Chant yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
When you stop identifying with your thoughts, fluctuations of the mind, then there is yoga
Thinking, Not-Thinking, and NonThinking
Thinking refers to the fluctuations of the mind we usually concern ourselves with in yoga – the habits, the raga/dvesa, the constant stream of consciousness always providing the narrative storyline to our lives.
Not-Thinking refers to what we often try to do in yoga when we work with this sutra – try NOT to think of the things we usually think about. “I’m not going to think about my bank account.” “I’m not going to think about coffee today.” “I’m not going to think about how much I really (don’t) want to do handstand in class today, and I hope the teacher (doesn’t) call it out.” “I’m not going to think about my off-the-mat “stuff”, just the breath.” “Oh, I was just thinking about my pedicure, stop, think about the breath!”
NonThinking is when both of those drop away.
Yogash Citta Vritti Nirodhah, could then perhaps be said to mean cultivating NonThinking.
There was an experiment conducted with long-time Buddhist monk meditation practitioners. They were connected to different body monitors, and asked to sit in meditation. In one of the parts of the experiment, small bombs were set off near the monks (out of harm’s way). The monks didn’t flinch, there heart rates didn’t change, their breath was constant.
Not because they were trying hard to think of happy thoughts, and not because they were thinking not to think about bombs, and thinking not to flinch. They didn’t fluctuate because they had cultivated a state where everything – the breath, the wind, thoughts, and even bombs, just passed through.
Try the following intentions when you practice asana next:
1) Finding your architecture of joy
The subtitle of this section is a paraphrase from a teaching of Rodney Yee’s . He uses it to describe experimenting in poses to find what works for you, figuring out what it is about that experiment that works, and then trying to do it more.
So when you practice – notice when you’re Thinking, when you’re Not Thinking, and when you’re NonThinking. Figure out what it is about what you’re doing (or not doing) that allows for NonThinking, and then try to do it more.
Of course the trick is that Figure Out is a pseudonym or Thinking, so like most practices in yoga, there’s a wonderful balance of contradictions that must arise.
2) Repetitive Detachment
Our body is one of the prime habitual fluctuations of thought – it’s aches, joys, daily differences, urges, longings, depressions, it’s current action, etc. When we engage in mindless actions, our minds often detach from the body. Think back to times you’ve spent stuffing envelopes, cutting lemons in a service industry job, marching, lifting weights, or other similar physical movement that required little mental attention after a while. The mind then wanders, plans, plots, worries, daydreams, or just checks out.
Instead, use the Surya Namaskars at the beginning of the class in this way. But instead of the letting the mind wander, focus on the breath. Then use that pattern to carry over into the less routine asana that follows. See if you can reside for a whole class in NonThinking
Evening zazen hours advance. Sleep hasn’t come yet.
More and more I realize mountain forests are good for efforts in the way.
Sounds of the valley brook enter the ears, moonlight pierces the eyes.
Outside this, not one further instant of thought.
Last practice to leave you with: Find this place for you. And if you’ve already found it, spend as much time there as you can throughout the year.