DAAJI continues his series on the fundamental principles of psychology, with its foundation in the ancient wisdom of Yoga, as compiled in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He starts from the pure consciousness that is the basis of a healthy human mind, and then proceeds to explain how the various mental imbalances arise. Furthermore, he gives us solutions to regain mental well-being through yogic practices. In this article he continues to explore the vikshepas, the obstacles to mental well-being and balance that underpin so many of the maladies of modern humanity. In this article, Daaji focuses on alabdha-bhumikatva and anavasthitatvani, as well as two modern maladies that didn’t exist when Patanjali was alive – FOMO and digital distraction.
Part 10 – ALABDHA-BHUMIKATVA AND ANAVASTHITATVANI
FOMO AND DIGITAL DISTRACTION
1.30: Vyadhi styana samsaya
anavasthitatvani citta-vikshepah te antarayah
Vyadhi – Disease
Styana – Languor, mental dullness, apathy
Samsaya – Dilemma, indecision
Pramada – Carelessness, haste, indifference
Alasya – Laziness, sloth
Avirati – Absence of non-attachment, sensuality
Bhrantidarsana – False perception, blindness
Alabdha–bhumikatva – Not attaining the destination or stage, lack of determination
Anavasthitatvani – Instability, not retaining the condition
These are the obstacles on the path that distract the mind.
In the modern context, we can add:
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
In this article we will focus on the last four vikshepas.
ALABDHA-BHUMIKATVA & ANAVASTHITATVANI
Alabdha-bhumikatva is the obstacle where we are not able to attain the next stage or level in the spiritual journey, and anavasthitatvani is the failure to retain a stage once it has been given. There can be many reasons for these two obstacles. They may occur because of lack of interest, lack of determination, a feeling of impotency, or because we are not able to refine our character in order to maintain the spiritual level. Especially at the higher spiritual stages, such a profound level of humility, nobility of character and dependency on a capable Master are required, as acceptance and self-transcendence are vital for progress. We need constant help from the Master to refine ourselves in order to become eligible to enter and retain these stages.
How do we work to overcome these two obstacles? The first thing is to understand that our potency comes through our connection with the Source, with God, through the heart. Individually we are impotent islands, whereas once we are connected with the Source, our full potential is realized; we are connected to the source of life itself. The easiest way to stay connected with the Source is to associate with a Master of the highest caliber, who can transmit the essence of pranahuti from the Source itself. The spiritual journey is only a way to expose more and more of that connection by uncovering the layers that keep us separate.
Prayer and meditation are both ways we evoke and maintain that connection.
The second thing is to understand that spiritual progress is not linear; it proceeds with a natural rise and fall. At each stage of the journey, i.e. at each chakra, point or knot, there is a sequence of experiences, which is beautifully explained by Ram Chandra in his books, Towards Infinity and Voice Real:
“On entering into every successive knot, there is a slight feeling of heaviness in the mind, on account of which people often discontinue the practice. But if we take into consideration that every attack of illness is followed by the restoration of good health, we will be better encouraged to attempt a crossing of the knots.”
After this heaviness comes “a peculiar state, awakening within the mind a consciousness of the divine force, pervading all over.”
Next, as we become more attuned to the new stage, we experience “a divine state prevailing everywhere, and everything absorbed in its remembrance.”
But this does not last. As we merge more and more with the new stage, there is “neither feeling of the divine force nor that of remembrance, but only a feeling of negation.”
Eventually, “everything is gone. No impression upon the heart, not even that of existence.”
So when we progress to enter a new chakra or knot, there will always be a feeling of discomfort and restlessness, just as when we move location in our worldly life there is change and upheaval. Only once we settle into the new environment does our consciousness open up to a higher level of awareness, and then we start to experience Divinity from that higher level. This is a joyful and blissful experience, and we feel that we have moved forward. If we continue to progress, we become so merged in that level that it becomes a part of us, and then we lose awareness of its very existence. It is now in our subconscious mind, and there is only a sense of negation or nothingness remaining. Eventually even that is gone.
But there is a trap in this cycle. Generally we like the blissful “high” periods, and assume they mean progress, while we associate the stages of restlessness and nothingness in this sequence with a lack of progress, or even a regression. We become disheartened without understanding the bigger picture.
Attachment to bliss can be a big hindrance for us: When we feel so blissful, we want to live in that state forever, and the idea of moving away from bliss often creates resistance. There is the possibility of infinite expansion at each chakra, but it is horizontal expansion. It is better to move even one inch into a higher dimension than expand infinitely at a lower level. That’s why it requires an effort even to move one inch and most of us fail to understand the significance of that little effort in moving further.
