Supporting Positive Change

Change is hard. Habits are tenacious. That’s our life experience for the most part.

Positive change comes more easily when done with what the Yogasutra calls shraddha, often translated as “faith,” for that is what it means in casual Sanskrit. But in the Yogasutra, this word has a different, deeper meaning that carries psychological insight. A more accurate translation from a reading of the commentaries would be "calm and restful clarity of the mind supported by positive experience and certainty of reason."

(Incidentally, this is an example of why the Yogasutra should be studied with the key Sanskrit commentaries, not just by itself. Most of the clarity and insight from the text resides in the commentaries, principally the one by Vyasa.)

In the explanation of this word, there are keys to help us sustain positive change, working on the emotional self, rational self, and critical self.

One, to find a positive experience in what we do, to the extent we can - doing it in a way that emphasizes the rewards in the process, physical or mental. For instance, feeling a little calmer or lighter, more energetic or grounded, more safe or stable. If I appreciate the positive feeling my effort brings me, I can engage my emotional self to support my transformation with intrinsic motivation.

Two, to try and understand, to the extent we can, how what we are doing will help us. If I cultivate some knowledge of the process of change, I can engage my rational self to support my transformation with clarity and deliberation.

Three, to begin with acceptance and be kind to ourselves. Whatever my problems may be, accepting their existence in this moment is not the same as acknowledging defeat nor is it equivalent to condoning their presence; it is merely letting go of unhelpful internal conflict and judgment to bring a measure of restfulness to the mind. If I practice acceptance and kindness to myself, I can suspend my critical self, and channel my energy away from negative self-talk toward positive self-reinforcement.

Change is a process of many steps. Yoga offers us not just the process but also the keys to make that process work well.

- Ganesh Mohan