Every time there is a situation where you take an action without conscious thought you are using a pattern. Right now, you are using patterns to read this page. Patterns control all of our unconscious actions. Scripts, the messages that we hear in our mind, shape both our conscious and unconscious actions. This article will show you how patterns and scripts shape your actions, and will show you how to change your actions and take control of your life and the way you feel. The final part of this article will show how the ideas in this article relate to Patanjali's Yoga sutra.
What is A Pattern?
In the article on the Present, we explained how the mind uses patterns. When you respond to a particular situation with a specific action you are using a pattern.. For example, the situation could be the phone ringing and the associated action could be reaching for the telephone receiver. These types of actions are done without any conscious thought, which is why we generally think of these types of actions as arising from our unconscious mind.
All of the situations that happen in your life, and the actions you and others took to respond to these situations, are stored in your memory. When you respond to the same situation repeatedly with the same action your mind will store an association between that situation and that particular action. You can also learn patterns from watching other people repeatedly doing the same action when they are in the same situation. If every time the phone rings your parents picked up the receiver, the brain stores this association between the situation “Phone Rings” with the action “Pick Up Receiver”.
Every time a situation occurs the brain looks to see if this situation is already stored in memory. If a situation is stored, and it has an action associated with it, the brain than will use the action associated with the situation stored in memory. This will look as follows:
If the situation is not stored in memory, or if the situation is stored in memory but no action has been associated with this situation, than this situation gets passed to the conscious mind where a decision can be made on how to respond to it. This would look as follows:
As our brain needs to respond quickly to a situation, all of this happens within a tiny fraction of a second. In situations where there are many things occurring around us and the mind has to deal with many situations simultaneously, the brain can create many actions using patterns. This allows the conscious mind to be free to only deal with the occasional situation that has not been dealt with before or to work on a solution to something that we have directed our conscious mind to.
Thus, we can type on the computer without even giving a thought to where our fingers need to go on the keyboard because our brain has both patterns that tell it the letters associated with a word and what keys are associated with those letters. The choosing of the correct spelling and the correct keys all occurs using patterns, leaving our conscious mind free to think of what sentences and ideas we want to write. It is really an amazing process.
A persons patterns, called Samskara in Sanskrit, are the result of a person’s entire life experiences. The brain can just as easily associate a good, positive action with situations as it can associate a bad, negative action with a situation. When the action associated with a situation is positive, I will call it a “positive pattern.” When the action is negative, I will call it a “negative pattern”.
Negative patterns can be created by negative experiences that have happened in your life. Because your patterns work without the use of your conscious mind, you are often not even aware the negative pattern exists. Even when you recognize that a pattern exists, you usually do not remember the original experience that created the pattern, i.e. you do not remember what created the association between this particular situation and this negative action. This is why it is so hard to change your patterns, but with a little deeper understanding of how patterns work, we can learn how to change them.
Groups For Patterns
Our mind likes to put things into categories. It is much more efficient for the mind to group all situations together that are similar and create a single action for all of these similar situations, than to store actions for each of the individual situations. This could look as follows for the "Situations Where Someone does Something Nice" Group:
In the above diagram, the mind has created a group for situations where someone does something nice for you. The mind has associated the action of feeling good and thanking the person with this category. Situations such as someone giving you a compliment, someone helping your or someone giving you a gift all have been put into this category. In this way, the mind only needs to remember one action for three different situations. Of course, in reality, there are probably hundreds of situations that could go into this category. If you were to map out the way the mind responds to a situation, it would look as follows:
When a situation does not belong to a group, it is very easy for us to change the action associated with this situation. The phone ringing is a situation that has an action - picking up the receiver - that does not fall into any group, i.e. the action is something that is specific to this particular situation. If we hire someone to answer the phones for us, at first we will act with our pattern and pick up the receiver when the phone rings. But, we will quickly learn to associate a new action, not picking up the receiver, when the phone rings.
When a situation is not part of a group and the action is directly associated with the situation, it is easy to learn a new action.
Situations Associated With the Wrong Group
The problems really start to happen when we try to change our actions for situations that belong to a group. This is especially true when situations are associated with the wrong group. To see how a situation can become associated with the wrong group, let us look at an example.
