I’ve felt insecure lately.
There wasn’t an incident that shook me up. No one confronted me or called me a fraud or questioned my ability to parent or anything that dramatic. I just have the feeling that what I’m doing or thinking is somehow wrong. I don’t feel easy and clear. And as it happens, if I’m insecure about one thing, then I start to wonder if I’m actually unsure about a whole bunch of other stuff, too. I send a text. “Ugh, I shouldn’t have sent that text.” I make plans for Friday. “Do I even want to go out on Friday?” I prepare to teach a class. “I don’t think I know enough to teach a class about yoga.” I could go on, but you get the idea. Insecurity starts to infect all sorts of experiences.
One of the many reasons I like yoga is because it deals in the currency of feelings. There are lots of arenas where the careful consideration of feelings isn’t encouraged or valued, but with yoga, it’s one of the main ways that we come to understand ourselves. We get sensation in our body, we learn how to work with that. We have habits and desires that come through as feelings, we start to distinguish between the ones that are helpful and the ones that aren’t so helpful. We feel the urge to say “yes” and the urge to say “no” at the same exact time, and we develop an ability to discern between them to know which one to follow. It’s in our ability to be quiet and still and to hold our focus and attention in one place that we are able to begin to understand our feelings.
The yoga sutras offer great insight into the role of feelings in our lives. Feelings can become habits and habits can start to become beliefs. This insecurity could move in and take over. Or. Or I could connect with a different kind of feeling and go a different route. The sutras are so practical. As I sit with this insecurity, I’ve been revisiting the following sutra quartet and I like what they have to say.
1.17 vitarka vichara ananda asmitarupa anugamat samprajnatah.
How did insecurity take over? Well, I have the feeling, dwell on it, believe it a little bit and experience insecurity again and again. Slowly, the insecurity is so familiar, I don’t even notice that it’s there. It moves in and colors how I text or parent or teach. I find that once insecurity starts to operate under the radar it can seem beyond my control. Like it’s just a part of me. And this is what this sutra is all about. The feeling starts off “gross”, vitarka, it’s noticeable and maybe we put up a little resistance. Then the feeling becomes more subtle, vichara, and it gets easier and easier to just follow that familiar path, it even feels good, ananda, until eventually these patterns are so much a part of who we are that they become a part of us, samprajnatah . The patterns become our second nature. This can happen with icky things like insecurity, but the good news is the same path can work with good stuff, too. I can have other experiences, conscious and intentional experiences, that can help me to connect more strongly with something good. Something that isn’t insecure. Maybe it’s the feelings of clarity and balance that move from through this process and become a part of me. That would be much better.
1.18 viramapratyaya abhyasapurvah samskarasesah anyah
Cultivating feelings in a conscious way doesn’t just happen. There has to be a quiet, active, and intentional Amanda in order for this to work. This sutra says that in order to follow the pattern from 1.17 (gross –>subtle–>joy–>perfect understanding) over and over again, I will find a quiet state called virama. This is a highly refined state of mind in which my big bundle of habits and patterns, my samskaras, chill out. In this state, instead of operating from samskaras, reacting without thinking or letting insecurity run the show, I find space to notice a feeling underneath all the habits. I’m not made up of insecurity. It’s just showing up. Underneath that, I’m in there somewhere and it’s through still and quiet focus that I have a better chance of getting in touch with that. It’s when I’m connected to my inner voice and I can hear it, know what it is and follow it, the insecurity has much less of a chance of moving in.
1.19 bhavapratyayo videhaprakritilayanam
Some people are born, hearing, knowing and following their inner voice. These are very special people… like Jesus.
1.20 srddha virya smrti samadhiprajna purvaka itaresam
This is a really awesome sutra because it’s here that we hear about sraddha. Sraddha is a feeling, a deep sense that supports us in this listening to our feelings and this path of yoga. For us regular folks who aren’t direct offspring of a deity, sraddha is the belief, the confidence, THE FAITH that what I am doing will work. It’s knowing that I won’t always feel insecure and that this path will help me to be able to hear and know and follow my inner voice…sraddha is the feeling that it’s possible. I can be more connected to my Self and when I am, this sutra says I can know the feeling of deep connection and concentration of Samadhi, and to wisdom, prajna. Since evidence is mounting that I wasn’t born with the inner-voice connection like Jesus was, I’m so glad I have some sraddha to go along with my continued practice and efforts.
My experience of insecurity is really different from what it used to be. It’s still annoying and I’d much prefer that it not visit, but when it does, it doesn’t take over anymore. I don’t fall down the deep depression-crevasse like I used to, and believe that it’s me, that I’m just an insecure person and maybe it’s all true. I know that it’s not true that the texts I send are all wrong or that I should quit teaching yoga or whatever. This knowing is connected to sraddha, to the ability to believe that I’ll eventually come out the other side even when, in the middle of the experience, the insecurity can feel so true and real. I have faith that this yoga business is worth the continued effort—that it works and that it works for me. Aaaah. I’m feeling more confident already.
If you need a dose of sutra-based confidence and wisdom, Chase Bossart is coming to Austin, TX and will be teaching at Yoga Yoga on July 11th and 12th. I’m here to tell you, he’s a wonderful teacher and boy does he know how to teach the yoga sutras. You should sign up. I’ll save you a spot next to me! CLICK HERE for more information.