I first learned about the idea of samskara during my yoga teacher training. It is a concept that has stuck with me in all my especially as I have continued on the path of studying psychology and mental health. One of my professors in grad school used say when were studying neuro-psychology that “what fires together, wires together”. She was referencing the firing of synapses and the neurological path they create. But meant that the more habitual a act or a thought is, more deeply embedded it is in our mind and behavior. This is essential the idea of samskara, which has often be explained as the ruts in the road. The more frequent and heavier the traffic on a certain path, the more deeply it cuts into the road. The same is true in our lives.
So what are the ruts in my life? I’ll confess, I am chronic and habitual over-extender. I will commit myself to all sorts of obligations, usually out of genuine excitement for the opportunity, only to find myself stretched completely and totally beyond my limits. I have a hard time saying “no”. In the past this may have served me well, as I ached to soak up new experiences. Whether I was in college juggling school, jobs, being an RA and dance productions. Or it was my graduate school experience where I worked full time, attended classes part time, taught yoga, trained for a marathon and planned a wedding all in one year.
This deeply rooted samskara, coupled with some slow days at work, the desire to make more money and the upcoming seasonal change has left me swimming in this pattern. I have anxiously been searching for jobs and throwing myself into opportunities that I don’t actually want for myself. Having recently had a baby, my values have shifted, but this pattern has remained strong. A few days ago, I gave pause to reflect on all the applications I had been filling out and ask, WHY? Do I really want to work full time again? No. Do I really want to commute long distances for work? No. Am I that unhappy with my current job? No. Then what am I really trying to fill. Does every single moment of my day really need to be scheduled out.
That was the beauty of my maternity leave. I did give pause. I didn’t schedule every single moment of my life. I soaked up every ounce of amazing baby-ness that I possible could and it was glorious.
So, how do we work with samskara. We start with giving ourselves pause. We breath. We notice with compassion and gentleness what path we are taking ourselves down. It may be a well worn one and very familiar, but it may not be the right one.
I’m not sure exactly who to attribute this quote to, but it fits well with this topic.
“Watch your thoughts, for the become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”