Resolving to evolve is to consciously seek change for oneself. Outside influences play no role in a true inner revolution. It is a change motivated by an inner honing in on what no longer serves us, and aims us toward moving beyond habit into intention.
Yoga traditions associate the patterns we create with the Sanskrit word samskara. Breaking down the word we learn – sam means joined together or complete & kara, refers to action or cause. Engrained in each of us are patterns/samskaras, both of a positive and not so positive nature. Some of these patterns we cherish and would never give up; while others can be negative and underlie low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships. The negative samskaras are what hinder our positive evolution. When we repeat samskaras it reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. The deeper they become the pull on our lives becomes harder to sustain.
Many, many years ago I started on a path. I didn’t know I even needed to be on it. I had no clue what it was named or where it would lead me; or if I would even keep a commitment to what I was discovering. I was completely unconscious to what lay beneath the surface of my skin. The patterns I had created in my life were pushing on me hard.
Now, almost 30 years later, words of gratitude can’t even touch how happy I am to have decided to dive deeply into this path, the path of living Yoga. Over the years my commitment to it, though wavering in depth at times, continues to join me with the deepest aspects of mySelf. I now realize that each decade of study guides me into a new aspect of this ancient tradition. It drives me to face samskara tracks I continuously lay within myself. Each confrontation leads to an evolution. And each evolution leads me to a deeper aspect of comprehending Self.
The first decade of discernment, ages 20-30, concentrated on the mind’s power. I was stuck in a deep samskara, a belief that I could only do one thing in my life, be pretty. Prior to this time I truly believed the only way I could make it in the world was by being attractive. So much so I packed all I owned and moved myself, at the age of 19, from central Wisconsin to Los Angeles to chase my one and only career option (or so I thought) to be a model. Within a year, cancer hit me full force. It forced me confront the engrained beauty belief driving my every thought. It took the hair off my head and left permanent bald patches. It pushed my pain threshold on a regular basis and left scars all over my body as proof. While going through a year of treatments many hours were spent in silent contemplation and reading texts of mystics in a wide-range of philosophical and religious traditions alongside relentless puking. All of their words and promptings lead me to the stillest parts of Self. Taking action was truly my only choice. It literally felt like a do it or die situation. These inner churnings turned the total notion of what life is meant to be in a completely different direction. This go-round I truly realized I possessed far more than just an outer beauty. Deep samskara cracked wide open.
The second decade focused on the body with the mind playing second string. I immersed myself into the study of Yogāsana (the postures). A new layer of mistrust (of Self) kept me questioning my physical ability again and again. Lungs weakened and constrained by the scars of radiation prematurely halted my breath every time I attempted something requiring vigorous deep breath. I engaged in every pranayama practice appearing to be a possible break through in this physical limitation. Year after year I ventured to my favorite place, Lake Tahoe. Each time I paused, while kayaking the beautiful lake water, to gaze up at the tremendous mountains surrounding us. I felt deeply dwarfed by their massiveness. There is no way I will ever be able to hike to those elevations, no way. Impossible. My breath will never allow it. This samskara had me on lock me down, convinced I would never be able to trek into the wilderness of these majestic mountains. Then one day someone very dear to me said let’s try a short hike up the path along Echo Lake. I looked at her in total shock. Did she not know my limitations? I was wrong. It was slow, however step-by-step the elevation rose bit-by-bit. There is a moment forever in my heart. I stepped out of the forest and into an alpine meadow. The sight of the vibrant green grass peppered with the brilliant colors of poppies, lupine, daisies and a whole slue of wildflowers freshly bursting after the spring’s snowmelt. A tear of joy rolled off my cheek hitting the dirt next to my boot and then another and another. Another false self-story (a.k.a. samskara) now destroyed. [FYI: I later climbed the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, Mt. Kiliminjaro.]
Now I enter my fifties with a deep awareness of the next samskara I am chasing down. It is an elusive and tricky one. I’ve seen it for some time playing on the fringes of my consciousness. Though it keeps trying to disguise itself, I am confident I will find a way to loosen its’ grip on me. Facing it fully is/will be a venture of the greatest courage ever, for me. My game plan? To love the heck out of it.