[Also published here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/04/dear-mind-shut-up]
“Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” ~ Patanjali
The second sutra in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras compilation is one of the most important and frustrating aspects of embarking on the journey of yoga. This particular sutra focuses on learning to restrain/modify (Nirodhah) the incessant thoughts that flow through our minds; the mind-stuff or mind chatter (Chitta Vrittis).
Chitta Vrittis are the stuff your mind thinks when you think you’re not thinking.
It’s the images and conversations that fly by in your head as your brushing your teeth or walking to the grocery store. One doesn’t really realize the sheer amount of information that filters through our sensory system and the instantaneous thoughts that are sparked.
The Chitta Vrittis continue to whirl through our headspace until we actually stop on purpose and notice them. It’s an almost surreal, out of body experience, when you start thinking consciously, for yourself. It’s a literal ‘WTF’ moment. Once that first jolt happens, once you stop mid-step that one time and take heed that your mind is not in your control and is joyously swinging from one branch to another like a wild monkey, you embark on a perpetually frustrating yet liberating action of continuously being aware of your Chitta Vrittis (life long endeavor!).
The hope is that, one day, with continous effort, you can guide your thoughts instead of them flopping around in your head like a fish out of water.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t let our mind wander when we’re in our creative zone. The ‘mind-juices’ that flow there serve a different purpose.
But imagine where your mind takes you with this thought pattern: you’re driving in your car, thinking about the annoying red lights and then the mind boggling traffic, which leads to the delay in your schedule, during which the exasperation sets in, which reminds you of the irritating people you’re about to see at the meeting and on and on!
Holey moley! That’s a lot of thoughts and emotions zooming through your head space in 20 seconds!
It’s during these chitta vrittis that it’s important to stop, take a step back and think about your thoughts. What purpose did it serve?