When I was a little girl I collected every shiny gemstone I could get my hands on.
I LOVED those big bins of polished rocks at old-timey stores; I loved the treasure hunt of sifting through all the precious “gems” (probably just rocks put through a tumbler and not that precious at all) and finding the perfect one to add to my collection.
According to yoga philosophy, my thoughts, my emotions, my vrtti-s are just like these polished rocks.
In English, we loosely translate “vrtti-s” as “thoughts.” A more accurate translation is “turnings or cyclings of the mind.” Every thought or emotion is a little gem of energy cycling through my field of awareness. In Yoga, the aware mind encompasses both heart and mind—it’s called the citta. Everything I see, hear, feel and experience throughout the day is absorbed within my mind and is turned, over and over again, like rocks in a tumbler.
So, when the Yoga Sutras define for us in chapter 1 vs. 2 the primary aim of yoga as:
“Yogahcitta vrtti nirodhah”
What it means is NOT that we should completely cease, stop and abolish the turnings and thoughts of the mind, but that we should use the techniques of yoga to polish the vrtti-s until they gleam and point us toward the True Light of Inner Awareness.
Vrtti-s aren’t necessarily a bad thing; we need to be thinking and feeling and perceiving to enjoy living this life as a human. But vrtti-s, when left unchecked, can cycle out of control. If the rock tumbler is left on high all night long, it’s going to start smoking and burn an engine belt. If the vrtti-s are left to their own devices, they can easily spin out of control.
I’m sure you can remember a time when your thoughts were spinning pinballs and your emotions were all over the place and smoke was coming out your ears and your mind was completely trapped in a cycle of unhelpful thoughts. I’m usually an incredible sleeper, but every once in a while, my brain just WON’T shut off when I lay down at night.
I have so many ideas! And so many worries! And so many things to do! And probably I won’t get them done! And even if I do, they will probably fail! And I’m not really sure I’m qualified to do all these things anyway!
These are the times when the vrtti-s are less than helpful, when the constant turning of the mind does not enhance my ability to be happy, healthy, and whole.
We use the techniques of yoga—the breath, the concentration, the meditation, the poses—to help us refine and polish our thoughts and emotions (vrtti-s) so that they do not distort our perception of the world, but instead enhance our perception of the world as being a place of unity, trust and abundance.
The techniques teach us to take in all the things that we see, hear, think and feel throughout the day and polish them up so that our mind is not preoccupied with raw, ragged and rough misconceptions about the world, but instead our mind sees what is true: that there is enough, that we ARE enough, that the inner light of awareness inside our heart is connected with that same light in others. That the Universe wants us to be in yoga, in union, with it at all times. That is a pretty little gem of wisdom worth collecting.
Here are some yoga techniques to help you polish the mind:
Letting Go of Thought Meditation
Be Still and Know Meditation
Guided Meditation Teachings
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