Four Ways To Cultivate Inner Peacefulness: Vrittis, Part 4
Over the last few months we’ve been covering yoga philosophy regarding the topic of the vrittis. Vrittis are the flows (or fluctuations) of consciousness as they move through the mind. In their agitated state, vrittis create noise and churning chaos that pull you out of your center, where you are naturally calm and peaceful. (Read more on that here.)
Arguably the most famous of Patanjali’s yoga sutras states, yoga chitta vritti nirodha; yoga calms the churning mind. How, exactly, is the lifelong practice of committing to all eight limbs of yoga, and also understanding the nature of these fluctuations.
While there are dominant pathways that increase the challenging attributes of the vrittis, there are also four healthy pathways that lead to the cultivation of inner peace and a more joyful life.
Maitri – Friendliness, Kindness
Cultivating kindness and friendliness is a way to bring more joy and ease, or sukha, to your life.
By treating others with respect and equality, you remove the competitive and jealous behavior that creates more feelings of separation, lack, loneliness and the guilt and shame that come from being mean or judgmental. All of which create dukha, or suffering.
Instead, if you remember that everyone wants the same things: to be loved, to be happy, to feel safe, you can treat others with kindness, and pave the way for more joy in your own life.
Karuna – Compassion
Karuna is most effective when it is coupled with action. Without action, compassion risks turning into sympathy, or simply feeling sorry for another. However, “compassion is the recognition of kinship with others.” (BKS Iyengar)
Instead of feeling sorry for another, a healthier and more balanced response is to see the beauty and strength in them. In times of challenge, it’s difficult for someone to see this in him/herself, but doing so for them lends them strength and supports their faith and confidence.
Mudita – Joy
In yoga’s healthy vritti, mudita, it’s encouraged to practice joy for your own life and also, in celebration of the happiness of others. Cultivating joy is the cure for anger and it’s cousins, hatred and jealousy.
When you covet someone else’s good, rather than being happy for them, it forms a hard shell of false pride and ego. Instead of being open and loving, which grants the chance to connect with others, this pattern keeps you stuck.
Learn to grow the trait of mudita in yourself by noticing when you put down or judge others, or when you’re jealous of their good fortune. Examine the root of those feelings and why they appear as a threat to you. Always remember that the virtues of another do not mean that you are inadequate or in any way less-than enough.
Upeksha – Equanimity
Equanimity is defined as, “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” But, I think it’s easy to interpret this as wanting to be perfect and in control in every situation.
That’s not what upeksha is about. Upeksha is about making peace with a given challenge. You may absolutely hate what’s happening, but you aren’t resistant to it. Resistance to what already is creates tension and stress.
Eckhart Tolle writes, “The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgement. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity.”
In accepting what already is, you move towards equanimity. Resistance to what is often comes from the desire to avoid discomfort. Putting on a false mask of equanimity is a band-aid made of the fabric of stuffed feelings.
Airing them, honoring them and staying besides yourself throughout the process is one way to come to acceptance and build upeksha into your life. Upeksha is not about not feeling emotion—a dead-inside evenness—it’s about moving through and with your emotions until a natural acceptance, even if dislike, arises.