Imagine that when you first started dating, you dated someone who would compliment you every time they wanted to get something from you. At first, you trusted them and did what they wanted, but over time you realized their compliments were not real but simply a tool to get you to do what they wanted. When you realized this, you felt angry and manipulated and deceived. This could lead your brain to associate the situation of getting a compliment with the group situation of being manipulated and deceived. This would look as follows:
In this case, the action of the group is correct, to feel angry and distrustful. The problem is that the situation of receiving a compliment is associated with the wrong group situation, being manipulated.
If you wanted to change the action associated with this behavior, you would have to remove the association with the wrong group and than associate the situation with the appropriate group. As will be discussed in more detail below, you could do this by telling yourself a script such as “No, this person is complimenting me because they love me, this person is doing something nice for me” every time someone would give you an honest compliment and you started to feel upset and mistrustful. Eventually, if you do this enough times, the mind will learn that the “someone gives me a compliment” situation does not belong to the “being manipulated” group but instead belongs to the “someone doing something nice” group.
The reason why most people cannot change something like this is because they will try to change the action that results from the situation instead of trying to change the group the situation is associated with. So, in our example, trying to change the action would be having thoughts like “No, I should feel good when this person compliments me, I should trust this person”. Since the action of feeling mistrustful and angry is associated with the group, and is appropriate for the group, the mind just ignores this message as it does not make sense. Basically, the mind just listens to you telling it that the action is wrong, it goes back and looks at the sequence and sees that the “get compliment” situation is associated with the “manipulated” group, and than it checks and sees that it made the correct action for the “manipulated” group and ignores your correction.
Situations that belong to groups do not have actions associated with the actual situation (the actions are associated with the group). So, telling your mind to change the action associated with this situation makes no sense to your mind. The harder you try to convince your mind that the action is wrong, the more confused your mind becomes and the more impossible change appears to be. In situations like this, you must find out the what caused the wrong association.
Finding Out Why A Situation is in the Wrong Group
It would be much easier if our mind would let us know how it is working, what situations are associated with a group, and, if a situation is in a group, what group the situation is associated with. Unfortunately, all of this information is in what we call our “unconscious mind” and is not readily accessible to our conscious mind. We can only see the groupings by our actions and by trying to see if we can find a connection between the situation and the actions in our memories.
In the example given above, the action of feeling mistrustful and angry when someone compliments you is usually the wrong action for this situation. Once you have realized that, than you need to try to find out what made your brain choose this inappropriate action. The way to do this is to find all of your memories that are associated with receiving a compliment. It’s quite possible that this person who caused all of these problems has long been forgotten by the conscious mind, but their actions are still stored in your memory.
Starting with an understanding of the negative pattern, in this case, the action of feeling mistrustful and angry when the situation of receiving a compliment occurs, you begin to search through your mind and find all of the memories that are associated with receiving compliments. When you find a memory where you received a compliment which resulted in your feeling angry and mistrustful, than you know you have found the underlying cause.
Once you found the underlying cause, you would realize that it was just that person in your past that was not honest and used compliments to manipulate you. You could than expand the statement that you tell yourself every time someone gives you a compliment and you feel mistrustful to : “No, this person is not like the other person who used compliments to manipulate me, I can trust them and what they are saying is sincere, they are complimenting me because they love me, this person is doing something nice for me”. This statement tells the mind that the original situation that led to the wrong grouping is different and that this situation does not belong to the original group but to this new group.
The Power of Situations Connected to the Wrong Groups
Of course, this makes sense only if the new people you are with are really honest with their compliments. If your mind has created negative patterns by associating situations with inappropriate groups, this could actually change how your mind interprets the world and change what you attract into your life.
If your mind has inappropriately associated getting compliments with the group of situations of being manipulated than this may lead your mind to believe that all people who give compliments are always manipulative. When you meet someone who gives honest compliments, your mind feels uncomfortable around this person because they violate the minds understanding of behavior, i.e. they go against your patterns. When you meet someone who is dishonest and uses compliments to manipulate people, this fits with your mind’s view that all people who give compliments are dishonest and may actually feel more comfortable, more attractive to you. In this way, you may actually begin to attract people into your life who fit with the patterns that are formed within your mind.
Thus, negative patterns not only lead us to make wrong action, they actually change the way we view the world and change what we attract into our lives. This is why it is so important to understand how the mind works, how patterns are created, so that you can actually have the power to change them.
