"Life without tapas is like a heart without love." - BKS Iyengar
Samsakaras. If you've been practicing yoga for some amount of time you've probably become familiar with the term. It's often thrown around here and there. The ingrained patterns that control our lives, and shape our destiny. Thankfully, yoga and other practices can assist us in making steps toward freedom, and through Grace and learning, we no longer need to be controlled by our Samskaras.
I've been wanting to write about Samskaras for a while now, but can't really say I'm fully equipped to give a full account of them. Although, I've had plenty of personal experience! Those crazy loops we find ourselves in from time to time are enough to drive us mad. No doubt. Recently I came across the following book titled, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer, and was instantly taken with his explanation of Samskara. Below, I extracted excerpts from the book. Take a look if you want to learn more!
"The heart controls the energy flow by opening and closing. This means that the heart, like a valve, can either allow the flow of energy to pass through, or it can restrict the flow of energy from passing through. If you observe your heart, you know very well what it feels like when it's open and what it feels like when it's closed. In fact, the state of your heart changes quite regularly. You can be experiencing great feelings of love while in the presence of someone, until they say something you don't like. Then your heart closes toward them, and you simply don't feel the love anymore. We have all experienced this, but what exactly is causing it? Since we all have to experience the heart, we might as well understand what's going on in there."
"... It is not easy to keep energy together in one place for long. As you willfully struggle to keep these events from passing through your consciousness, the energy first tries to release by manifesting through the mind. This is why the mind becomes so active. When the energy can't make it through the mind because of he conflicts with other thoughts and mental concepts, it then tries to release through the heart. That is what creates all the emotional activity. When you resist even that release, the energy gets packed up and forced into deep storage within the heart. In the yogic tradition, that unfinished energy pattern is called Samskara. This is a Sanskrit work meaning "impression," and in the yogic teachings it is considered one of the most important influences affecting your life. A Samskara is a blockage, an impression from the past. It's an unfinished energy pattern that ends up running your life."
Here Singer further explains the energetic component centered around Samskara.
"In order to understand this, let's first take an in-depth look at the physics behind these blocked energy patterns. Just like energy waves, the energy that comes into you must keep moving. But that doesn't mean it can't get blocked within you. There is a way that the energy can both keep moving and stay in one place - and that is to circle around itself to create a stable unit. That's why energy manifesting as an atom forms the basic building block of this entire physical universe. Energy cycles around itself, and as we've discovered, atoms have enough harnessed energy to blow up the world when that energy is released. But unless forced otherwise, the energy will stay harnessed because of its equilibrium state.
This process of cycling energy is exactly what happens with a Samskara. A Samskara is a cycle of stored past energy patterns in a state of relative equilibrium. It is your resistance to experiencing these patterns that causes the energy to keep cycling around itself. There is no other place for it to go. You won't let it. This is how most people process their issues. This packet of cycling energy is literally stored in your energetic heart center. All the Samskaras you have collected over your life are stored there.
... Everyone of the Samskaras that you've stored is still there. Everything that did not make it through you, from the time you were a baby all the way to this moment, is still inside of you. It is these impressions, these Samskaras, that encrust the valve of the spiritual heart. That encrustation builds up and restricts the energy flow."Below he further explains Samskara and the connection to the heart.
"Now that we understand where the blockages within the heart come from, we have answered the structural question of how the heart gets blocked. You can certainly see the potential for impressions to build up to the point where very little energy can make it through. If they build up sufficiently, you will find yourself in a state of depression. In that state, all becomes dark. This is because very little energy is coming into your heart or mind. Eventually, everything appears negative because the world of the senses must pass through this depressed energy before it gets to your consciousness.
But even if you aren't prone to depression, your heart still gets blocked over time. It just builds up. It doesn't always stay blocked, however. Depending upon life's experiences, it can open and close quit frequently. This leads us to our next question: What is the cause of these frequent changes in the state of the heart? If you watch carefully, you will see it is related to the same stored past impressions that caused the blockages.What we can do to clear our blockages.
The stored energy patterns are real. A Samskara is actually programmed with the specific details of the event that could not pass through. If you experience jealousy because you thought you saw your girlfriend hugging someone in a car, very detailed data about that event is stored in the Samskara. It has that event's vibration, it has that event's nature, and it even retains your level of sensitivity about the event.
... The point is that past impressions do get stimulated, even old ones, and they affect your life. Sensory inputs from today's events dig through all the stuff you have stored through the years, and they restore the exact past patterns associated with the incoming events. When a Samskara is stimulated, it opens life a flower and begins to release the stored energy. Suddenly, flashes of what you experienced when the original even took place rush into your consciousness - the thoughts, the feelings, sometimes even the smells and other sensory input. The Samskara can store a complete snapshot of the event. It is way beyond any computer storage system created by human beings. It can archive everything you were feeling, everything you were thinking, and everything that was happening surrounding the event. All this information is stored into a tiny energy bubble within your heart. Years later it gets stimulated, and instantly you are experience the feelings you felt in the past. You can actually feel the fears and the insecurity of a five-year-old when you're sixty. What is happening is that unfinished mental and emotional energy patterns are getting stored and reactivated.
But it is just as important to realize that most of what you take in does not get blocked; it makes it right through you. Imagine how many things you see all day. They're not all stored like that. Of all these impressions, the only ones that get blocked are those that cause either problems or some extraordinary sense of enjoyment. Yes, you store positive impressions too. When a wonderful experience happens to you, it doesn't make it doesn't make it through because you cling to it. Clinging means "I don't want this one to go away. He told me he loved me and I felt so loved and protected. I want to keep reliving that moment. Play it back for me over and over again ..." Clinging creates positive Samskaras, and when these are stimulated, they release positive energy. Hence two kinds of experiences can occur that block your heart. You are either trying to push energies close because you like them. In both cases, you are not letting them pass, and you are wasting precious energy blocking the flow through resisting and clinging."
"The alternative is to enjoy life instead of clinging to it or pushing it away. If you can live like that, each moment will change you. If you are willing to experience that gift of life instead of fighting with it, you will be moved to the depth of your being. When you reach this state, you will begin to see the secrets of the heart. The heart is the place through which energy flows to sustain you. This energy inspires you and raises you. It is the strength that carries you through life. It is the beautiful experience of love that pours through your whole being. This is meant to be going on inside you at all times. The highest state you have ever experienced is simply the result of how open you were. If you don't close, it can be like that all the time. Don't sell yourself short. This can go on all the time - unending inspiration, unending love, and unending openness. That is the natural state of a healthy heart.
... So, you have a choice: Do you want to try to change the world so it doesn't disturb your Samskaras, or are you willing to go through this process of purification? Don't make decisions based on stimulated blockages. Learn to be centered enough to just watch this stuff come up. Once you sit deeply enough inside to stop fighting the stored energy patterns, they'll come up constantly and pass right through you. They'll come up during the day and they'll even come up in your dreams. Your heart will become accustomed to the process of releasing and cleansing. Just let it all happen. Get it over with. Don't process them one by one; that's too slow. Stay centered behind them and let go. Just like the physical body purges bacteria and other foreign matter, the natural flow of your energy will purge the stored patterns from your heart.
Your reward is a permanently open heart. There is no ore valve. You live in love, and it feeds you and strengthens you. That is an open heart. That is the instrument of the heart as it was meant to be. Allow yourself to experience every note the heart can play. If you relax and release, this purification of your heart is a wonderful thing."
Excerpts from the following book:
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself