In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he says
Yoga citta vritti nirodhah (Chapter 1, v. 2)
Yoga is the mastery of the agitations of the mind.
Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam (Chapter 1, v.3)
Then the seer abides in its own nature
In Yoga, meditation practice is a discipline, the end goal of which is to encounter the Truth and connect with the Divine within and around us.
Where attention goes, energy flows. It is important to recognize that we attain what we concentrate on. Because of that, we need to be vigilant about what thoughts we allow to flourish and which ones we let go of because they no longer serve to nourish our spiritual growth.
The sage Vyasa describes five states of mind.
1. Kshipta : disturbed
2. Mudha : dull
3. Vikshipta : distracted
4. Ekagra : one-pointed
5. Nirodhah : mastered
The state described by Patanjali in verse 2 of the Yoga Sutra speaks of the Nirodhah or mastered state of mind. Meditation traditions distinguish between the focused task-oriented activity of looking and the open receptivity of gazing and seeing. Useful metaphors to think about that would be a grasping hand or an open hand. Both are necessary in the seer’s quest to “calm the agitations of the mind”.
One can begin with simple self-observation of every thought that comes, identifying or labeling each one as it emerges and subsequently learning to go beyond them. At that stage, one is able to witness the entire stream of consciousness, observing the natural flow of the mind while not being disturbed or distracted.
In other words, witnessing is observation without attachment.
The basic steps to witnessing are as follows
1) Observe individual thoughts.
2) Label them either as useful or not useful thoughts
3) Promote the positive useful thoughts. Allow those useful thoughts to move into action.
4) Acknowledge and then let go of any non-useful thoughts.
The more practice one has in witnessing one’s thoughts, the more one can dissociate the self from the thought (“I am not my thoughts”). This mastery of the “agitations of the mind” paves the way to the discovery of one’s true nature.
Jan-May, 200Hrs Weekend TTC