Undercurrents

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda

I learned about undercurrents in the Pacific Ocean when I was a teen. I loved to go into the surf and paddle around for a while, but found that I was nowhere near my beach towel when I came out.  I had to walk north in order to find it.  The undercurrent there moves you southward without you realizing it.  It was always quite a trudge through the hot sand to get back to where I wanted to be.  That’s happening now.

You would think that sheltering at home would put you in your “safe place,” and that you’d be enjoying it even more without all the pressures of daily life.  Unfortunately, it puts you in your stuff.  Here you are, but without all the distractions of daily life, so there’s nowhere to hide from yourself.

You need to dive deeper.  It’s another lesson I learned in the ocean.  Paddling around in the surf, sometimes a bigger wave would come along.  It could be quite scary.  More than once I was tumbled so much that I didn’t know which way was up.  Then a surfer taught me to dive under the wave and come up on the other side of it.  I’ve been doing it ever since, but I do it with yoga.

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Your psychological undercurrents are fueled by fear.  In this scary time, threats are coming from every direction.  Yet here you sit, relatively comfortable at home, with no one pounding on your door or pushing you around.  So you’re stuck with the inner fears, a constant undercurrent of anxiety.  It’s valuable to recognize that the undercurrent of anxiety was there before the pandemic started.  You’ve made too many of your decision out of fear and lived too much of your life in anxiety.

Medicating your anxiety doesn’t end it.  Drugs and liquor are like putting a bandaid on a broken heart.  They don’t help.  You need to look and see why your heart is broken.  That’s really the problem, you know, that your heart feels empty.  And that’s scary.  Your underlying anxiety has always come from a deeper inner feeling, a feeling of emptiness and loneliness.  Yoga calls it “avidya,” the not-knowing of your own essence.

The sages of India describe this as the human condition, caused by the five “kleshas.”  You get trapped in these five “root bindings,” inner levels of contraction that hide your innermost essence from yourself.  Your innermost essence is your mystical heart, not an emotional level of being, but a deeper essence — the only thing that really makes you feel full and whole inside.

You can work on unraveling the root bindings, as Patanjali describes in his Yoga Sutras.  Or you can dive beneath them and experience the depth and expanse of your own inner infinity. Svaroopa® yoga is about the deep dive.  Yet I’ll describe the kleshas so you know what you are diving under. 

Avidya-asmitaa-raaga-dvesha-abhiniveshaah pancha kleshaah. — Yoga Sutras 2.3

Not-knowing, identification, desire, aversion and fear of death are the five root bindings.

The sage lists the bindings from the root upward but we’ll look at it from the top down.  On the surface of the wave, you paddle around in fear (abhinivesha).  Everything in life is scary right now, but it’s scary because you’re afraid you could die.  This fear is realistic for those with compromised health, but even fear of economic repercussions is fear of death.  While there are very real dangers, worry doesn’t help you avoid them.  Strategic planning and careful implementation can, but these are inaccessible when you’re overcome by fear.

So peek in and see what’s under the fear.  You are averse (dvesha) to experiencing illness, hunger, loss, need, pain, grief, etc.  Naturally you want to avoid these things.  You know what you’d like to experience instead, so you desire (raaga) things that keep you healthy, well fed and happy, as well as maintaining your lifestyle as you have become accustomed to it.

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When you peek under aversion and desire, you find identification.  You get your sense of identity (asmitaa) from where you live, what you do and who you know.  You may identify with being an artist, an athlete, a gourmet cook, gardener or yogi.  These are all wonderful things, but the problem is that you want them to make you feel wonderful.  You rely on these external things to make you feel good about yourself.  Why?

Left to your own devices, with nothing to do and no one to turn to, you discover that you don’t feel so good about yourself.  Your mind runs a constant litany of self-deprecation, “not good enough,” and “just not enough.”  This is because you don’t know the deeper dimension within yourself.  It’s hidden by avidya, the not knowing of your own divinity. It’s like a dark heavy storm cloud that obscures your ability to see or feel your way inside.

Yoga specializes in getting you deeper, past the storm cloud, to the experiential knowing of your deeper essence.  Your deeper essence is the light of Consciousness, which is shining even when the storm cloud obscures your ability to see it.  Yogic specializes in ways to get you in there. This is why is remind you so often, “Do more yoga.”  I’m not telling you to exercise more, as beneficial as that is.  I’m telling you to dive deeper within.  This is Svaroopa® yoga’s specialty.   It will take you there, even in your very first meditation or very first yoga class.  You cannot get distracted by thinking you’re exercising or managing your body or mind; the Svaroopa® Sciences are all about opening up the mystical dimensions inside.  See for yourself.

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