Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (in every day life) verse 12
12 : tat nirodhah abhyasa vairagyabhyam:
That stopping (of the behaviour of mind is possible through) constant repetition; (and) non-attachment.
Our mind is constantly being saturated with thoughts and impulses. According to statistics, the average human being has 60,000 thoughts per day; and, interesting to know, 80% of those habitual thoughts are negative!
In neurological terms, thoughts are born from electrical impulses that are fired in neurons in the brain. Electrical impulses are energy. Thus, thoughts are created through energy. We know from quantum physics too, that what we regard as static matter is made of the exact same energy. Thus, everything, both what we perceive to be real with our senses (sounds, objects, smells etc…) and what exists on the subtle/etheric level, consists of energy vibrating at different frequencies.
Thoughts therefore, are made of the very same energy that matter is made of. This is a very powerful statement. If thoughts consist of that same energy, depending on the frequencies (i.e. intention) given to those thoughts, one would assume that they are able to influence us and our world.
Whether or not you believe this to be true, we can at least deduce that thoughts affect our emotions. If we try and force ourselves not to think about something, we will only think about it more. If we put a lot of focus on a negative belief we have of ourselves we will not be feeling good. We can witness this in our every-day life.
So what does constant repetition and non-attachment have to do with the above then? And how does this help to stop the ‘blablabla’ of the mind?
The way that I see this is that constant repetition leads to non-attachment. Non-attachment, in turn, leads to the stopping of the behaviour of the mind.
The fact that constant repetition can be helpful in this process is supported by the way in which our thoughts influence our emotions and become our reality when focused on habitually. This can be done in a way that is beneficial or non-beneficial to finding that place of peace within us.
The power of the practice of constant repetition lies not in blindly repeating and following old habits, but in the creation of new beneficial habits. As we create new habits, the older habits gradually fall away.
When we start a non-beneficial habit, such as drinking, for example, and drink alcohol on a more regular basis, then we are less likely to wake up early and exercise – or, we may accompany our drink with some tasty nibbles and begin to eat less fruit and healthy foods. Or, I know from my experience, that, when I start to drink coffee habitually, then I will always eat a chocolate or something sweet with it. I will also drink less water and eat less fruit and skip my fruit and vegetable smoothies.
However, this effect works for the reverse too. When we first begin to integrate a new habit that we see as beneficial for ourselves, it often requires A LOT of discipline. We may begin with a small step, such as drinking a glass of lemon water every morning. When we drink our lemon water, our mind is directed towards this new healthful discipline, and it will usually tend then, in the same direction in other areas of our lives. When you start exercising regularly, after your workout you will be more likely to follow it with healthy food and drink, than with a visit to MacDonald’s.
I believe that a big part of this constant repetition includes what we repeat in our minds. This is where we come back to where we started – where I said that our thoughts have a powerful effect on our feelings and on our lives. In order to create a beneficial thought habit, we need to hold the intention to be aware, to be conscious of our thoughts. This too, may start with a tiny step – such as making a decision to really try, every morning, as we wake up, to think about what is good in our lives. This way we will begin the day, with our thoughts in the right place. With time we naturally begin to become more aware of our thoughts at other times in the day. Gradually this affects our entire day, day after day. Days become weeks, weeks become months, months to years and years make up your life!
Other practices that can help in constant repetition and non-attachment are regular practices of mantra chanting, yoga asana, meditation and pranayama (breath control), feeding our minds with beneficial and inspirational material (books, movies, music), visualization techniques, practicing mindfulness and self-awareness, regular exercise, disciplined study and relinquishing any habits that we recognize as being addictive – ones we can’t seem to give up.
The above may appear as an exhaustive list – as stated in the Tao TeChe, 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with one little step'. With time, each little step begins to evolve from a ‘discipline’ to something that becomes part of your way of life, part of you – it becomes a habit; and with each step the non-beneficial habits begin to fall away.
With this kind of discipline, non-attachment naturally follows. For through self-discipline, we are already renouncing our tendency to give in to our senses or the desires and fancies of the ego. We are choosing to pave our own way instead of following blindly, the wants of our lower nature. In so doing, we are already taking action to release, to let go of habits or things we once felt attached to. Again, this practice begins a domino effect on other parts of our life.
When you feel you have become the master in something you had previously seen as having power over you, you feel more empowered to take charge of other areas of your life. I know from my experience that, every time I have given up coffee (yes, it has been numerous times), the discipline carried over into having a stronger belief in myself. Then, when I have started drinking it habitually again, I have seen other non-beneficial old habits and thoughts creeping back.
It is important though, to remember that as we move towards self-mastery (which is a goal we will always continue to work towards and never quite attain), we will encounter ‘set-backs’. It is typical of our western culture to see such ‘failures’ as ‘setbacks’. (Our culture is teeming with pressure to ‘succeed’.)
However, the power of these ‘setbacks’ depends on how we view them. If we view these setbacks as something negative, and berate ourselves with self-criticism…does that feel any better? Does that help us? On the other hand, if we view these ‘setbacks’ as ‘reminders’ or ‘signposts’ and we welcome them as a chance to recognize the contrast – the contrast between what we want and what we don’t want, we can be stronger in our will to truly and permanently integrate what we want into our lives.
Thank you Contrast, for showing me the way!
And non-attachment – why is that any good? Well, non-attachment brings us to a place where we feel free from emotional turmoil, since we are not attached to certain outcomes or to satiating our desires. Emotional freedom means we truly ARE free! Now isn’t that all we ever wanted!?
And off we go again…