Imagine this. You are going along just fine, feeling peaceful and grounded when suddenly someone in your life says or does that terrible thing that sends you into an emotional tailspin. You feel an immediate tightness in your throat, chest, or belly. Your breath feels short, your heart rate goes up. Within minutes you have elevated cortisol and adrenaline in your blood. To use a modern term: you are triggered. Your sympathetic nervous system is activated; your body is in reaction and soon the rest of you will be too. You lash out in self-protection, you say things you wish you hadn’t, you attempt to make your inside feel better by fixing the other person so that he or she understands that they must never do that terrible thing again.
If you are like me and most of my students, this is not an uncommon scenario. You may well wonder, perhaps even with some shame: how is it possible with all my yoga and meditation, my ability to stay peaceful and grounded in so many other areas of my life, that I experience such visceral reactivity in these particular situations. If this has happened once too many in your life and any attempts at numbing or distracting yourself away from that unpleasant triggered feeling haven’t worked that well, you may be at the point of realizing that changing the other person’s behavior or having your version of a cocktail is at best a temporary fix.
You may have the inkling that this very unpleasant internal feeling lives in the energy field of your very own body, is always in there, just waiting to be activated — again and again. You may also begin to suspect that you mysteriously draw to you, exactly the sort of person or situation that will activate for you this energetic knot. Some ancient and wise part of you may even feel deeply that you are here to heal that very place. You are here to go deep within and study your inner script, to find that painful groove that has played out so many times in your outer life.
Your deepest wounds, and we all have them, show up as unpleasant vibrations or feelings in the physical body when triggered by an external event or person. Say someone says or does something that makes your whole body tremble and your chest get tight. This is a clue. A strong bodily reaction usually points to a situation where you are triggered. You are not merely observing an unpleasant situation and choosing to calmly correct someone else or excuse yourself. You are reacting in a very physical way. The blocked energy within your body’s energy field has been activated by a situation that in some way reminds your heart-mind of a similar dynamic that caused you stress when you were likely too young to handle it or didn’t have the choice to remove yourself from the situation. Young children are like unfiltered sponges that absorb the energy patterns around them with out the capacity to separate themselves out from a situation that they are raised in for example.
Yet, some part of you may already know that who you truly are, is the peacful, steady Light within (in Sanskrit purusa). The Light that presently ensouls your physical body, the Light that patiently observes the fluctuations of your mind and all the weather changes that make up your worldly life.
But we must respect and empathize with the fact that while in the human form, most of us tend to painfully forget our true nature as peaceful Light and we to come to identify ever more strongly with the thoughts and feelings that have programmed our heart-mind over time and before we know it they play out much like a movie being projected out into the world. We come to buy into the illusion that life is randomly coming toward us with out any prompting or programming from within us.
In reality our thoughts, feelings, memories, wounds, habits or downright traumas are like an intricate script that is played out in how you perceive your life circumstances; and you we interpret the behavior and intentions of others.
Coming to grips with the importance of managing our thoughts and feelings is crucial if we want to stop the futile blaming of external circumstances for our ever changing mood. The practice of stilling the heart-mind, realigning with our inner Light of Awareness and thus remembering who we really are, is the true practice of yoga. Only when we quiet down the constant fluctuation of the mind, the mental chatter can we begin to recognize where the deep wounds/samskaras lie within, and only then can we recognize how these samskaras are constantly projected out onto the people closest to us, not to hurt us but to show us where we have energetic blockages that need attention. Only then can true healing begin.
“Yoga citta vritti nirodhah”.
(Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the heart-mind)
Second verse of the Yoga Sutras
Your divine nature is expressed as pure Presence, as simple radiant Being. It is only this magical force, the true you, that has the power to heal that deep wounds that lie within and that causes pain and disruption in your relationships. While the triggered feeling may well feel completely overwhelming at times, it is no match for the powerful loving presence that you can shower it with when you are ready to stop any and all attempts to dull or numb the unpleasant feeling of anxiety, stress, sadness in your body. The unpleasant feeling or vibration of a deep seated fear, anxiety or sadness is the root cause of most addictions known to man. Because we have not been taught healthy,effective ways to deal with the intense feeling of stress and anxiety in the body, we do what the whole word does, we reach for alcohol, drugs, cell-phones, sugar, shopping, sex – anything really that distracts you from the unpleasant vibrations in the body. This often leads to dependency or downright addiction to a substance or activity. But this can only hope to be a temporary distraction from the wounded place within that was trying to call your attention, trying to be heard and ultimatel healed.
The healthier, more sustainable way to address the painful encounters and triggers is a process of great patience and gentleness, through which you can begin to clear out and mindfully cultivate the content of your heart-mind, as well as heal the deep wounds that play out as painful encounters in the exterior world. You really can earn to pull the projections back inside where you will find the true source of your pain: the stagnant or blocked places in the energy field of the body. When you embrace these inner, often very uncomfortable, places with pure presence and empathy, they will gradually soften and seize to show up as unpleasant outer encounters that produce the triggered reactions and drama.
This is not a fast-fix process. While the more superficial ripples of the mind may be easy to quiet down, healing the deeper grooves will likely be an ongoing process. A process of taking responsibility for the reactivity that may appear to be caused by external forces but really is an activation of your samskaras. You must call upon your own willingness to feel deeply into the energy field of the body, feeling into the unpleasant feelings and greeting these uncomfortable vibrations of anxiety, fear, anger, sadness the way you might greet, acknowledge and even embrace a small scared child with all your heart, all your love, all your presence.