Thank you for being patient with me and my posts. The remodel of our home really picked up it’s pace, and I chose to give that my attention for over a week instead of this. The near-completion of this project has me feeling very tired and relieved at the same time, and extremely grateful that I have time to write again!
In the time I have spent painting nearly every square inch of the interior and exterior of my house, I have had time to contemplate what this extraordinary chapter means to me in The Path of the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga by Nicolai Bachman.
I adore the quote this chapter opens with, a Lakota saying passed down from the White Buffalo Calf Woman: “The Power of the Universe will come to your assistance, if your heart and mind are in unity.”
This has become very present to me lately, especially in the form of finishing our home in a timely and affordable manner. So many wonderful things have occurred to help us move our project forward in delightful ways that it reminds me of what life’s magic is really all about: believing that I am provided for, that all things are in a constant state of being worked out, and that it’s ok to live with a little mess for right now in order to land in something greater a little bit later.
The melding of the heart and mind into one singular field lands for me very well. Our hearts and minds are intricately connected, and in many academic and spiritual circles they are written and taught as constantly being at war with one another: one representing the ego and rational mind, and the other representing spirit and intuition.
I love that the yoga sutras acknowledge that both of these parts of us are not only essential to the human existence, but that they can also exist harmoniously with one another. Bachman says the most powerfully blatant thing about ego: “Our ego is built along the way [growing up and experiences we have], giving us healthy self-esteem, insecurity, or an arrogant self-centeredness.” This statement made me realize that ego has many forms, and not all of those forms are bad! In fact, one of them is good!
Ego is inescapable, like how breathing and sleeping are inescapable and both necessary to living. And like breathing and sleeping, these things can be done to move us forward in healthy and empowering ways, or they can be abused and just exist with no intentional behind it, giving it life, and drag us down and those around us with us. This profound clarity around ego made me lose the emotional reaction I had around the word itself: every time I heard it, I felt I didn’t understand it enough, even though I knew it was considered “bad” by many of my contemporaries in the yoga and spiritual world. Like so many other things in life labeled as “bad”, Bachman taught me that ego is not, in fact, inherently bad, just abused like how our diets or sleeping patterns can be abused. Take care of your ego, and it takes care of you and helps you move forward, just like eating well and exercising helps you take care of yourself, and taking care of yourself moves your life forward in massive ways.
The citta, or heart-mind, is the lens through which our inner light shines. Keeping our citta clear is just like anything else in our physical lives: we brush our teeth every day, take regular showers, and wash our dishes, because if we did not, we would be slovenly. Taking care of ourselves is part of what we are as humans, and if we regularly take care of our outer selves, we must take care of our inner selves, too.
What Bachman writes about getting the citta clear through consistent meditation and yoga is very true, and something I have become present to since reading this chapter. The more I practice meditation and yoga, the clearer I become in my daily life. From the research I have read, I know that this has to do with the healing effects of pranayama and meditation on the brain. There are basically two ways of being in our brains: a stressed brain and a non-stressed brain. Stress causes the different sections of our brains to not work together, to essentially rip apart at the seams of the different lobes and their sections thereof. Meditation heals pathways among all the different parts of our brains, and is at cause for our brains to be used in a more wholesome way, which is why so many meditators claim they experience more and longer moments of peace and a greater ability to communicate with others, experience empathy, and calmly solve problems that would have otherwise caused a downward spiral of drama.
The citta, as Bachman writes, is influenced by every experience we have. It is influenced by whatever we are exposed to and focused on, and has a memory. Our actions and reactions flow from our citta’s memory, and the purity of those actions and reactions are all based on how we took in those initial memories, and what effect they had on our spirit, our inner guide. A clear citta will take nothing personally and act in a clear and centered way, a clouded citta that has taken in mis-truths about situations and people and has chosen to believe things that are not necessarily true will create a sullied citta, thus occluding our inner light from shining through.
The beauty of the citta is that it is just as precious as our physical bodies so we must take care of it as such. We exercise and eat well so that we may enjoy a longer life rife with the freedom of independent living and vibrant health. The truth is, we are only as healthy as our heart-minds. Whatever goes on in our hearts, affects our brains. Whatever goes in in our brain, affects our hearts. Our brains operate through electrical impulses over nerves and neurons. It is our most powerful organ. But even with how scientifically powerful our main controller is inside our heads, it is our hearts that have the greater and more powerful electrical field. When are hearts are filled with gratitude, this electrical field grows and it’s electromagnetic waves stabilize, and actually have a calming effect on the people we come in contact with. Our hearts not only connect to our brains seamlessly, but they also connect to other people’s hearts, too, and even have the power to smooth out erratic waves to calmer ones. This is evident when it comes to stress and heart attacks: the more stressed out a person is, the greater the chance of a heart attack, and most heart attacks are caused by stressful events. Mistreating our bodies through poor eating and lack of exercise are both forms of stress, on par with emotional and psychological stresses brought on by our every day lives, which is only exacerbated when our physical bodies are stressed out by poor choices in habits.
