By Gurudevi Nirmalananda
Those were scary words when the Borg invaded a world in “Star Trek: Next Generation.” I wondered what made them so scary. The yogic sage Patanjali answered my question. He says that you already know what it is like to be assimilated, because your mind does this to you frequently. How frequently? Anytime you’re not in a state of enlightenment, you’re assimilated into your mind.
v.rtti-saaruupyam-itaratra. — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.4
At other times, you are assimilated into your mind’s activities.
You don’t merely have a mind with thoughts in it, your experience is “I am my mind!” If your thoughts are about happy things, you say, “I am happy.” If your thoughts are about sad things, you say, “I am sad.” You don’t say, “I’m thinking sad thoughts.” Instead, you become sadness itself.
Fortunately this only happens when you’re not in a state of enlightenment. Unfortunately, your experiences of enlightenment are too few and far between. You have already experienced enlightenment, or at least a taste of it. Everyone has these peak experiences, first researched by the psychologist Abraham Maslow. This is all explained in the sutras preceding the one we’re focusing on.
These great moments in your life happen when you allow everything to fall away from you and you stand in your glory, with your Inherent Divinity shining through. You might have experienced such a moment when standing on a mountain peak, or when you did something amazing and wonderful. For me, it was my wedding day. As I walked down the aisle, I was filled by God. I knew I was being filled by God. And I realized that it was the only way I wanted to live.
Yoga says you are filled by God from the inside-out, for God is inside. When you clear your mind of the unnecessary chatter (and how much of it is necessary?), your Divine Essence shines through.
But the rest of the time, as Patanjali says, your mind takes over. You get lost in your mind’s obsessions. It probably has many of them. But Patanjali doesn’t leave us stuck here. He continues on to explain what the mind does and how to get out of the trap it lays for you.
The rest of his text is yogic techniques and teachings for how to transform your mind so it no longer harasses you. Yoga poses are included, but the bulk of his teachings are about managing your mind differently than you have been.
The ultimate practice for managing your mind — better yet, for transforming your mind, is meditation. In yoga-based meditation, you don’t let your mind wander all over the cosmos. You harness the power of your mind and steer it inward so you discover your own Self, your own is-ness. Once you’ve found your way inside, you can live from that Essence and Beingness, always filled from the inside-out.