Negative patterns can be created any time in ones life and can come from many situations, but mostly they come from when we are a child. For example, if a child is constantly told by a parent that they are stupid every time they make a mistake, it can associate the situation “making a mistake” with the action “feel stupid, incompetent”. This pattern becomes deeply rooted into the child’s mind and sometimes the child will even hear a voice in their head telling them that are stupid every time they make a mistake - the parents voice can become their own. This leads the child to believe they are stupid and can never do anything right and will affect the life that the child attracts to themselves.
In these situations the actions are not actually doing something physical, like picking up the phone, but instead they are emotions and feelings within us. These types of negative patterns are often very powerful and have an energy of their own. They become like a living cancer within our memories that grow larger and more powerful over time. If they are not removed, they can connect to all parts of our behaviors and create a powerful influence on our lives. The negative energy they generate result in strong negative actions that both affect the people around us and also affect our future path. This is why it is important we learn how to replace these negative patterns with positive ones.
Recognizing that a negative pattern exists
Finding that you actually have a pattern sounds very easy, but sometimes it can be difficult because the very nature of the pattern is something you are not consciously aware of. If you are capable of typing without thinking about where your fingers are going, put your fingers on the keyboard and try putting your fingers on a few keys with conscious thought. Think of the letter “b” and try to consciously put your finger there. Try a “v”, “u”, and “d”. Most people will find that they have to stop thinking and allow it to happen automatically, i.e. they have to use the pattern.
Negative patterns usually are something we become aware of only after the action has been carried out. So, if a certain situation results in us getting angry, after we lose our temper we may sit down and ask ourselves “Why did I get so upset?” Thinking back over the events, you may realize what the trigger, the situation, was that created this action. But, we often can’t even remember what situation triggered that action because our conscious mind was not involved. Have you ever been angry, or been in a fight with someone, and afterwards, you could not even remember what started it? Sometimes it helps to talk to other people and ask them what happened - they usually will remember every detail when you act with negative patterns.
External actions like yelling, getting angry, crying, etc. are obvious and are not that hard to identify. With internal actions, such as feeling depressed, stupid, incompetent, etc. it is much more difficult to notice that some external situation has triggered these internal actions. Often, people feel if their moods come out of nowhere and they have no control over how they feel.
It is often helpful to keep a diary of both your internal and external actions, and try to also write down any situations that occurred when these actions occurred. Over time, you usually can start to find the patterns in your behavior. Sometimes it is good to just free associate as you write. Start with the action that you felt was negative and than begin to write down everything you can think of what makes you want to take that action.
Finding the association between a situation and a particular negative action
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to figure out why we respond with a particular action to a specific situation we just cannot make the connection. Usually, this is because the situation has been associated to the wrong group. Sometimes, a situation is just linked to the wrong action. In either case, we have to figure out what created the inappropriate association in the first place to get the brain to delete this association and create a new one. This is what therapy and energy healing can help you do.
The basis of modern psychology is the use of therapy to find these underlying causes of our behavior, our actions. Psychotherapy can also provide techniques for learning new behaviors. A therapist can help guide you in your self exploration of your memories to try to find the original situations that led to the creation of a negative pattern. Energy healers, such as myself, can help draw a negative experience that is deeply buried to the conscious mind where you can see it, and than pull the negative energy from the experience out of you helping you release it
Creating Scripts to Change Patterns
Once you have found that you have a negative pattern, than you must create a script that you will say to yourself whenever you act with the negative pattern, as was described above. The script will provide you with the correct association. If there was some situation that created this negative pattern in your past, than the script should also tell you why the original association was not right These scripts help us to retrain our mind. At first, you will often forget to say the script when you use the negative pattern. Eventually, the script will become associated with the action and you will be thinking the script right after you have completed the action associated with the negative pattern. How does this happen?
By repeatedly telling yourself the script after you take an action you are telling the brain that this script is supposed to be associated with this action. Thus, if every time the action “feel mistrustful” is associated with the situation “given compliment” you immediately say the same script to yourself, your brain will add the script to the action. This will look as follows.
Each time you say the script and tell yourself why the original situation was not interpreted correctly you take away some of the negative patterns power over yourself. This is how you can diminish the control a strong negative memory can have on your behavior.
As time passes, the script will become more automatic and in time you will be thinking the script every time you use the negative pattern. That is the key to changing these types of patterns – associating a script with the pattern. Eventually, the script becomes associated with the negative pattern and allows the mind to bypass the old negative association and create a new positive one. This would look as follows:
In the above picture, the script blocks the path to the wrong group. In the beginning, the association between the script and the situation will be too weak to block the association to the wrong group. But, every time you tell yourself the script you are creating a stronger association between the script and the situation. The script is linked to the correct group by the message that is contained within it.
