Yoga sutra 1.5

Girl in forest
Have courage. The mouse in your mind is trying to keep you busy. If you catch the mouse, you can teach it to meditate.

“How do I stop my mind from spinning” said the mouse? “Don’t ask me. My mind is spinning too much to help you” said the other mouse. And fell over. 😉

The first few of Patanjali’s Sutras get us very excited as we are introduced to all of the wonders of practising yoga (1 – 1.4). We just cannot wait to get started. We now know that yoga is about stopping the mind (1.2) in order to allow our eternal, authentic spirit (soul) to be free (1.3) otherwise it will be forever churning, fooled into thinking that it is as confused and chained to the mind (1.4).  But again, how do we stop our minds from spinning? The stage is set in sutra 1.5 and then the players are assembled in sutras 1.6 to 1.11.

We are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us begin here with the 1.5 where we get to find out about types of thoughts.

vrittayah pancatayah klishta aklishta

The mental modifications are fivefold. Some cause misery; others do not.
Beach walk
Stopping the mind from spinning is not going to be easy. Far more complicated than walking down a beach, looking thoughtful.

Five types of thoughts

Five types of thoughts. Yes, basically there are only five different types of thoughts. Wait. I have thousands of thoughts you cry! Yes, but they boil down to a spicy soup of five different types:

  • correct understanding
  • incorrect understanding
  • imagination
  • dreamless sleep
  • memory

All of these five types of thoughts cause the mind to spin, from a spiritual perspective. Thoughts generally tend to be either afflicting (klishta) or non-afflicting (aklishta). We should begin by working with the thoughts that are already there.

  • Framing them as one of the five different types
  • Are they are harming you (klishta) or not (aklishta)
  • If possible replace aklishta with aklishta thoughts. 
  • Begin during your yoga asana practise and then take it off the mat into daily life.
  • Example: why am I telling myself I am not good enough at this posture? Good enough for whom, and what is good? Here we have what is perhaps an aklishta, incorrect understanding thought.

We must take control of the processes of the mind by first observing them. We can then prevent the mind from forming samskaras which will make it easier to move towards  samādhi and a stillness of the mind. Do not worry, you haven’t missed anything. We haven’t discussed samskaras yet.  

In order to understand why the mind keeps spinning even in quiet meditation with limited sensory input, we will need to look at 
Vritti samskara chakra. We are getting ahead of ourselves again. Let us begin here, with the mind, the thoughts and the colouring of klishta and aklishta.

Have a great day and an amazing practice.

Edit. 9th of october. Added a few practical steps.