04 Jul reinforcing your ruts?
Ruts, grooves, patterns, habits. We all have them. My husband likes to tease me when while driving to one location, I, on the virtue of habit alone, inadvertently turn away from my intended destination to follow instead one of my more typical driving paths. Whenever this happens, he says, “ReinDog!” ReinDog is our code for, “you’re falling into a driving habit rather than going where you want to go”. Reminiscent of the Saint Bernard with a barrel of whiskey around his neck who finds you, lost in the snow, and gets you back to safety, the mythological ReinDog (a half-dog, half-reindeer based on a crazy sock creature we found) doesn’t find you when you’re lost but helps to keep you from getting there in the first place.
Just like your yoga practice. Every time we practice, we have the opportunity to reinforce or break away from our habits, our samskaras.
Bo Forbes (yoga teacher, clinical psychotherapist and author) gives this explanation of samskara in her YogaJournal.com article, “Stuck in a Rut?”:
The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). In addition to being generalized patterns, samskaras are individual impressions, ideas, or actions; taken together, our samskaras make up our conditioning. Repeating samskaras reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. Samskaras can be positive—imagine the selfless acts of Mother Theresa. They can also be negative, as in the self-lacerating mental patterns that underlie low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships. The negative samskaras are what hinder our positive evolution.
When we follow our negative samskaras down the same, old path, or into the familiar rut, or down that habitual groove, we’re in robot mode. Robot mode is what makes me turn to follow a habitual driving path rather than the direction I want to go. It’s what makes us do the same pose in the same way over and over. It’s what keeps us where we are, rather than where our positive evolution wishes to take us. When we act by following our patterns, we are bypassing our inner guide that is always alert and in the present moment, our inner ReinDog. Instead, we’re letting the ego, or even worse, our inner auto-pilot, go over the same territory over and over again.
As Forbes reminds us, these habits can be positive or negative, but I assert that even if our ruts are positive ones, do we want to reinforce these positive actions robotically? Or, do we want to choose mindfully to do the same positive thing over and again because it is the best action for that moment?
When we practice centering the mental energy, we are working to clear away our ruts, all the perceptual data that the mind collects, so that we can sit in the place where the ReinDog keeps us on track: the seat of the soul.