This happens because your brain likes to keep things very simple. Having to run the script only when the “complimented situation” occurs is complicated, and extremely confusing. The action is associated with an entire group, and the brain will want to run it for all of the situations in the group. Eventually, the brain will figure out that the “complimented” situation is causing all of the problems in the group and will remove it. Once it has been freed, the brain can than put back in the right group.
The process for creating change can be shown in the flowchart below:
From the diagram, you can see that therapy, whether it is regular psychotherapy or energy healing therapy, is about finding the underlying root cause of a negative pattern that you don't understand. None of these ideas are new. Long before Freud ever existed, over five thousand years ago, the people of the region we currently call India were searching for a scientific understanding of the human mind. Their exploration of the human mind and behavior included both a physical and spiritual explanation and were recorded in the Vedas and other scriptures. From their research and scientific investigations were born great philosophies, such as Yoga, which give powerful techniques for exploring our inner selves, learning to become aware of our actions, and quieting the noise in our mind.
A combination of postures, called Asana, meditation and the Niyamas and Yamas are the first steps that allows one to become aware of their actions and their underlying causes and releasing the negative energies that are trapping you in bad patterns. Instead of working with a therapist or a healer to create change, you learn how you can create changes within yourself on your own. Any form of exploration into your true nature, who you really are, such as Yoga, meditation, Buddhism, etc, can help you.
Therapy should be to help you discover and remove the deeply rooted patterns and to help you learn how to make changes in yourself. Unless there is a physical problem causing emotional problems, such as depression, therapy should be a tool to help you learn how to change your patterns by yourself.
If you think about it, you will realize that using scripts is the normal, natural way that we teach ourselves to change a pattern. If you hire a secretary to answer the phone for you, when the phone rings and the pattern “Phone Rings – Pick Up Receiver” makes you pick up the receiver, you immediately think “Oh, I have the secretary answering the phones, I don’t need to pick up the receiver” as soon as you hear the secretary answering the phone on the extension. These little scripts are part of our everyday life and is how we automatically change patterns.
In the beginning, the script will probably not get to the conscious mind unless something reminds you to run the script, like hearing the secretary answering at the same time as you are or someone reminding you that you are using a negative pattern. The first time the phone rings you will reach out and grab the receiver, following the unconscious pattern. You probably will not even realize that you answered the phone until you hear your secretary answer the phone with you. The next few times you might remember because your mind will send the script "Do not answer the phone" to the conscious mind. But, as soon as you are distracted and busy you will reach out and grab the receiver without thought. Again, only when you actually pick it up will you probably realize that you were not supposed to. The next day when you come in you will probably repeat the same pattern. Eventually, the script "Do not pick up the receiver when the phone rings" will become part of the action and automatically get sent to your conscious mind when the phone rings. Soon after that happens, your mind will learn the new pattern and know not to answer the phone when it rings and your conscious mind will not get involved in this action.
This is how our mind erases a pattern and creates a new one. You cannot expect yourself to suddenly stop performing an action that is associated with a situation in your mind, especially if the association is very strong and the pattern has built up a great deal of energy. It is also important to realize that the first step is to make yourself deal with the situation using your conscious mind to be aware of the situation so you can tell yourself a script. When you reach the point where your mind passes this script to your conscious mind automatically when the situation occurs, than you are on your way to changing the pattern. This is the process for changing a pattern.
Understanding that scripts are what you use to create the associations between situations and groups or actions, you can than begin to realize the power of a script. A negative script, whether it is coming from someone else or from yourself, such as “You are stupid” or “I am stupid” have the power to change the associations stored in your memory.
Like a programming language used to write computer programs, the mind is programmed using the instructions from scripts. This is why words have so much power, as I discussed in the article on Samtosha, Non-Violence. Telling someone, especially a child, that they cannot do something every time they try to do something is a powerful script that can associate the action “failure” with “trying to do something”.
Once these scripts become part of a person’s thinking, they play over and over again reinforcing negative patterns. One of the most important things you can do to create change in your life is to learn to create positive scripts that fight against negative scripts. So, if you try something and are having difficulty and someone gives you the “You are stupid” script, you need to respond in your mind with script such as “No, I am not stupid, there are many things that I can do, and I will eventually be able to get this task done, too” Thus, scripts are not only used to change patterns, but they can be used to neutralize negative scripts to prevent negative patterns from being created.
