“Nothing matters but the quality of the affection--in the end--that has carved the trace in the mind dove sta memoria.” -Ezra Pound
Dove sta memoria translates as where the memory is, lives, stays.
Have you ever wondered why you do the things you don’t want to do? And why you don’t do the things you do want to do?
In yoga, we learn an important concept called samskaras. Samskaras are the impressions created in our minds, usually unconsciously, by our experiences in life. Including past lives. They create grooves of habitual patterning that influence how we interact in the world. Individually, they are our response. Collectively, they are our conditioning.
Samskaras are the reason you find yourself in the same situations over and over. They’re the reason you can’t seem to “get motivated” or “be disciplined enough.” They’re the reason you feel stuck in a rut and can’t seem to get out.
“Nothing matters but the quality of the affection--in the end--that has carved the trace in the mind [where the memory lives]” is saying exactly this. The quality of your affection and attention carve traces in your mind which create long lasting memories. Memories that, according to the yogis, can be carried through the lifetimes. Similar to instincts, these samskaras, or memories, help us survive, like remembering how fire is made and that it hurts if touched. They are also the coping mechanisms we develop after stressful and sometimes traumatic situations. Samskaras are our habitual responses to certain stimuli, both beneficial and self destructive. And because they are so deeply ingrained in our psyche, they can also be what’s holding us back. The lower the quality of affection or attention, the greater the grasp these samskaras have on us. Likewise, the greater the quality of affection or attention, the less likely chance they will be able to control us.
My teacher and aunt, Judith Lasater, summarizes how this plays out in our lives: “My words reflect my thoughts, my thoughts reflect my beliefs, and my beliefs, especially the unexamined ones, run my world.” It’s those unexamined beliefs created by past life actions, samskaras, that run our world. Is a blind spot really a blind spot if you know it’s a blind spot??
Alcohol was the thing I wanted to change in my life. I so desperately wanted to quit and no matter how many times I tried, I just couldn’t seem to do it. Which would send me down a shame spiral fueled by more alcohol. This was a vicious cycle with no end in sight (it seemed) until I was able to bring my unexamined beliefs and conclusions to the surface. I got a therapist and we dove way into why I have an attachment to alcohol. I learned my attachment was not only a samskara passed down through my lineage, but it was also samskaras created by the conclusions my unconscious mind came to about what alcohol provided because of subliminal marketing--love, happiness, money, friends, fun. Samskaras that had me operating from a belief of scarcity “I won’t have those things unless I drink,” which meant I was reinforcing the belief that I wasn’t good enough. So until I brought those beliefs to the surface, examined them, and chose a new belief system, I would’ve always felt deprived, ashamed of my lack of discipline, and would’ve continued the cycle, potentially passing it on the ones who come after me. This change didn’t happen by being more disciplined or by being more motivated or by simply choosing. No no my sweet friends. It wasn’t that easy. It was about teaching my body that she was safe and, in this moment, she no longer had to operate from a place of survival. It was learning how to give myself the space to release so I could be open to a new way of being in relationship with the world.
Think of what a dog does after chasing a squirrel. The dog was in fight or flight mode. Then, after the squirrel gets away, the dog shakes it off, releasing that surge of energy, and lays down for a nap. We as humans have an incredibly difficult time moving on and letting things go because we’re perpetually stuck in this fight or flight mode, ready to attack or flee.
It’s impossible to make the changes you want to make or to just “let that shit go” if your nervous system is in survival mode. Think about it. If you’re in fight or flight, and you take something away that was perceived to be crucial to your survival, you’re only going to experience more stress and you’ll be clamoring to have that thing back, like a security blanket. Same goes for adding something. If you try to add something when your body is just focused on keeping you safe, it’s not going to stick, you’re not going to care about keeping it.
Give your body the support she needs to shift from survival mode into rest mode. In turn, when your body is available to support you, you gain access to reorienting the unconscious mind. This part of the mind contains your greatest strengths, abilities, and wisdom. The conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg; below the water’s surface is the unconscious mind governing how the iceberg is going to move, where it’s going to move, and what ships it’s going to take out along the way. The only way to gain access to this part of your mind is through the body. You can’t access it through logic or sheer will. You must create the conditions for rest and relaxation by supporting the body with stillness and silence. Rest and relaxation are the gateway to producing sustainable, long term change. You begin the process of reintegrating the unconscious and conscious parts of the mind through rest and relaxation. Get these two on board, working towards the same goal, and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
To learn how to set up the conditions for sustainable, long term change, sign up for my newsletter where I share practices to help reorient your body and mind to states of rest and relaxation.