So, what I got from the citta chapter was that it is important to be consistent with meditation and yoga. To be consistent in the marvelous choices we have available to us to create a clear life of freedom through discipline. The citta is our connection between what is happening in the outer world and what is happening in our inner world, and the best way to test the clarity of our citta is to see how we react the enxt time a conflict arises in our lives. My guess is that it won’t take long to appear, and when it does, how do you chose to react? And, judging by that reaction, what must I do to change the habits that have led me to this moment so that the next time I experience a moment like this I won’t be drained of my energy by the end of the day?
What our citta exists to teach us is this: holding on to the extra baggage that clouds it, that blocks the light from shining from our core outward, is what drains us because it represents all the crap we pick up along the way. Crap from family members, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers. Empty out your inner trash can and make space for something new and inspiring to come through, and when that is complete, empty that out, too.
Let your inner light shine. Meditate, or at least attempt to. An attempt at meditation is better than no meditation at all.
Our heart-mind is our center of consciousness, the seat of opportunity for us to get to know ourselves in the most intimate and magical way possible. Guiding our inner selves toward kindness and clarity is the best and most powerful way to life at cause for ourselves and for every living being on this planet.
The heart-mind is the center of consciousness.
I understand the citta as a link between external objects and the inner light of awareness.
I will guide my heart-mind toward clarity and kindness.
Think of yourself in broader terms, as if you were a citizen of the world instead of limited to your particular local culture. What might you do differently if you were free to act and not bound by any conformity?
I would certainly do more things naked. I am sure that answer is going to get a lot of laughs, but it is true! Especially going to the beach. Living in Miami it is extremely hot here all the time, and since I was a little kid I have had a propensity for just hanging out with no clothes on. For me it is not about sexuality, it is about being comfortable in my skin (which I am) and about being practical when it comes to self-acceptance and comfort in a climate that is super hot and humid and happens to have great beaches. All beaches of the world should be nude/clothing optional.
Think of times when you changed your mind, replacing what you thought before with something completely different. How did it change your worldview? Did you make the change instantly, or did you make this change as a result of a shift from within or influence from someone or something outside yourself? If someone or something outside yourself convinced you to change your mind, what might that person or thing have to gain by your change of mind?
I have experience both of these types of changing minds. I have been pressured into changing my mind about things and given in to it, and I have also realized a shift in opinion around someone or something on my own.
What I get from this question the most is a sense of comparison. Comparing a pressured mind change to an authentic and organic one, clearly the mind change that comes from within myself is more fulfilling and empowering, because it is a decision I consciously make for myself.
Giving in to another’s opinion and taking it on as my own only sullies my citta, because it is not authentic to me, unless it is a case where I am being educated about something and taking in new learning. That, then, is a great way to change my mind myself, especially if I am being given the space from the educator to make the decision on my own based on what I am being taught.
As with the recurring theme of this blog and tying it back to the Red Cheetah Yoga motto, Choose to Evolve, choice is a big thing for me, because it is a big thing for all of us. Choice is an action that gives us our freedom or takes it away, and choices permeate our daily lives, from what kind of toothpaste to use to what direction we want to take to work today. Being allowed the space to make decisions on my own is what truly empowers my life, and I know my work is to not react when I feel that choice is taken from me, because as someone in a serious relationship who holds many jobs (I am an employee too, I am not just self-employed) it is appropriate sometimes to let others make decisions for me, even if I may not approve of them. When decisions are made in my presence that I do not agree with, I recall my center, my citta, my inner being and that through which my inner light shines, and I recall that my inner essence is ever-present and always steady, and clearing out whatever dirties my citta is the best course of action. Reacting in a negative way only makes my citta cloud over again.
Which of your habits or behaviors are due to nature (genetic, acting the way your parents acted when they were your age) and which are due to nurture (based on your life experience).
I know that my ambition is innate. I recall my mother telling me when I was a teenager that even as a little kid I had to be the best at everything. Now that I am older, my need to be better than others has been replaced with the daily work of improving myself in some small way every day. I think this habit is something I picked up along the way, a result of nurture from the sports I did for so many years that emphasized small, incremental and daily growth. Small steps taken throughout the day and over the course of many days, weeks, and months is oftentimes far more powerful and life-transforming that doing a lot of things all at once. Learning to take my time and be deliberate and patient was something I not only inherited from both of my parents, it is also something I honed as I grew up, and something I am still present to perfecting today.
Either way, I am grateful for the experiences I have had that got me here, and I understand how this question relates to the citta since all of our experiences get filtered through the citta, and therefore affect later actions and decisions. The clearer our citta is, the clearer and more pure our actions are, and the more fulfilling life we live. There really is no “better” habit or behavior: natural or nurtured, because they both exist and take up space equally within our beings, and they inherently affect one another.