If you have negative scripts that run through your head you need to associate a positive script with the negative script. Every time the negative script runs in your head tell yourself the positive script. Sometimes you will need to find where the negative script came from so that you can make an effective positive script, just like with negative patterns.
As always, writing things down helps you. If you have a negative script running through your head, than write it down on paper and than write all of the things that support the script and all the things that disprove the script. You will find that almost all of the things that support the script will be the result of negative patterns and negative scripts. Use the positive things you have written down to help create your positive script.
As adults, we normally respond without thought with a positive script when someone says a negative script to us. If someone tells us an adult they are stupid, if they are self confident, they will automatically think to themselves “No, I am not stupid, this person is wrong because…”. Children usually don’t have this automatic ability to counter negative scripts with positive ones and so they have difficult neutralizing negative scripts. This is why negative scripts can have such a powerful impact on children.
Self Image and Positive Scripts
The secret to having a good self image and being confident in yourself is really nothing more than having a set of positive scripts in your mind. Scripts such as “I am smart and I can do anything I put my mind to that is in harmony with the person who I am” or “I may not look like a movie star, but I am in good physical condition and I look good” are powerful positive scripts. Scripts like these create positive patterns, provide a powerful protection from negative scripts from other people and attract into your life positive futures.
If positive scripts are not part of the messages that are in your mind, you need to create a set of them for yourself and learn them. At first, they may seem silly, but over time they will become part of you and neutralize the negative scripts that are within you and said by others. Positive scripts are really the true key to changing patterns and changing nearly everything in your life. You should write your positive scripts down on small pieces of paper and hide them in places where you will later find them. After your clothes are washed and dry, stick some in your pockets before you put your clothes away. Stick them in books, in draws, anyplace that you will later find them. As you find them, read them and think on them and make them part of you. Most important, when a negative script runs through your head follow it with a positive script to neutralize the negative script and to associate the positive script to the negative one.
Using the Conscious Mind Instead of Patterns
Replacing negative patterns with positive ones and creating positive scripts is the first step in improving your life and giving you control over your life. But, if you don’t rely on using patterns, but instead you learn how to allow your conscious mind to make the decisions on what your actions should be and what you say, than patterns become much less important.
True control over our actions comes when we learn to become more aware of our actions. Becoming more aware is really nothing more than learning how to pass more situations to our conscious mind instead of using patterns.
An important step in changing patterns is to get your mind to rely less on using patterns to take action and to rely more on using your conscious mind to decide what the appropriate action is. As was discussed in the article on the Present, this can be done by learning how to focus on a single task using conscious thought. Doing Yoga Asana (postures) where you are using your conscious mind to move into each posture, control the muscles while you are in the posture, and finally to move out of the posture trains the brain to pass decisions up to the conscious mind instead of acting on patterns.
Focusing on a single task is also an important part of learning how to use the conscious mind in deciding your actions. If someone is talking to you and you are giving them your undivided attention, than you can make each action you take with them based on conscious thought. Think of it as mediating on the other person, concentrating on their words and giving each word they say conscious thought. And, each time you say or do something, give each word you say conscious thought. This is acting with your conscious mind instead of patterns.
Just learning to use your conscious mind to control the action of speech can make an incredible difference in your life and your interactions with others. Adding in the ability to use your conscious mind to process what other people are saying to you and you will find your life having a tremendous power when it comes to interactions with others.
On the other hand, when you sit with someone and you are concentrating on your meal, solving a problem at work, watching your cell phone, checking your email on your phone every few minutes, nearly every action, including your listening and responding to the person next to you, is done with patterns. When you interact with someone in this way, you often misunderstand what they are saying and are very likely to say something that is inappropriate. Your interactions with other people should be considered one of the most important tasks of your life, especially when it comes to family.
"To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit A duck hears also." Igor Stravinsky
We live in a society in which we have too much to do and we always feel pressured to multitask and do many things at once. You have to break free from this and learn to focus on a single task and perform that task with conscious thought. Once you can do this, patterns are only important in your life in activities that have no need for thought, such as where your fingers go on the keyboard as you type.
What Should Be Changed?
