On Stories and When You Can’t Let Them Go
Yoga teaching 101: “Sh*t happens.”
Seriously. Stuff has happened to us both in this life and, if you sign up to it, in previous lives as well. That “stuff” creates what is known in yoga philosophy as a “samskara;” a lens or filter through which we then see the world. It’s like we’ve all created our own personal overlay through which we experience reality.
You do not have to take this as dogma. Take a moment to think through the argument: If we all experienced any given moment in the same way then we would all have the same reaction to it. And quite simply, we don’t. There are people out there that you may think of as “bad” or “annoying” or “unwise” but isn’t it always the case that not everyone shares this same opinion. There are plenty of people who think that this same person is truly wonderful. Take a moment to think of your favorite yoga teacher; I guarantee you that someone has been to their class and been like “meh” about it. One of my favorite contemplations on this subject is to notice how we all then try to confirm that our view of reality is definitely the correct one by trying to get others on board: “I can’t believe she did that, it was so thoughtless wasn’t it….etc etc.” Oh, the amount of time and energy we waste on this futile effort of convincing ourselves that we must be right. Futile because, of course, there is no “right.”
One of the first things many people notice when they begin a meditation practice is that there is an unceasing, totally unstoppable barrage of thoughts, feelings and images moving through the landscape of the mind, creating a kind of story or on-going internal narration about the way that things are. Our first job is to just slow it down enough to be able to see this for what it is: A story, a self-constructed, flimsy, fabricated story born from our samskaras.
Then, once seen for what it is, traditionally, our next job has always been to eradicate it. This is, I believe what Patanjali had in mind when he composed the sutra:
“Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha” – Yoga sutras of Patanjali 1.2
We are told to drop the thoughts, feelings and images, the constant narration. We are told to let it go, to offer it away or to observe it until it disappears. And sometimes, one of these methods works and if it works for you, then keep doing it. This is, in the words of the great master Patanjali himself, the path of yoga.
But sometimes, you try everything and the story remains; “Bla, bla bla,” meditation after meditation, year after year and despair sets in. Oh, fellow seeker, if you feel this too, I want to share with you that there is another way. A fantastically simple yet utterly profound method for dealing with the stories which requires just a small shift in perspective:
So far, we have been basing our practice on the story that we have been handed down declaring that we must stop this barrage of thoughts, feelings and images. That this eradication of the stories is the only way. But, oh radical one, what if we didn’t have to do this? What if there truly was another way?
In non-dual tantra, everything, everything is a manifestation of the Divine, a manifestation of that very state which arises when we drop the stories. If you can understand this, truly understand this then you will see that your stories too are a manifestation of the Divine. That it is all just a play that she acts out through you. In this profound realisation, the stories start to lose their positive or negative charge, they lose the ability to create desire or aversion, they just are. It is all, you realise, just experience knowing itself through you, simultaneously as you. The whole thing becomes a giant love fest of experience.
Don’t believe me as dogma, feel into yourself. Let your stories begin to move through you. In meditation, try to expand your awareness so that it can encompass every single self-constructed story – the good, the bad and most definitely the ugly. Hold them all in expansive, spacious awareness. Notice how it is the very light of Consciousness itself painting, drawing, illuminating the thoughts, feelings and images. And where does she paint them? Onto the canvas of herself!
There is, oh radical one, no need to stop the thoughts. They are simply vibrations of Consciousness arising within the field of awareness which is also none other than Consciousness. Yes Patanjali, you heard me right: There is no need to stop the thoughts. Instead, let Consciousness paint her heart out and keep feeling into the true essence of the painter and the canvas. Keep going until eventually maybe, you notice a presence, a quiet blissful presence. And then maybe you notice that this presence exists not only in your awareness; the canvas but it also exists in the stories; the painting. And it exists as you.