“You are already happy. The reason you don’t experience it is that it’s covered up by layers of suppressed emotions and negative thoughts. Shift your attention and your inherent happiness flashes forth.”
– Steve Ross
The other day, I had a great conversation with a friend about the nature of happiness, particularly about how as Americans, happiness seems to be something we can only attain when we finally achieve the next goal. Except there’s always another goal, so happiness seems forever out of reach.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes five poisons or ‘Kleshas’ — five forms of self-sabotage that cover up our inner light, and inhibit joy. According to ancient yogic texts, we are immortal, perfect beings when established in our true nature, and yet, we are always seeking happiness outside of ourselves. This striving, is a pattern of behavior that creates a cycle of suffering.
The Sanskrit word ‘Kleshas’ literally translates to afflictions of the mind. These five mental states that blackout our inner light are:
- Avidya or ignorance
- Asmita or ego; false idea of self
- Raga or attachment; physical or emotional
- Dvesha or repulsion; avoidance of pain
- Abhinivesha or fear of death; clinging to life
The idea of unwholesome actions or sins that inhibit us from either reaching paradise or realizing that it’s already within us exists across cultures and religions.
Buddhism refers to three poisons, while Pattabhi Jois, master of ashtanga yoga and student of Krishnamacharya, talks about six poisons of the heart that are loosely translated as desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy and sloth (which are strikingly similar to Christianity’s seven deadly sins.)
The message is clear across ideologies that the releasing of these afflictions is the key to unlocking our joy. In Christianity, it’s attained through prayer and devotion to God and godliness as evolution of self. In Buddhism and Yoga, it’s realized through meditation and awareness or ‘involution.’
In traditional tantric yoga, asana; pranayama; meditation; karma yoga; bhakti (devotional) mantra yoga; and self-study enable us to break our behavorial patterns of suffering (samskara). When we stop looking for more to fill us up in an effort to ‘find’ happiness, and embrace the spacious (empty) nature of mind we are established in our true nature.
– Your Charmed Yogi