Before anything should be changed, you should ask yourself if this change is really necessary. As we said earlier, patterns that we believe should be changed are often the result of other negative patterns or negative scripts. For example, growing up in the U.S. watching TV shows that always show people who have had plastic surgery, who are abnormally thin, and seeing these people in magazines, can a lead a person to a script in their head telling them “The people on TV and in the magazines are beautiful, everyone else is not beautiful” The problem with this is that these people are not real, they are created through surgery, makeup and other tricks. This can result in the situation of seeing someone who is normal being associated with the script “this is not an attractive person”.
If a person believes they need to change their eating patterns because they feel they are too fat, they need to first find out if they really are overweight or is there just a negative script running through their head that keeps telling them “I am not beautiful, I am fat”. Again, writing things down helps us see what is really happening. In this case, you would start with “I need to change my eating patterns because I am overweight”. You would than write down the two assumptions that are in this statement: “I am overweight” and “I need to change my eating habits”. Make a column for each of these assumptions and than start writing down everything that supports or refutes these statements. Looking at the paper you can than see if your belief that you need to make a change is real or just based on negative patterns and scripts.
Looking at the above example, it seems very obvious that this person does not need to lose weight and change their eating habits. Looking at the columns that support these assumptions, you can see that they are actually all negative scripts. When the negative scripts are written down like this it becomes easier to see they don’t make sense. This person would need to create a positive script along the lines of “I am beautiful, my weight is good, I eat healthy”. It is likely this person does need to change their eating habits, but not to eat less but to eat more. Their scripts having them convinced they need to do the exact opposite of what they are supposed to do.
We are constantly being told how we should live our lives, what is important and what is not important, we are given messages as children that become deeply rooted within us and create patterns of behavior, and much of this information is wrong. How many woman who are beautiful and a healthy weight feel they are fat and unattractive simply because society has created this myth that woman who are dangerously underweight are beautiful? How many people feel they are not successful because they do not have the right material possessions? The list of bad messages that we get could fill volumes. It is very important that you carefully analyze what you think needs to be changed.
It is also important to realize that a negative script can have such power over a person that it can actually alter their perception of the world around them. A person who has a very strong script that tells them they are fat can look in the mirror at themselves and see themselves as actually being fat even though they are dangerously underweight and almost skeletal. Their mind will alter the image in the mirror, like an optical illusion, and change the image to what the mind is expecting to see based on the script. Sometimes, you cannot believe your eyes. If all of the facts are telling you something different than what you are seeing, than a script is probably altering your perception.
Creating Harmony in Your Life
One of the most important parts of life is creating harmony between what we are spiritually, physically and mentally and our actions and activities. All change that we make should bring us into a deeper harmony with our true nature, with the people around us and with the universe. Change should not simply be motivated by money, power or the wishes of others. Once again, we are emphasizing the importance of being aware of your actions, of why you are taking an action. Any change that brings you further away from your true self is generally not a good change.
What is Our True Self?
How do we know what our true self really is? Many of the Eastern traditions, such as Yoga, are about becoming aware of ourselves and finding our true selves. But, beyond these spiritual internal explorations, we can usually sense, feel, when we are doing something that creates harmony or disharmony within ourselves. The first step in awareness is to learn to feel when an activity brings a harmony, a peace, within us. Once you can do this, your life can become an exploration of different activities to find the things that brings you into harmony with your true self.
What this is really saying is that you must learn to follow your intuition. If it feels wrong to you, than you should pay attention and ask yourself if there is something wrong. Learn how to get in touch with your intuition and learn how to follow your intuition. Learn how to get your conscious mind involved in your decisions so can you ask yourself if an action feels right before you act
If we believe that the true inner self of all people is good, that people who behave in negative destructive ways are ignoring and overriding their true inner self, than we already know something about your true self. Being basically good and pure your true inner self is one that feels most in harmony when you are following a basic set of moral and ethical codes. This is why the great gurus of Yoga have taught the Niyamas and Yamas, as they provide a basic set of rules that applies to all people to find harmony with their own true inner self. You can think of the Niyamas and Yamas as the general rules that apply to everyone.
Nearly all religions and philosophies have a set of moral and ethical codes. Most people believe that these rules are given to us simply so we can behave properly in society, but as you can see, these rules can also be viewed as guidelines that allow us to find peace and harmony with our inner selves. This is why doing good deeds, such as helping people, being honest, etc feels good – we are doing things that that are in harmony with our inner self.
