Chitta Vritti Nirodhah

Q: Anatoly, can you please tell about mental awareness and stopping the internal dialogue (as one of the most important goals in yoga) and your own way to achieve it? How long have you been working on achieving this state of mind and how does it affect your personal efficiency in life (boost of mental capabilities etc)? What are the steps on this way?

A: Intro to Raja yoga.

Stopping the internal dialogue is called in yoga Unmani (pronounced oon-MA-nee). It is a first and necessary condition of achieving Chitta Vritti Nirodhah (further – CVN). A term CVN means “not provoking mind fluctuations”. In other words it’s the elimination of Vritti (thought-waves, mental whirpool), meaning having your mind crystal clear.

A person can achieve Unmani after a different time of intensive yoga practice – everything is individual.

According to ancient yogic text Shiva Samhita there are 4 types of Sadhakas (yoga practitioners): feeble, average, superior and the supreme ones. Feeble practitioners are non-enthusiastic, weak, shy, forgetful, unstable, greedy, cruel and unhealthy. They have weak willpower, are attached to their husband or wife and look for flaws in teachers. They hardly achieve success in yoga even after 20 years of practice. Mantra yoga is recommended for them.

Average practitioners have right to do Laya yoga (as known as Kundalini yoga). They are mindful, respectful, merciful, nice speakers and steer a middle course.

Superior practitioners have right to do Hatha yoga (in addition to Laya yoga). They are independent, full of energy, generous, brave, righteous, strong believers, treat their Gurus (teachers), merciful and always practice yoga. They are also called Adhimatras and succeed in 6 years of practice.

Supreme ones have right to practice all types of yoga. They have lots of energy, know Shastras (ancient religious scriptures), have control over their emotions and feelings, moderate in eating, fearless, persistent, pure, merciful, righteous, intelligent, stable, healthy, help other living beings, content, forgiving, have good personality, religious, can keep secrets, peaceful, treat and respect God and Gurus, respect and believe in Shastras, not waste their time, know Adhimatras’ responsibilities, practice all types of yoga. These practitioners succeed in 3 years.

From this you can see that the thing is not in length of practice, but in quality.

As far as I remember I experienced Unmani first time after 4 years of persistent practice (it was 1993-1994). That period of my life was also marked by my first success in yoga Nidra (a sleep-like state which yogis experience during their meditations). I didn’t have a qualified teacher at that time, so I followed ancient scriptures and exchanged experience with the same practitioners as me. I did all 6 Shatkarmas (clearing practices), 2 hours of asanas, 4 hours of pranayams (breathing techniques) and up to 2 hours of meditations (rarely – up to 4 hours) every day. Some days I practiced pranayams 6-7 hours. I can say that time I practiced 24/7 because strangely I have been “thrown out” of dreams in the middle of a night. I woke up, wrote my dreams down, meditated for some time and felt asleep in a while. And then it all was happening again – up to few times per night. As I remember at that time I considered those nighttime meditations the most interesting and important part of my life. I had an obsession to write everything down in my diary: thoughts about yoga, dreams etc. After 8 years those diaries piled up and began to disturb my mind and my practice, provoking Vritti to appear. I didn’t know what to do with it. Sometimes I had nightmares about somebody stealing my diaries. And then, one day I took them all far away up in mountains and burned down. As I remember I packed my backpack full with diaries and had nothing else to take with me, so I spent all night sitting and warming myself near fire. Luckily I had plenty of paper to fuel it with

Though I practice yoga since 1989, I couldn’t achieve CVN state of mind till recent years (this article was written in 2006). Looks like I belong to feeble or average practitioners I remember that I drastically changed my asana practice, quit doing pranayams and moved from mountains (where I lived for a long time) to Kiev. I started learning from Andrey Lappa, my Guru, whom I’m very grateful to. He taught me lots of things, especially dos and don’ts of asana techniques. At the same time I was learning Ashtanga-vinyasa yoga. I couldn’t go to India at that time, but I didn’t need to – I had video lessons of Pattabhi Jois and David Swenson and practiced their sequences up to 6 hours per day. So maybe it was the asana practice change, maybe intensive Marmas (energy points in body) activation, maybe something else or maybe it was just the right time, but CVN was finally achieved. Anyway I don’t practice those kind of asanas anymore and do even think that they are dangerous for health. But it’s not what this story is about.

One day, when I was finishing my everyday practice, it finally happened. But do not be deceived – CVN is a BASIC condition in Hatha yoga. There are no fireworks and no Siddhas (paranormal abilities). It’s just a kind of a mark of a person’s preparedness to Raja yoga (the highest yoga of all). You are just RECONNECTING WITH YOURSELF. When we eliminate Vritti we concentrate on our supreme nature. Otherwise our nature has a form of our Vrittis and we are literally not ourselves. Ordinary people may spend all their life living like this. With CVN comes dispassion (meaning having absolutely no desires) and clarity – everything you concentrate on instantly appears clear and understandable like you see the essence of things. Unfortunately this condition doesn’t last for long.

From a practical point of view a CVN experience allows us to operate our personal motivations and phenomena of our lives more easily and effectively. I think it happens because CVN provokes some kind of a “reload” of our bio-computers and as a consequence – more optimal usage of our central nervous system. It can be compared to installation of a newer version of operating system in a computer. Things that ordinary people are not able to do in many years you can do in months! But there’s one moment… you are not interested in social life anymore. Yoga practice – that’s the only thing you may continue to be interested in and the thing that can still hold you on this planet. Nevertheless you continue to live in the society and do your duties, but without any attachment to them. Like you are playing a game. Sometimes even involving in events, but never as deep as before. Here comes awareness.

The main thing beginners should understand is that there’s no standard steps in achieving yogic state of mind. Everybody is different and has his or her own individual path. Only one thing unites us all – consistency and persistency of yoga practice. One who observe this condition will succeed in yoga with no doubt.

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