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My personal trip towards the Koshas/ Kleshas

4th January 2017

My interest in “digging deeper” started to develop at the age of 19 with the book: “the only dance there is” by Ram Dass…. after a tumultuous adolescence that kicked off with the divorce of my parents.

My search since that time has never stopped… it has taken me to many interesting places and rich adventures.

At the end of 2015, during 6 months I was experiencing a fierce break-down in which my ego needed to step aside, forced by all the things I unconsciously invited on my path…

I clearly needed to become more humble in order to … See. I needed to work on loving myself and develop the self-respect I deserved.

To be able to survive the many obstacles I experienced during my life I had been ignoring my feelings to such an extent that they became non-existent and I became slightly indifferent.

I had fallen into the spiritual trap of thinking that it is totally up to ourselves how we feel; depending on how we think… and given the fact that we can decide what we think… we never need to be down, hurt or have any other painful emotion…

Our feelings are our compass in life… so if we are not in touch with them…. We miss out on life.

Instead of numbing our feelings by things like television, food, buying stuff, alcohol or medicine….it’s more advised to live them… go through them…. Positive AND negative.

This is something we have not learned from our parents or society.

We are taught to be brave and strong.

And if shit comes up: just ignore, repress or replace it by a big variety of different sorts of consumption or sociable events.

People who wish to go a little further often turn to spirituality and become “searchers for truth”

Given the fact that everybody is so unique, because we all have different backgrounds, genes and life-stories… nobody knows better for you than you yourself.

There are only guidelines and our inner compass is one of our guides. That little voice deep inside which we hear when we become quiet.

We have our own inner guru, the reason why we don’t hear it enough is because there is simply too much noise.

Voices of the frightened ego shouting out loud for survival….trying to avoid pain and seeking for pleasure.

Being in contact with our inner compass becomes more desirable if we want to ignore the needs of the ego.

And this is where the practice comes in. It guides us to our unique intuition.

In one of my teacher trainings we got in contact with the Koshas and the Kleshas. It did not resonate with me 10 years ago, but it does now. Thanks to what I went through towards the end of 2015.

This is why I will delve into these old systems of the Upanishads with you.

Historians and Indologists have put the date of composition of the Upanishads from around 800 – 400 B.C., though many of the verse versions may have been written much later.

The Upanishads are summits of thought on mankind and the universe, designed to push human ideas to their very limit and beyond. They give us both spiritual vision and philosophical argument, and it is by a strictly personal effort that one can reach the truth.

This is exactly what attracts me so much in Yoga.

It takes away the illusion of separation between all of us as human beings.

No matter where we come from as humans we are always dealing with the Kleshas and all our bodies consist of the 5 Koshas… and those Koshas came so much alive to me in my “sit back and hold on” experience.

The 5 KLESHAS

Right after the Yoga Sutra describes Kriya Yoga, it explains the five reasons we are bound. These troubles, or afflictions, are known as the kleshas: [1]

  1. Ignorance (avidya)
  2. Ego (asmita)
  3. Attachment to Pleasure (raga)
  4. Aversion to Pain (dvesa)
  5. Fear of Death (abhinivesah)

These five afflictions are often depicted as a tree.

  1. Avidya is the trunk of the tree, and the other four kleshas sprout from it. Ignorance, as the chief affliction we suffer. Destroy avidya and all the other troubles go away.
  2. Asmita is the ego. The problem with ego is not the fact that we have one; it is useful and even necessary to have an ego in order to function and live. The problem arises when the ego believes it is the Self. If all we do is in service of the little self, our life will be sorrowful. When we serve our higher Self, liberation becomes possible. Yin Yoga is especially good at giving us time to practice watching
  3. / 4. Raga and Dvesa As we hold the poses, as we remain outside our comfort zone, aversion arises. We resolve not to move, and instead we simply watch the aversion come … and eventually go. It goes away only to be replaced by some new aversion. As we finally release the pose we are flooded with pleasant sensations. The joy of coming out of a yin pose can create attachment. We want to stay and linger in this wonderful feeling. But, we again simply watch the pleasure, without reacting, and move on to the next pose.The practice we do on our yoga mats prepares us to face challenges at other times. We begin to recognize our inner habits. We notice and remark to ourselves, “Ow … this is aversion!” We notice, saying, “Ahhh … this is attachment!” Knowing that these afflictions, or hindrances, are constantly arising, we can consciously choose to not react to them … or perhaps to react to them, if that is appropriate. But now, because we are aware, the choice is consciously made. Our reactions are no longer automatic.The final klesha is said to be the most difficult to overcome:5. Abhinivesah This is the clinging to life. Even the most advanced yogis may fail to let go of this last affliction. If at the time of death there is the slightest hint of the thought, “No! I don’t want to go…,” that person is doomed to return and try again.

 

The 5 KOSHAS

  1. Annamaya: “Foodstuff” Sheath The first layer of the koshas represents the physical body, including the skin, muscles, connective tissue, fat and bones. For a lot of people the first layer might be where we spend the most time hanging out, locked in our physical senses.
  2. Pranamaya: “Energy” Sheath The second layer represents the pranic or subtle body — in essence, it’s the circulatory system for prana, or “life-force energy.” In psychological terms, pranamaya kosha controls our bodily and spiritual rhythm.
  3. Manomaya “Mind stuff” Sheath The third layer takes us into the deep recesses of the mind, emotions and nervous system. While modern science has developed an acute understanding of the inner working of the brain, the mind, motivations and emotions still retain a mysterious quality. The manomaya kosha makes up the control panel for the emotional and physical body, sending messages through your brain synapses and the central nervous system. It’s this layer where you move from physical feeling and rhythm to emotional feeling.
  4. Vijanamaya: “Wisdom” Sheath Diving underneath the sea of emotions in the manomaya kosha, we reach the wisdom body of the fourth kosha —Vijanamaya. It’s here that we develop awareness, insight and consciousness. Emotions left unchecked by awareness are destructive. The awareness of vijanamaya kosha illuminates our deeper desires and motivation and allows us to see the choice we have in all things. Instead of simply feeling or acting, we choose to feel or act with intention. Sometimes the intention is simply to move past the emotion into pure sensation and bliss.
  5. Anandamaya: “Bliss” Sheath The fifth and last kosha drops from conscious awareness into the pure and radiant bliss body. Within the anadamaya kosha, you might experience connection with all things, liberation from suffering and a state of being often described as “in the flow.”

Throughout the day, notice yourself shifting between the koshas layers:

Right now I feel hot.
Right now I’m paying attention to my breathing.
Right now I feel upset.
Right now I understand why I reacted that way yesterday.
Right now I’m deep in meditation.
Right now I feel bliss.

Yoga helps you to create a track to the deeper subtle kosha layers, so they’re easier to access. As asana (yogapositions) prepares the outer body, yogic breathing turns your attention to the pranic body.

Yogic philosophy provides the tools for bringing awareness to your fluctuating emotional state of mind, so you can embody and radiate health and bliss.

 

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