Living Deeply

Day 16: Seeing the Already Seen; Doing the Already Done

Written by Ekras Gorakh

Rakesh goes to a nice upscale home in Delhi. The lady of the house is nicely dressed, and the flat is tastefully decorated, but from one of the doors, he sees a disheveled looking man sitting on the bed. Rakesh makes a face, and tells the young lady, “What kind of household allows servants to enter the bedroom and sit on the bed”? She whispers back, “He’s my husband”.

Rakesh’s eyes open wide in shock, he says “What kind of household lets their daughter marry a servant”?

We can’t see new things easily. It’s deceptively easier to see new things in the old ways. I’m writing about #LivingDeeply this month and today is day 16.

The old ways of seeing and being have a gravitational pull on us. Our eyes see the familiar. Our hands do the habitual. That’s why we never see the new, do the new, and be the person we want to be. Habits of seeing are below the surface of our conscious knowledge, which makes it hard to change how we see things. Like Rakesh, once we have seen the man in the bedroom as a servant,  we find it hard to shift the view.

The Sanskrit word for these old grooves is Samskara, संस्कार. These old impressions are so subtle that we may not know they are at work, but they shape our world completely.

Sri Krishna says, in the Bhagavad Gita,

सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर ज्ञानवानापि
प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति
Even a knowledgable person acts according to his own nature; all living entities are controlled by their own natures. What can repression accomplish?

So how do we change our view?

We can learn new words by hearing the words, repeating these words, and by letting the conscious experience change the structure of our unconscious experience. In the yoga system, we call this process shravana, manana and nididhyasana (hearing, reflection and meditation).

There was a time when we hadn’t heard about a smartphone. Then we heard about it and has no use for it. Then we saw it being used and understood what it could do. Then we used it, and it became a habit. And now, most people would rather go hungry than lose their smartphone. The process of digesting the idea of a smartphone is now complete.

How do we change our habits of doing? In the same way, through repeated practice we make the new habits part of our unconscious makeup.

A dancer who is learning a new move finds the moves awkward at first. Then they practice the moves until they can do the moves technically. Then they do the same practice for thousands of hours until the muscles remember how to move. At this point, the dancer is no longer doing the moves- they are just letting the body move on it’s own under the effect of the music and their memory. This is how memories are formed.

If we want new results, we have to learn to see things in a new way, and do things in new ways. We have to be uncomfortable at first, and then persistent, and then become naturally good.

French philosopher Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Let us learn to erase old samskaras and have new ones.


About the author

Ekras Gorakh

Ekras Gorakh is a software executive and a yoga-meditation teacher living in San Francisco, CA.

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