The buzz has already started. In Santa Fe, Halloween appeared in stores in September. Good grief! I don’t know about you, but upon this discovery, I was led down a slippery slope – Thanksgiving, Justin’s 18th birthday, my birthday, my boyfriends birthday, Christmas, New Years! ACK! So I said, “STOP!” (Remember – slow down and pay attention, take a breath, observe what is happening, pause to reflect on what to do next – read the blog here). Thank goodness for yoga and its stress management tools.
STRESS is the theme for the next two months and I hope what I share you can take with you into 20/20 – what an auspicious number – 20/20, I see you!
For now, let’s start by talking about your mind or in yoga we say manas. Most often it is our mind that gets us in trouble with stress. In the next blog we’ll look a bit more at stress and what it is.
“The mind is the central mischief in the individual personality. It is the great dacoit, as Acharya Sankara calls it, the thief who robs us of all wealth and makes us paupers…” -Swami Krishnanda
The first line of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali states, yogas chitta vritti nirodhah. This translates as yoga is the practice of stilling the fluctuations of the mind. The mind and being aware is very important in yoga as we strive to re-unite with ourselves. Stress is typically about perception of an experience. Take note of what you see in the picture below.
Which lady to you see – old or young? It’s all about perception. In yoga, be believe there are four functions of our mind which help determine our perceptions.
MANAS is one of the four aspects of consciousness. It is considered the perceiving mind. Manas shows us how the world shows up through our senses. Manas is like a filing cabinet, it holds all our senses and impressions in a passive way. Manas is sometimes called the 6th sense.
AHAMKARA is also one of the four parts of the mind. Ahamkara is our identity. Our identity begins to develop the moment we are born with our first breath and our first cry. Until that moment of birth, we are considered one with brahman.
The mind holds information, but the ego is the boss of the mind. Our ego colors our experiences – gives us our likes and dislikes and describes who we are. Ahamkara makes us separate and is our primary cause of suffering.
BUDDHI, another of the four parts that make up the mind, helps us make decisions. It is our gut reaction or intuitive self as well as that part of us that reflects and discriminates about what is best for us. Buddhi helps us make the right choice. As we get older, Buddhi often becomes stronger.
CHITTA is our individual consciousness or awareness. As we take in information through manas, it is processed by Ahamkara and Buddhi. Chitta sits back and watches.
When we are active and awake, manas, ahamkara and buddhi are constantly taking in, processing and deciding. They work together to help us perceive the world around us.
When you are in deep sleep, manas, ahamkara and buddhi rest and Chitta watches. Chitta is the subconscious part of our minds. When you have a thought or realization and don’t know where it came from, it came from Chitta, your subconscious
It can be very easy for our “mind” to be out of balance. If we are clinging to an idea about who we are and are confronted with a different version of ourselves, we will be out of balance and feel stressed. If we can watch and tease apart all the aspects of our mind, we can have an easier time dealing with our stress.
Taking an example from my friend William Hufschmidt, let’s talk about cake. Yum right? First, our senses tell us something about the cake. The cake is dark colored, it looks moist, it smells delicious,it is soft in the mouth and it tastes like chocolate. Manas takes this information and say, “this is a piece of chocolate cake.” Next our ego or Ahamkara creates an opinion about the cake and this can go in all different directions. “This is bad to eat, it will make me fat, I love cake, I hate cake.” Buddhi then determines whether eating cake is good for you overall. “Some cake might be okay but too much cake is not good for you.” Chitta takes all this information and holds onto it without making any type of determination. Any of the mind functions can sway you to eat or not eat cake.
Most times, Ahamkara takes the lead. Ahamkara doesn’t like to be threatened and likes to be in control. Because of this it is often like a bully and doesn’t allow Buddhi to step in and determine what would be best for you. Ahamkara often leads from fear or attachment which can lead to stress.
Now just to be fair, Ahamkara isn’t all bad. We need our ahamkara to help us see how we fit in the world. What we have to remember is we are more than this little self. (See my prior post on the big and little selves)
The goal is to find a balance and allow Buddhi to be strengthened by working on goals that are good for our well-being. During the holidays, that might be watching how much food and drink you consume or how much money you choose to spend. It might also be putting a plan in place to practice, exercise, meditate, spend time with friends more than you normally do to keep the balance.
Bottom-line, we want to be more discriminate when we are stressed and not let Ahamkara take control.
Until next time…