Episode 1 | How We React in the Face of Storms

Welcome to Episode ONE of Swami Ji, the OG. I am so glad you are here. Today we are exploring what it means to become a witness, rather than a reactor. There are bright days, and there are dark days. How do we react to them? It is easy to react positively when everything is going your way. But how do you react when there’s a big storm? What about when life becomes uncomfortable?

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Notes from the show:

  • Have you heard of the yoga sutras? They are phrases in Sanskrit. 

    • One of the first yoga sutras is the definition of yoga: yogaschittavrittinirodhaha

      • This means that yoga happens when we can control our mind- when we are undisturbed by all of our thoughts.

      • Vrittis – whirlpools or ongoing patterns of thoughts

  • How do we find the energy or awareness to extract ourselves from these vrittis? First we want to think about a lake. When a lake is calm, we can see what is beneath the surface of the water. We can see the sand, the stones and the fish swimming about. But when a storm comes along, it becomes difficult to see beyond the surface. 

    • This is exactly how we are as humans. After an emotional spiral, it takes a while for the silt to settle down, for us to regain our composure. 

  • So, what can we do to make the storm a bit smoother? Well, many of us will say that meditation has helped us. But others, will say that meditation doesn’t work for them. “Oh, well I tried to meditate once, but I couldn't stop thinking.”

    • Here’s a disclosure: Meditation is not the process of stopping the thoughts. 

    • Some of us do embrace a meditation practice. However, do we practice it off of the mat? Do we embrace that practice when we are in the midst of a storm?

    • Then, some of us don’t practice at all. We bounce from one storm to the next, not even finding those moments of peace. 

  • The process is not about stopping the thoughts, but finding space between you and the thought. This is called being the witness. 

  • But how do we become the witness? 

    • This can become a formal meditation practice. However, this is something that we should practice in day to day life. 

    • Mindfulness-seeing ourselves react or feeling ourselves react.

  • The ability to see, without reaction has a lot to do with the mind. In classical yoga, there are four parts of the mind. In Sanskrit those four parts are called, Antar Karana, or the inner instrument known as mind.

    • Antar- inner

    • Karana-instrument

  • Our mind controls our thoughts and actions. It’s the instrument we play throughout ourlives. 

  • The first part of the mind- Manas –the part that connects us with the world around us. It perceives senses and is the process of thought/counterthought.

  • The second part of the mind is called chitta – which means consciousness and the memory of all experiences up to this second. 

  • The third part of the mind is called ahamkara – sense of I-ness (I’m differend than you ) or ego.

  • The fourth and the most important part of the mind that we need to learn about in terms of becoming more proactive, instead of reactive, is called buddhi – higher mind that is closest to our true nature, makes decisions based on the connection it has with the other parts of the mind – capacity to see things as they are

  • What can we do to break the pattern of reacting negatively?

    • One thing that we can do is to strengthen our energy and our will power. This will require discipline and practice.

    • One of the best ways to practice (no yoga mat needed) is to practice stopping, close your eyes, be still, and take one, slow, deep breath. Now, start again. 

  • Another thing that you can do (anywhere) is becoming aware of your breath. Start to practice breath awareness. 

    • When you become aware of your breath, you are connecting the prefrontal cortex, the thinking brain, to the part of the brain that is primitive.

    • The connections between those two parts of the brain, go to a part of the brain called the limbic system. The limbic system is your emotional brain, that reacts quite often, rather than being connected to your thinking brain. 

  • Amygdala is a part of the limbic system and prefrontal cortex is thinking brain. This is essential to processing and perceiving emotions. Practicing breath awareness can help prevent the amygdala from simply reacting, or taking control.

  • “Learning how to just watch is an important part of being less reactive.” 

  • Once we become a witness, we can start living a better life.

Any questions? Send an email to atmarupa@atmacenter.com. We will try to answer them on an upcoming episodes!

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Beverly Singh