When we progress to enter a new chakra or knot,
there will always be a feeling of discomfort and restlessness,
just as when we move location in our worldly life
there is change and upheaval.
Only once we settle into the new environment
does our consciousness open up to a higher level of awareness,
and then we start to experience Divinity from that higher level.
Swami Vivekananda describes it thus: “Some days or weeks when you are practicing the mind will be calm and easily concentrated, and you will find yourself progressing fast. All of a sudden the progress will stop one day, and you will find yourself, as it were, stranded. Persevere. All progress proceeds by rise and fall.”
So courage and faith are required to avoid losing hope and focus in this process. If we keep starting and stopping, nothing is possible, because our neural pathways need the automatism of regular practice to become so well established that our new level of consciousness becomes habitual, automatic, and subconscious. Why is there such a need? It is so that our conscious mind is freed up to learn new things at a conscious level. Unless and until this habitual nature is established, any activity remains conscious and incomplete. Once it becomes subconscious, we have fully imbibed and become one with any spiritual stage. That is why it helps so much to have one goal, and to keep reminding ourselves that we need to reach that goal even if the journey is difficult at times.
But perhaps the biggest reason we are victims of alabdha-bhumikatva and anavasthitatvani is our inability to change our character and behavior. As a result, we don’t retain a spiritual level even if a capable Master takes us there. Often we are not even cognizant of the character traits that pull us backwards. And even when we are, we may think that we have changed, but then a stressful situation takes us back into old habits again. This is such a common problem that nature, in her generosity, has given us each other as mirrors. We see this in everyday life: anything that annoys us in another person is what we need to work upon in ourselves. Without a noble character, spiritual progress is of no use. Swami Vivekananda has described it beautifully: “Stages do nothing at the time of death. Moderation is required and that is lacking everywhere. Spirituality alone can do nothing. It must go side by side with morality.”
This aspect of psychology is why Yama and Niyama are the first two steps in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. Yama is the removal of all unwanted qualities, and Niyama is the integration of noble qualities in the refinement of our lifestyle. And in Heartfulness we have so much help with both these steps. Meditation allows us to introspect and evaluate ourselves. Cleaning removes the root samskaras that result in behavioral habits and tendencies. Prayer gives us a way to connect with the Divine and submit our weaknesses and faults so that we can change. Every day we can recalibrate and follow a path of continuous improvement. It is a simple solution to one of the most difficult problems facing human beings since time immemorial.
Meditation allows us to introspect and evaluate ourselves.
Cleaning removes the root samskaras that
result in behavioral habits and tendencies.
Prayer gives us a way to connect with
the Divine and submit our weaknesses and
faults so that we can change.
Every day we can recalibrate and
follow a path of continuous improvement.
It is a simple solution to
one of the most difficult problems facing
human beings since time immemorial.
FEAR OF MISSING OUT (FOMO) & DIGITAL DISTRACTION
These last two vikshepas have been added to Patanjali’s list, as they have only surfaced as serious obstacles to progress in the modern era.
FOMO is described by researchers as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out, that your peers are doing, knowing about, or in possession of more or something better than you.” It is exacerbated by the fact that we live in a world of WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and constant news on our smartphones. It is a fear that others are living a better life, and having more fun, and stems from a sense of envy leading to a feeling of helplessness. Advertisers have always preyed on this insecurity, by inviting us to buy products that will enhance our sense of belonging – those “Can’t miss out experiences,” be it a new car, a bigger house, the latest kitchen products, the newest smartphone or the latest fashions. FOMO is not new, it has been around for centuries, but it has become more obvious since the advent of social media. The first scientific studies were done by a marketing strategist, Dr.Dan Herman, in 1996, and the acronym FOMO was coined by Patrick McGinness in 2004 in The Harbus. Since then, it has been studied more and more frequently as a modern phenomenon.
Social media are both a cause and effect of FOMO, which is characterized by a desire to be connected with what others are doing. Social media feed this vikshepa. We could even say that social media are the modern opium of the people. They are so addictive. Unfortunately, social media post the highlights of people’s lives, so we are always comparing our own lives with the best of others. People show their best side on social media, or a sensationalist side to get attention. It is a biased view of life; it is not reality. And we compare ourselves to that, and it becomes an unfortunate competition.
FOMO is associated with all walks of life, ages and genders, and is a very real and common feeling in today’s world, stemming from insecurity and a feeling of lack, and sometimes leading to physiological symptoms and behaviors. Many sufferers are simply overwhelmed by the amount of information needed to “keep up” with current activities and trends. FOMO is also associated with a negative effect on overall mood and life satisfaction.
Finding that inner contentment is actually very simple –
meditate, go within and experience the connection.
With Transmission it is even easier, as Transmission is the connection.