In addition to these general rules, each of us has our own individual natural qualities, our Dharma, which gives us certain abilities and qualities. It is our individual abilities that we need to find through exploration. What work is in harmony with who we are? Many also believe that every person has a purpose, has things that they must do in this life, their Individual Karma. If each of us do have a purpose, than we will feel true harmony when our actions are both in line with our true self and helping us achieve our purpose. When you seek to create change in yourself, seeking out change that moves you into this harmony will be met with a powerful positive force that helps create the change. When you try to create change that goes against this harmony, you will be met with a large force that resists the change.
You are Beautiful
Within you is a soul that is pure, beautiful and good. It is within everyone. Have you ever seen the light that comes from a person who is a good person, who is spiritual and acts in kind ways? These people are in touch with the true inner light within them and it radiates out of them. You are beautiful, and the more you connect to your true inner self the more beautiful you will look.
It is important to believe in yourself and love yourself. Loving yourself is the first step in loving others. You must learn to see all of yourself and not to just focus on the few things you do wrong or need to work on. If you act from love, you try to follow a basic set of moral codes, than you are beautiful.
One of the largest obstacles to change is our own belief that we cannot create change. You can always create change in yourself and your life. It can take weeks, even years, to unlearn a pattern and learn a new one. Everyone wants change to happen overnight, they want it now. But change is a process. First, we become aware of our actions, of their consequences, of what parts of ourselves and our lives creates harmony and disharmony. Once you identify what creates disharmony in your life you should decide to change them by train yourself to new patterns using a script. This is how change can occur in everyone’s life, and anyone can create change. It is within your power. Learn how to make positive scripts part of your life and put them into the lives of others.
So, What Does this Have to Do With Yoga?
For those of you who study Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras everything in this article may sound very familiar. In the second sutra in the first chapter, the Yoga Sutras state the following:
Citta-vrtti are the “functionings”, modifications of the mind. There are five classifications of citta-vrtti – right knowledge (pramana), wrong knowledge (viparyaya), imagination (vikalpa), sleep (nidra) and memory (smrti).
Smrti refers to the actual object or situation as well as the emotions, perceptions and actions associated with the object or situation that is stored in memory. In the discussion above, we showed that patterns are stored in memory as a situation that is associated with a particular action. The actions are associated with a group that is based on the emotions and perceptions which were associated with the original situation. As you can see, the definition of smrti and the definition of patterns given above are really the same.
Samskara is the Sanskrit word for patterns and refers to both the storage of the situation and its associated emotions, perceptions and actions and also the activation of the samskara. The samskara is activated when a similar situation occurs, which again is exactly what was stated above. Thus, we can see that the idea of smrti and samskara corresponds to the patterns as described above and their activation when a similar situation occurs.
When talking about smrti as being one of the Yoga Sutras “cita-vrtti”, this is not referring to the actual memory stored in the mind but the thoughts and actions created by the memory. Thus, reducing this type of “cita-vrtti”, smrti, means learning how reduce your dependence on patterns to determine your actions, or, as we said above, to learn how to use conscious thought to determine your actions instead of just using patterns.
Viparyaya, or wrong knowledge, is when your perception of something is incorrect. The classic example is to see rope in the dark and think it is a snake. But of course, our discussion above of associating deception with all compliments because one person used compliments to deceive you is also viparyaya. You can immediately see the close connection between smrti and viparyaya, i.e. it is viparyaya that leads a person to associate a situation with the wrong group. What I called “negative patterns” are really nothing more than samskara created by viparyaya.
Reducing viparyaya from the mind comes from reducing the samskara that were created by false perception and by learning how to eliminate false perceptions in your daily life. Usually, samskara based on viparyaya can be removed by revealing the cause of the false perception. Becoming aware of false perceptions when they occur will prevent the creation of new samskaras based on viparyaya.
Another very powerful form of viparyaya is the negative scripts that you have in your mind. The negative scripts can be considered a samskara, but the activation of these samskara create a false perception about yourself and the world around you. Thus, they are created by viparyaya and also create more viparyaya. This is why they are so powerful, destructive and dangerous. Negative scripts can be thought of like bacteria of the mind whose only purpose is to create more bacteria. One negative script based on viparyaya generates more viparyaya each time it is activated, reproducing like some rampant out of control bacteria. Your “antibiotic” for negative scripts is positive scripts.
Nidra, sleep is defined as a time where the modifications of the mind are disconnected from the mind. It is like the mind is in neutral. We know that this is actually the case, or when you dreamed that you were running you would get up and start running. If during our waking time the other four “cita-vrtti” are quiet than your sleep will be quiet and there will be few disturbances, if the other four are out of control and constantly disturbing you during waking than they will also disturb your patterns during sleep.
