|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 339 ]
Whatever the tendency of the mind, whether higher or lower, its state is established purely through habit. If one repeatedly thinks low thoughts, then the mind readily migrates toward additional low thoughts. If it frequently focuses on dignified and refined ideas, the mind then springs willingly in this direction.
With this in mind, we can already see the potential for change. Transforming the mind from a negative, impure state, to a positive and pure one is a mere matter of conscious re-conditioning. If 'impure repetitions' have laid down impurities in our subsconscious, then enough pure repetitions will eventually replace them.
The science of yoga possesses many devices for this subconcious re-organization, such as the consistent use of mantras and prayers which, when used day after day, gradually 'wash out the impurities' of the mind and replace them with things of a higher, more pure resonance. Devotional songs, known as bhajanas in the Hindu tradition, are another powerful tool for positive mental change.
Yet another practice ingrained within fabric of Indian culture is a concept known as pratipaksha bhavana, which literally means "opposite point of view." It is the conscious effort to immediately, by an act of will, replace any negative or devolutionary thought as soon as it arises with the opposite, more virtuous and positive one.
Understanding the mind and the mechanism by which patterns of thoughts and attitudes are laid down within it, we can easily recognize the impact that one's associations and surrounding environment have on their state of mental purity. If one is surrounded by negative, depressed and angst-ridden people, and allows their self to engage in derogatory, critical dialogue and regular negativity and pessimism, then in fact their mind will invariably also reflect this impure state; as it also will by frequenting social establishments such as bars and clubs, watching television and movies, and engaging in politically aggressive activities, unhealthy competitions and other mentally agitating things.
Of course, in modern life, one cannot easily sequester their self from negative influence. But one must be constantly mindful of their external surroundings and the company of people that they keep, and in unavoidable situations (maybe you have to work in a place with extremely negative people everyday) maintain the awareness and control to not let one’s self get swayed into negative conversation, emotions or thought.
On the constructive front, one should make efforts to craft a positive mental and emotional environment whenever possible. This means developing associations with high-minded, loving and optimistic people, and engaging in social activities which nurture higher values and go well with the yogic life.
There are countless ways to do this, and one need only to break out of their regular habits and routines to recognize some. Certainly spending time in nature, as well as care-free play with children (the purest minds of all!) are immensely nurturing to one’s mental environment, just to name a couple.
Thus, we can see that sauca, both the physical, gross cleansing, as well as the mental purification, is an active practice, one which does not take place spontaneously on its own.
One must engage in purification exercises actively, with great regularity, for long periods of time. This is why it has been included within the scope of the niyamas...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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