The Yogic Kleshas: Minimize Suffering With Mindfulness
Everyone’s got something, right? That one (or more than one) area of your life that consistently trips you up. The thing that holds you back, that prevents you from being completely full. That thing that you keep telling yourself that once it’s *fixed* or *solved* or *healed* or *sorted* in some way, THEN my life will be good/complete/perfect.
The THING is different for everyone. It could be your body, your family, your tendency to want to numb out with substances or distractions. Your thing could be never getting enough sleep or constantly living in overwhelm or cycles of panicked procrastination and the ensuing burnout. Perhaps your thing is believing that a partnership or a family will complete or fix you. Maybe you feel unchosen. Perhaps you feel unseen or misunderstood by your family and friends. Maybe your life hasn’t turned out the way you had hoped, and you’ve been disappointed for many years. When you scan your current life as well as your past, what comes up?
- How are these hang-ups impacting your life today?
- How have they shaped you?
- How long have you been participating with this THING???
- How has it served you?
- How has it held you back?
The beautiful thing about YOGA is that while many of us understand it to be primarily a physical practice, it is actually meant to be so much more than that. There are EIGHT Limbs of Yoga, and the Asana, or physical practice, is only ONE of those unique limbs. The holographic practice of yoga is concerned not only with our physical embodiment, but also with who we are on the inside, how we relate to those around us, and our ability to go inward to experience deeper layers of stillness, peace, focus, and ultimately BLISS. The yoga cares about our suffering and gives us a roadmap out of it.
The Kleshas are a Yogic concept that illustrate the FIVE ways that we humans tend to increase our own suffering. The Yogis view these five elements like SPOKES on the WHEEL of SUFFERING. And that wheel just keeps turning and turning, wrapping us in cycles that are difficult to see and therefore overcome.
The Kleshas explore our tendency to:
Take things personally (Asmitā)
We develop a story of I, Me, and Mine, where everything we perceive revolves around us personally. This tendency keeps us wrapped up in creating and adding to the stories we tell about ourselves, over and over.
The Antidote: Ask yourself, What else could be happening here? What might be going on that I’m not aware of? If I am viewing this through my personal lens, how are others viewing this situation through theirs? How might their perspective be true?
The fear of death and things being temporary (Abhiniveśa)
We want our efforts to be enduring and lasting; we cling to permanence when life by definition is beautifully and cyclically impermanent.
The Antidote: Practice PRESENCE. How is this moment more than enough? How might being fully in this moment contribute to your lasting power once you are gone/this moment is over?
Humans are wired to run away from anything that makes us feel pain or discomfort. This is a form of CLINGING to what is pleasurable.
The Antidote: Learn to sit with your own discomfort without judging, fixing, or needing to change it. Practice the skill of acceptance.
Humans are wired to cling and protect and seek out anything that makes us feel pleasure. This causes us to avoid anything that isn’t pleasurable and CLING desperately to the things that are, even when they might not be ultimately supporting us.
The Antidote: Practice TRUST. Enjoy what feels good and when it is time to let it go, trust that something this good or better will take its place. Learn to sit with the discomfort of not numbing or distracting or replacing your emotions with something more preferable.
The inability to accept life the way it is (Avidyā)
We create extra suffering when we believe that what is actually happening is not what SHOULD be happening. The failure to accept the reality of the way things are creates discontent, dissatisfaction, and disconnection with and from your starting point, right here and now.
The Antidote: The mantra, “It is what it is” can be very helpful when it comes to acceptance. Practice letting go, not fighting, and really letting the reality of things soak in. Any time you use the word SHOULD about your circumstances, it can be an INDICATOR to you to note how you are not accepting reality. When you do accept life on life’s terms, it will bring you more peace and groundedness to use to actually create the reality you desire.
When examined under the scope of your personal THING(S), these Kleshas can support us to unwind these spokes of suffering inside of ourselves so that we might be free to experience the beauty of life in each and every moment.
Life is too short to spend your finite days circling around the same cycles again and again. Conversely, life is way too long to be having the same conversations over and over again, one year, five years, or 20 years down the line. These cycles won’t change unless you do, and your personal exploration of the Kleshas can help to illuminate your path.
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