Friday, December 7, 2012

Burning the Seeds

A recent article in one of my husband's audio magazines mentioned a study on sensory deprivation chambers.  All of the subjects isolated in the chambers began hallucinating within a maximum time frame of 45 minutes. It was unclear as to whether the hallucinations were pleasant or not, but it was clear that the visual and auditory images were products of their own minds and not invoked by external stimuli.  Yoga calls the movements of mind that produce outcomes "vrttis"(vrit-tees).    Vrtti means revolving or whirled, like a whirl pool or whirl wind.  

Patanjali delineates 5 vrttis or movements of consciousness.  The first is called Pramana, which literally means to place (Pra) the mind (mana) correctly.  This is often described as correct knowledge that is verifiable and intuitive.  The second movement is called Viparyayo and is often translated as incorrect knowledge.   It may mean that we don't have the whole picture, or that what once seemed logical, is no longer valid as we get more information, or have a change of heart.  The third movement is called Vikalpa, meaning fantasy or imagination.   The forth is Nidra or sleep and the fifth is Smrtayah or memory.

 The vrttis are described in Sutra I.5  by the verb "Klishta" which means "to make trouble"  and "aklishta" meaning to "not make trouble".   Yoga is a process for sorting out the troublesome from the trouble free mind states in order to live in freedom from the mind's own tyranny.  All of the vrttis can be very useful for problem solving and creative thinking,  when they are "aklishta"   But these same vrttis can cause great suffering when they are "klista".   We can all relate to times when our minds' obsessions based on false or incorrect knowledge have caused us, or those around us, great trouble.  If you've seen the movie "Ruby Sparks" you know that getting and controlling your fantasy can come with huge consequences!   Memories can bring us great joy or be tinged with afflictions that start an entire chain reaction of fear, attachment and aversion.

Reducing the trouble making aspect of the vrttis is the key to freedom.   For the psychologically healthy, this is primarily an internal process of distancing the self from the power of the vrtti through witnessing the thoughts in a gentle, non-judgemental way.  The vritis may be active, (in the forefront of consciousness--something is really bugging us), distanced or separated (in the back of the mind), attenuated (losing its grip on the mind), or dormant (latent and waiting for the right circumstances for it to spring up).   In any of these stages, the vrttis have the potential to be klishta, or troublesome to the mind.    But there is one more stage which the yogis call "burning the seed".  Just as a dormant seed in winter is waiting for the right conditions in the springtime to sprout, a troublesome thought may lay in wait and spring forth to agitate us given the right scenario.   I used to joke that my visits to my family of origin were my annual enlightenment check up.  Not surprisingly, as I have examined my own troublesome thoughts and attitudes,  my family members have all become much more well behaved people (Ha ha).   Many of the seeds have been burned.

A friend attended a wedding recently where she ran into an old boyfriend with whom she had a very bad breakup.   It was so bad, in fact, that she had made it clear to him in no uncertain terms, that, if she should ever run into him, he was not to even acknowledge her presence!  Well, seeing him started to activate some dormant seeds and she proceeded to avoid contact with him.  During the reception, while sitting at a table, a relative of this person came and sat beside her.  She proceeded to tell my friend of some hardships that the old boyfriend had undergone and was still struggling with.   At some point into the conversation my friend said, "My heart opened and all the animosity dropped away and I completely forgave him.    I know that all of the (negative) energy was completely gone forever." The seeds were burned.   Later that evening she even introduced him to her husband!

The 3 most effective means of "burning the troublesome seeds" that I know of are forgiveness, compassion and gratitude.   Criticism and judgement keep the seeds of trouble alive.  But judgement and compassion cannot exist at the same time; and criticism and gratitude are mutually exclusive.
When we can listen to our own troublesome minds with the compassion and gratitude that we use to listen to a  heart broken friend klishta becomes  aklishta,  trouble is transformed into clarity and peace.
Deeper, stronger and more profound transformation occurs in the stillness and silence of meditation.  Then spiritual and practical insights, no longer blocked by trouble, more easily come to the forefront of awareness.