It might seem odd that we would include pramana, right knowledge, and vikalpa, imagination, as being part of the “cita-vrtti” we need to reduce. For most of us, just being able to remove the negative patterns, reduce our dependence on patterns and learn how to know when we are perceiving things incorrectly, is a major task that can take many years to accomplish. Many people do not get past this point. But, once you have eliminated the samskara based on viparyaya (false perception) and learned how to use your conscious mind to take actions instead of patterns, you can than begin to move to the next level.
To begin with, a positive script could be considered pramana, right knowledge. When your mind is full of negative scripts and negative patterns, positive scripts are essential to eliminate the negative patterns and negative scripts. Once the negative scripts and negative patterns are removed, it no longer becomes as necessary to rely on positive scripts. Eventually, the positive scripts become part of you, part of the way you see life and the universe. If you are content with your life, and you follow the eight limbs of Yoga, there is peace in you and you do not need the positive scripts to shield you from the negative actions of others. Eventually, the positive scripts can be quieted as your mind becomes content and strong.
Vikalpa, or imagination, is used when reading a book or watching a movie that is based on something made up, such as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, i.e. it is when you can create all types of things that do not really exist. This is vikalpa. As anything you create is in some way based on your memory, on what you know, vikalpa is based in your memory. Words are often associated with vikalpa. If we constantly are lost in our fantasies we quickly cannot function anymore. A person who has become addicted to a computer game is an example of where losing control of vigalpa is destructive.
Pramana is perceiving the world correctly based on the information from the five senses. Vikalpa is creating or perceiving things that do not exist in the real world but are still based on memory. So, both of these are based on information from our five senses and are based on perceptions from the lower mind - the manas. The purusha, the part of us that really sees, cannot see clearly through the “cita-vrtti” of the lower mind (see the section on the Purusha in the article on the Present). As long as there are fluctuations from the five types of “cita-vrtti” from the lower mind, the purusha cannot see clearly.
If we can control the fluctuations of the mind that are caused by vikalpa and pramana than it is possible for us to clear the mind and allow the Purusha to be illuminated by the Atman -the higher mind, the mind that is connected to the entire universe - to the higher power. It is the ability to reduce the chatter in the mind from vikalpa and pramana to only what is necessary to focus and conentrate on the current task at hand and to quiet all the other thoughts in the mind. The cause of the fluctuations in the five types of “cita-vrtti” is the Kleshas as was discussed in the article on the Present. The eight limbs of Yoga allow you to reduce the Kleshas and gain control of your mind.
You can use pramana to eliminate viparyaya and smrti based on viparyaya. Following the eight limbs of Yoga you can reduce your dependence on smrti, i.e. patterns, as well as gaining control of vikalpa and pramana. For many of us, we will not reach these highest states in this life time, but it is what we work towards.
From the perspective of the Yoga Sutra, you can see that quieting the fluctuations of the mind is a process. For most of us, it begins with eliminating the false perceptions that are controlling your patterns and eliminating the negative scripts that are creating a false perception about yourself. This is done using correct perception, i.e. positive scripts and yama, niyama, asana and pranayama. Moving onto the higher limbs, Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana help you draw you attention inwards, to connecting to the higher consciousness and starts quieting the fluctuations created by vikalpa and pramana. Eventually, when you reach Samadhi, you leave behind the fluctuations of the lower mind and see from the higher consciousness.
Modern psychology does not believe in the concept of the Atman or the Purusha so its theories end with the elimination of false perceptions, false patterns created by false perceptions, and the replacement of the negative scripts and negative patterns with positive scripts and positive patterns. To most people in the west, the idea of self improvement ends there. But in the Yoga philosophy, that is actually only the beginning of our journey to being one, being complete.
Just where did the idea of replacing negative scripts with positive ones come from? The Yoga Sutra, of course! You will find this in the Yoga sutra:
Pratpaksha Bhavanam: “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of.” Sutra II 33
Yoga sutras of Patanjali Sri Swami Satchidanananda
As you see, "modern" psychology is not modern at all. It has been understood for over five thousand years in India and is part of the philosophy of Yoga.
The focus of this article has been on viparyaya and smrti as these are usually the first two fluctuations that need to be reduced. Reading the Yoga Sutra and other books on Yoga philosophy, taking courses on Yoga, and the other articles in this website will help you with the others.