SamskarasAll of our thoughts, words, feelings, actions, behaviors and life experiences create impressions on our consciousness that are sort of like scars, or the grooves on a record, or etches on a piece of metal. The Sanskrit word for these scars or grooves is samskaras. Depending on whether the samskara was created by an experience, action or behavior that you would interpret as "happy", "good", "positive" or "constructive" such as your sadhana, etc., or whether it was created by an experience, action or behavior that is traumatic, negative, fearful, anxious, unhappy, angry, hurtful or unconstructive, the samskara will effect us in either a positive or negative way.
Samskaras are different from habits. Although habits can be strong and hard to change, and can be beneficial or unconstructive influences in our lives, they normally only effect our routines and behaviors. Even though the result of a habit such as drug addiction can cause sadness and heartbreak, the emotion isnít embedded in the habit its self.
Samskaras have an emotional and energetic component to them that cause them to effect our feelings and state of mind, as well as our behaviors. This energy can also cause the samskara to be manifested or arise in our consciousness at anytime, although samskaras are also sometimes initiated by particular circumstances or memories, etc.
Samskaras created by thoughts, feelings, actions and experiences of love, generosity, service, truth and happiness will nurture you and help you cultivate spiritual qualities, and guide — even propel you, in a life of harmony, creativity, discipline and inspiration. These constructive samskaras will help you become established in the practice of Abhyasa: practice, effort, and vigilance of awareness — moving toward the state of yoga; and Vairagya: detachment and surrender — being in the state of yoga.
On the other hand, samskaras created by thoughts, feelings, actions and experiences that are fearful, painful and perhaps even traumatic, may surface as thoughts, feelings and emotions of anxiety, stress, fear, anger or worry, etc. Sometimes we may be able to make a conscious connection between experiences in our lives that are behind the manifestation of these emotions. Sometimes itís much deeper and very difficult to make a connection. In any case, the energy from these samskaras will cause these emotions and thoughts to arise in our consciousness over and over again to disturb us until weíve healed or purified ourselves of them.
Because our sadhana is a process of purification and cultivates spiritual qualities, through the practice of our sadhana positive samskaras are reinforced, and negative samskaras are uprooted, and eventually dissolved and washed away completely. Sometimes during our meditation we experience restlessness and distractions because all of this junk that is being cleaned out of us needs to bubble up and be released. When youíre meditating, if you feel or experience these kinds of emotions, thoughts, or feelings arising in your consciousness, donít resist them. Itís sometimes very difficult to do, but if you can, allow them to bubble up and be released instead of stuffing them back down inside yourself again. It may even take repeated experiences like this for them to be released completely and fully.
As you practice your sadhana over time — weeks, months, and years, youíll notice a pattern of ups and downs where your meditation ebbs and flows between still and quiet meditations, and meditations where youíre more restless. This is a natural part of the growth and progress of your practice. Just stick with it. It will take time, but eventually youíll find that the restless meditations become less frequent, and the stretches of time filled with the deep, still and joyful meditations lasts longer and longer. But remember, all of your meditations are important, both restless and joyful, because it is a process of purification, growth and healing.
Stephen Cope is a senior teacher and scholar in residence at "Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health" in Lennox, Massachusetts. He has a formula that he suggests for use when you find yourself overwhelmed with energy or emotions that need to be worked through and released: Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch and Allow. I have recommended several of his books on the Inspiration Page of this web site.
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