III.10 तस्य प्रशान्तवाहिता संस्कारात्

tasya praśānta-vāhitā saṁskārāt
“From the saṁskāra of [nirodha] — a calm flow.”

In the context of yoga, a saṁskāra is an impression in the mind of past experience and past thought (see I.50). Our experiences mark us. They form us. To some extent, they determine our next behavior.

The saṁskāra of nirodha, uniquely, undoes previous patterning. It is an ongoing practice of letting go and attending, a patternless pattern that attunes us better to the world around us, to the state of ourselves within ourselves. It is most closely associated with exhalation, and though the experience of it can feel timeless, or outside time, it exists in time, and in many ways is the catalyst that allow us to flow through time.

In today’s sūtra, Patanjali describes nirodha further. From the saṁskāra of nirodha, he says, comes praśānta-vāhitā, a “calm flow.” Vāhitā, derived from vah, “to carry along,” is a beautiful word, a feminine noun, often used to describe the flow of a river, which “carries along its water.” And so Patañjali highlights this beautiful, liberating aspect of nirodha. It is a power that moves the accretions that choke flow, that stiffen us, that stultify.

The flow is praśānta, which means calmed or peaceful (with the same root as śantiḥ, “peace”). It is a way of peace. Bernard Bouanchaud says that nirodha brings stability to the consciousness. Vyaas Houston, likewise,  emphasizes that the calm and peace of nirodha come from the release of ideas of “I am this” or “I am that.” In Rohit Mehta’s words: “While the old mind was dull due to the burden of its own past, the new mind, having no burden, is able to grow.” It flows through what is happening now.

The world is calling us to engage. Climate fires, the coronavirus pandemic, political turbulence, demand fortitude. And more–they demand resilience. Resilience means flexibility and adaptation. Our tendencies to build hierarchy and inequity, to scapegoat and treat our fellow humans as dangerous “others,” to dismiss and devalue the lives of people not in our sphere, are all overt patterns that wreak havoc on each other and on the environment. Personal habits of gossip, avoidance, defensiveness, resentment, are also part of the picture of how we are stuck, how we are disempowered to make change and find solutions. Patañjali’s teaching is crucial here. We need a transformation of consciousness.

Movement activist adrienne marie brown, in her important book Emergent Strategies, speaks to this–how personal practice is needed to create social justice. She challenges herself, for example, to imagine a world with no enemies:

What we put our attention on grows.

We have been growing otherness, borders, separateness. And in all that division we have created layer upon layer of trauma and vengefulness, conditions for permanent war, practices that move us into a battle with the very planet we rely on for life. The scale of division, conflict, racism, xenophobia, and hierarchical supremacy on our planet is overwhelming.

Finding the places of healing and transformation, moving towards a world beyond enemies, is work that has to be done for our survival. –adrienne marie brown, Emergent Strategies,  p. 133

I have been moved since I read these lines to consider how I might live with no enemies. I am pretty sure it requires increased sensitivity and commitment, active curiosity about what others around me have experienced and endure. I believe I must search out the way of peace, the way of flow, the way of change.

—–

“One of the characteristics of the new mind is its sensitivity. While the old mind was dull due to the burden of its own past, the new mind, having no burden, is able to grow.” — Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 297

“The threads cannot be separated. We are riding waves of interdependence, making small and influenced choices within a range of possibility framed by others and the world. We are definitely acting, but not with anything that approaches the fiction of ‘free will.’ If we have freedom, it is not the freedom to do things, but the freedom to work with others and the world.” –Matthew Remski, Threads of Yoga, p. 169

Questions:
• How do you experience flow within yourself? Have you developed habits that help clear flow, that remove snags or snarls? How do you address your own disturbance?
• Do you cultivate tranquility other than in practice? How? What form does nirodha take in life?
• What does peacefulness in relationship look like? When in conflict, how do you work toward peacefulness?
• How well do you listen–without attempting to fix another person, solve a problem, or teach?

tasya

pronoun, 6th case, singular

of that

prāśānta-

adjective in compound

calm, tranquil, peaceful (from pra-, prefix that suggests auspiciousness, + śam, “be quiet, calm, satisfied”)

vāhitā

feminine, 1st case singular

flow (from vah, “to carry along,” + -tā, which forms a  feminine abstract noun)

 

saṁskārāt

masculine noun, 5th case singular, “due to”

impression on consciousness of past experience, conditioning (from sam-, “with,” + kṛ, “to do”)

 

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