The Churning Mind

For the last few weeks I have felt lethargic, unmotivated, and what I deemed as super lazy. Today I realized that I am not lazy but rather a bit depressed. I didn’t have to probe too far to recognize that my feelings were due to feeling unworthy and unaccomplished. Of course this is a wall many of us bump up against. We all have feelings of unworthiness at times. We are all susceptible to uneasy feelings that creep in and take over when we are not looking. The test is how we deal when these feelings do creep in; when we acknowledge they exist. In 1980, Joel Kramer said that “at its core, yoga is a process that involves confronting your limits and transcending them.” He explained that yoga is not about attainment but rather how you work within limits. In other words, yoga is not about getting into a pose but rather about how you get into the pose, where your mind and heart are situated. We can spend our whole lives trying to find happiness but when we desire to control what is beyond us, we will end up feeling empty. In my own little hole, I recognized that I was refusing to see the reality of my situation, how things move smoothly and how I am blessed. I was unable to be content because I was too focused on what was not there. I created a gap for something I never had. When I acknowledged and labeled my feelings, I felt energized ready to move beyond them.

In Hindu mythology we first encounter Kurma, an avatar of Vishnu, in the mythological battle between the demigods and demons. The demigods were losing and, in despair, they asked Vishnu for help. He told them they needed to drink the amrita, nectar of immortality, which was in the milky ocean. Knowing they could not get the amrita alone, the demigods and the demons agreed to split the nectar and both began to work together to find the amrita. As they churned the ocean, Mount Mandara began to sink and Vishnu turned himself into Kurma, the tortoise and supported the mountain on his back until the amrita rose.

As the demons and demigods churned the ocean many things came up: some lovely like the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, and some unpleasant like the poison, Halahala. As in life, when we stop and listen to our thoughts we find the pleasant and unpleasant sensations of our experiences. Yet, as yoga practitioners we need to remind ourselves that what arises is neither good nor bad – it just is. Our mind places a label on the feeling and describes the feeling, sensation, or thought is one thing or another. Just as Kurma had the strength to hold up Mount Mandara, with focus and stability we each have the strength to center our mind.

When I focus on the life of friends, or any life outside of my own, I only exacerbate the feelings which manifest as jealousy, competiveness, laziness, and exhaustion. For each of us, our mind is the milky ocean in the myth of Kurma and the poison that arises from the ocean are toxic feelings that must be released. When I went within and recognized my feelings, I immediately reminded myself to stop comparing and notice the riches I have because from where that poison arose so did the beautiful and fortunate goddess Lakshmi. At these times I acknowledge my life’s own perfection. At an unhurried, steady pace, when I focus and become familiar with my experiences (good or bad), I find unlimited wealth.

Kramer, Joel. Yoga as Self Transformation. Yoga Journal May/June 1980. Online.