Stilling the whirlpools of the mind

Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodaha .. Stilling the whirlpools of the mind ..

This second line of the famous Yoga Sutra by Patanjali which has many translations from its original Sanskrit, but one of my favourites because of the mental images it conjures, is that essentially by practicing yoga , we are helping to ‘still the whirlpools of the mind’ and thus creating the ability to focus on an object exclusively without distraction .. so images of turbulent wild oceans along with splashing river rapids whirling and whipping under the surface, in dark loud thunderstorms are what I often visualise as the ‘whirlpools of the mind’ . However the ‘stilling’ is what brings the light , the sun clearing the darkened skies and in turn calming the waters below .

This is my version of events as it were, but in simple terms by first focusing on our breath, observing our inhalation and exhalation, then beginning to coordinate even just a simple movement of moving our arms up and down in coordination with our breath, we are putting our ‘monkey mind’ to one side, and just ‘being’ in the present moment .

Something that has also been pondered and philosophised over for centuries most likely, is the tennis match we play in our minds over and over between past and future ...Why did we do what we did yesterday and what are we going to do about it tomorrow? We forgot something yesterday and must do it tomorrow!

These thoughts may be both positive and negative or just mere observations . We haven’t yet saved enough for our holiday so need to save more next month ! But whatever the case is, all the while we aren’t paying attention to the present .

Don’t get me wrong, if we don’t make plans it’s difficult to move forward, and whatever occurred yesterday of course has relevance to tomorrow. But we just need to take regular moments of ‘Time Out’ . So this is where meditation/mindfulness comes into play ..

Like physical training, practicing meditation also requires regular training and it can be very difficult to just sit in stillness for any length of time without regularly being distracted. So to focus on something like perhaps a candle flame can be helpful - ‘Trataka Meditation’ is best practiced with a candle that has its flame openly visible at eye level, sitting comfortably try to focus on the flame without blinking for as long as you can, then rub the palms of your hands together to warm them a little and cup them over your closed eyes . You should see in your ‘third eye’ / Ajna Cakra space between the eyebrows the flames image , focus on it until it begins to disappear then begin the ritual again .

This practice can have a wonderfully calming affect and give real clarity of mind .

“There is within us all a flame that burns where no winds come”
(Juan Mascaró)

Natascha Zeller