What is it like transitioning from life seen through an intellectual lens to life viewed through a spiritual lens? Or rather - a soulful lens, the lens through which you look when walking the warrior path of tantra?
It’s a transition I currently explore, and the more deeply I dive in, the less I rely on words. Needless to say, that makes writing about it quite a challenge.
In the time I’ve practiced yoga and meditation, I’ve discovered this analogy to explain the inexplicable: Stepping out of the mind and into a heart-centered, soulful place feels like taking off a pair of jeans you never realized were too small. Once you’ve stepped out of them, you see the red trenches they’ve dug into the softness of your skin. You see the marks on your thighs, around your waist, the painful spot where the button’s rounded metal edges dug deep into your belly. You see the indentations created from wearing these jeans for years after you’ve outgrown them, the red inseam lines imprinted up and down your legs. Though your awareness has grown and you’ve chosen to step out this ill-fitted garment, the evidence of these jeans is all over, at least temporarily. Over time the marks will fade, but there is a moment when we get to observe them and reflect on the time we chose to wear them. If they were our most prized, brand-name “sexy jeans,” we might even put them on again and give them one more spin just for fun. But, in my experience, stepping back into them only feels good in my memory, not in the reality where I now live. Once you become aware of the grooves they make on your skin, it is only a matter of time before you let them go.
I see the marks left by these jeans in the same way I can see the marks left on my awareness by the habits of my mind; habits built and reinforced over the years I’ve spent on this earth. We call these marks samskara, a word that means impression in Sanskrit and sounds kind of similar to the word karma - probably not by coincidence, I’d wager. Our samskaras, or mental impressions, are intimately related to our karma, in the way that they are the grooves imprinted upon us by the circumstances of our life. Raised by a family that instilled fear of the outside world since childhood? You adapt to life with hypervigilance and skepticism of anything unfamiliar. Raised by a family with an healthy sense of well being and security? You retain the impression of a world is generally okay. You might even be comfortable with vulnerability and trust. So which samskaras are good and which are bad? Well, it all depends on what you are trying to achieve in your life. What brings you more balance? Trust and vulnerability? Or skepticism?
You can see how the answer to this question gets tricky...
Going back to the jeans analogy, I venture to say that you cannot label one set of impressions as good and the other as bad. (If only it were this simple!) The question you must ask yourself, and the one we explore in yoga, is which samskaras are serving us and which ones are simply outdated? Basically, which jeans fit and which ones are just too tight?
This is the beauty of tantra. In tantra, we throw nothing out based generalizations or blanket labels. We try the jeans on first, we look in the mirror, we evaluate whether they will last a lifetime or only one year. We have permission to do this, we embrace this process, and we enjoy it.
I recently re-opened T.K.V. Deskichar’s The Heart of Yoga, and when the pages flipped open, I saw the following words:
The world exists to set us free.
Let it sink in.
A little more.
Now a little more.
Here it is again:
The world exists to set us free.
What if you saw your mental impressions are there ONLY to set you free from them? What if they did not define you? What if you knew, just like you knew that your jeans were too tight, when its time to try on a new attitude or change into a different emotional state? What if it was just that simple?
Like I mentioned, the more I dive into this stuff, the harder it is to articulate and the less willing I am to say that I have “The Answer.” All I know is that THESE are the ideas worth exploring in my moments. These are the challenges we face as warriors on this path. One one hand, doing so is as easy as changing clothes. But once we step foot inside the dressing room we realize we need support, courage, and resolve. And, perhaps most importantly, a comfortable place to sit.
Find out more about Megan's latest project at www.narrative-yoga.com.