Are you having blind spots because of your likes and dislikes? And if you have, would you even realize it? Our identity is shaped by what we like and dislike. We generally bond with people who like the same stuff, that’s just human. It has come to the attention of most people that the internet – and especially Facebook for example – creates a kind of filter bubble, showing you more of the stuff you like and not showing you anything that runs against this line. But have you ever thought about the consequences of this outside of Facebook? And what’s Patanjalis take on that?
Our very own glasses of likes and dislikes
One aspect of likes and dislikes is how it shapes not only your reality but your day-to-day experience. When I’m in a yoga class and I don’t enjoy the music, I get carried away by this rather quickly. My very own chatterbox takes on full speed ahead: “Why would you use this kind of music in a yoga class? This doesn’t support my practice at all… Really? Lyrics? Cheesy love-song lyrics in a yoga class? You have got to be kidding me!” The struggle is real, or at least I thought it was.
Meeting one of my kleshas
During my holiday break I took a yoga class and found that this was happening to me again. But this time, I chose a different reaction. I asked myself: “What would happen, if I didn’t concentrate on my dislike for the music, but on all the other facets of this moment? Like my breath, my movement, the teachers voice?” Guess what, the music faded out of my picture and I fully immersed myself in enjoying my deep breath connected to my movements. Whoa! That was an eye-opener. Yes music can enhance my practice deeply but if it doesn’t I don’t have to concentrate on it. And then Patanjalis yoga sutra on kleshas came to my mind. Kleshas are translated as things that cloud your vision of reality, as disruptive powers or afflictions:
2.3 avidya asmita raga dvesha abhinivesha klesha
“These afflictions are: ignorance of the true self, the resulting contrived self-identity, desire for things that support it, dislike for things that do not support it, and a tenacious adherence to the whole thing.”
(transliteration and translation are from “Words About Now: The Yoga Sutras for the Modern Practicioner. Brown, James.)
Everybody has their own variation of kleshas, they are described as deeply seated and showing up more or less strongly in everybody at different times. Patanjali writes that the first step is to become aware of them. I wasn’t really aware that I was such a judgmental music-nazi in yoga class and I wasn’t realizing how much unnecessary unhappiness it was causing me. The more often I repeated this behavior, the more it took roots. But it didn’t bring me happiness or balance. It just strengthened my wrong sense of identity and false separateness from others.
How to handle your kleshas
After becoming aware of kleshas, what can you do? Patanjali explains that dhyana, quiet reflection or meditation, helps to overcome the kleshas. So I reflected:
Music has always played a big part in my life and still does. I learned to play many instruments on a decent level, tough never professionally. I acquired a colorful taste for all kinds of – in my opinion – good music and I unconsciously defined myself through that (a lot). However rather consciously and rather often I was judging people if they liked the next big hit on the radio which was just another four-chord-song with meaningless lyrics. Did that benefit me? The other person? My mental peace? My spiritual development? No, no, no and no.
Acting from a place of love
You can always choose what you put your attention on. If you sharpen your senses for this in meditation it will become easier to consciously choose that which elevates you and those around you. There will always be music (clothes, styles, …) which I don’t like and that’s fine, but I won’t get caught up in that anymore because it is simply a waste of time. Despite all our individuality, we all want the same (good food to eat, a roof over our head and a bed to sleep in and someone to love and be loved).
In this coming week let’s all put our attention more on the stuff that’s helping and elevating us. Let’s open our eyes and prioritize connection over separation. Let’s take off the likes-and-dislikes-glasses and focus more on what we can enjoy in this very moment.
Thank you for reading!