become. 

Our lives are made up of stories, patterns, narratives, thinking patterns – samskaras.   Some of them, like a stain on an old shirt, have faded with time and no longer hold sway over us.  Some of them are still powerful and guiding presences.  When we accept all of these samskaras as part of who we are, we soften and open to the fullness of our lives.  It enables us to see the gifts and the challenges each of these narratives have offered us and allows us to embrace both the beauty and the messiness of life.  It is hard to let some of these narratives go.  For me, it has felt a little like losing part of my identity.  Even though it’s not an identity I desire anymore, it’s still a part of who I am.  But I am hoping that this clinging is the stain that fades with time, allowing me to embrace and live more fully into my emerging and chosen narrative.

Off the mat:
I'm making a deep and complex process simple here for the sake of a blog entry of reasonable length - I am happy to talk or email with anyone more in depth about this process if you are interested.  Or you can do the work yourself - the Executive Coach I am working with is doing a workshop at Shree, so you can do this amazing process for yourself:
Register soon, there is limited space available.  I promise it will change your life!

In the meantime, just become aware.   What triggers you to react in a way that is out of alignment with the person you wish to be?  What are the beliefs, the story, that underlay those reactions?  Keep a “reaction journal” for the week and see what patterns emerge.  Once you recognize what those patterns are, reflect on how you would rather respond in any of those situations.  What are the beliefs and story that underlie that more positive response? 

On the mat:
This week we worked on moving our thigh bones back into the hip socket.   When we do that, the front of the groins soften and we settle back into a feeling of acceptance for all of our samskaras.  This action also opens up the apana vayu, the downward flow of prana that is associated with letting go and elimination of waste (like those negative narratives that keep us in patterns of self-limiting thoughts and actions).  It also allows the spine and torso to lengthen, making space inside for the emerging narrative to grow and flourish.