Hence, Heartfulness Meditation is a natural antidote to FOMO.
Where does this lack really come from? You may blame social media, but is it really the culprit? In fact, the fundamental sense of lack is an inner lack – a lack of inner contentment, of inner connection, of not belonging. Someone who is able to connect with their own Source – the Source that gives us life – every day, every hour, every moment, becomes contented with their own being, irrespective of what others have or do. There is a sense of confidence and courage to live in the world without competition and comparison with others, without succumbing to peer pressure or media pressure.
Finding that inner contentment is actually very simple – meditate, go within and experience the connection. With Transmission it is even easier, as Transmission is the connection. Hence, Heartfulness Meditation is a natural antidote to FOMO.
FOMO has become inextricably linked with the digital era, and digital gadgets provide their own problems. First there is the amount of time people spend watching screens instead of communicating face-to-face with others, playing sports, reading books, going for walks, or simply being in nature. The classic is when you go to a restaurant and see four people sitting at a table for dinner, all on their individual smartphones instead of talking together.
Second is the radiation associated with these gadgets. Electromagnetic technology is an integral part of our lives – Wi-Fi, the Internet, Bluetooth, mobile phones, computers, tablets, microwave ovens, medical equipment, and all the other man-made sources of electromagnetic radiation in our environment. Today we know much more about their effects. In 2011, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer announced it was classifying electromagnetic fields from mobile phones and other sources as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and advised everyone to adopt safety measures to reduce exposure.
There is now a field of research known as bioelectromagnetics and authorities in many European countries recommend that their citizens use hands-free to decrease radiation to the head, keep mobile phones away from the body, and do not use a mobile phone in a car without an external antenna.
Our subtle body is our energetic body which has its own electromagnetic field created by the negative and positive polarity of charge. As a result, the subtle body is affected by other energy fields in the environment, for example, the build up of positive ions in the atmosphere before a thunderstorm creates restlessness, while the release of negative ions once the storm arrives brings relief.
Our subtle body is our energetic body
which has its own electromagnetic field
created by the negative and positive polarity of charge.
As a result, the subtle body is affected by
other energy fields in the environment.
In nature, everything is in a state of dynamic balance, with complementary energy flows switching like alternating current throughout the day. The same sort of alternating pattern is seen in the complementary sympathetic and parasympathetic currents associated with the Surya and Chandra Nadis in our bodies, where at times one predominates, then the current switches so that the other predominates. Then there are the main inflection points at sunrise and sunset, the stationary points, where the turn of the flow is more prominent, like the turning of the tide. We see these patterns of polarity at the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels, whether in the planetary movements or in particles at the atomic movement.
When we add man-made EMFs to our environment, they interact with our natural EMFs. So the stronger the man-made EMF technologies in our environment, the more likely they are to affect us. Some people get headaches, rashes, nausea and nervous complaints. The effects happen first at the level of the subtle body, the energy field, and eventually filter down to the physical body.
A few years back, a group of schoolgirls in Denmark did an experiment. They were experiencing difficulty concentrating in school, and when they slept with the phone next to their head they sometimes also experienced difficulty sleeping. They took 400 watercress seeds and placed them in twelve trays: six in a room without radiation, and six in the next room with two Wi-Fi routers. The seeds were given the same amount of water and the same conditions of light. After twelve days the cress seeds next to the router did not grow so well, and some of them mutated and died.
The experiment drew international attention and scientists replicated it with controls, other experimental variables and using other plants. I have tried it using mung bean seeds in four different environments with astounding results.
I would suggest that every child do this experiment, so they can see for themselves the effect that radiation has on living organisms. One of the Danish students said after finishing their experiment, “None of us sleep with the mobile next to the bed anymore. Either the phone is put far away, or it is put in another room. And the computer is always off.”
Here are a few simple things that will help to reduce this vikshepa:
Turn off Wi-Fi when it is not in use, and at night during sleep,
Use your mobile phone in the car only when necessary, and don’t charge the phone in the car,
Keep your mobile phone in a bag, not in your pocket against your body,
Switch Bluetooth on only when needed,
Keep your phone away from your bed at night, and
Don’t give small children phones to play with.
Digital technologies have revolutionized our global network, but today many of us are dependent on them to the point of addiction. The radiation they emit is harmful to health because of its effect on our subtle bodies, our consciousness, and only time will tell the long-term effects of constant use.
Today we look back at the ancient Romans and wonder why they were so foolish as to use lead utensils for cooking, resulting in lead poisoning. We look back at the 20th century and wonder why so many people smoked cigarettes. Will the people of the twenty-third century look back at us with the same disbelief in our rampant and unregulated use of digital technologies?
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