How the Kleshas can deplete your energy
Before we can “unlock” anything we have to be able to see the lock. Also, before we unlock “something,” we should know what it is. Following this line of thought, if we DO get “more” of something, we may want to ask the question, “What is it that I am getting more of?” And what about well-being? Is that the same for everyone? Or, is it something more personal, more specific?
Let's take this one step at a time.
Energy is defined as the ability to do work. Energy can be found in many things and can take different forms. For example, kinetic energy is the energy of motion, and potential energy is energy due to an object's position or structure. Energy is never lost, but it can be converted from one form to another.
Our personal energy is a little more complex. It's more than just the ability to DO work. It's the energy or inner desire to do something. It’s the feeling of excitement to live each day the way our heart leads us to live.
Let's try some examples.
Have you ever experienced being at work and wondering how you are going to get to the end of the day? If the answer is yes, it’s a sign that you were not excited and did not have the desire, or personal energy, for a job that was not feeding your heart's desire.
Now think of a time that you were on vacation. You may be the type of person who likes to do everything offered while on vacation, or you may be the type of person who wants to lie on a beach and read a book. Whichever type of person you are, did you have the energy to do exactly what you wanted? I am going to assume the answer is a big YES!
Our inner knowledge of our own energy each and every moment gives us our ability to “UNLOCK” our energy and experience our vitality. Looking at the examples above, how much vitality did you feel that day on the job? And on vacation?
Well-being is different for everyone. However, there are some commonalities across individuals. Well-being is the state of good health, of comfort and happiness. Each one of us knows when we are not in a state of well-being, but often don't know how to achieve it.
Now that we have an idea of what energy is, when we have it and when we don't and how that affects our vitality and well-being, let’s take a look at the LOCK.
The term “klesha”comes from yoga philosophy.
Yogapedia Jul 9, 2020 — In Hinduism and Buddhism, a klesha is a negative mental state that clouds the mind, causing suffering and the conditions for suffering to arise.
What could be a bigger block of energy, vitality and well-being than to be in one of the five negative mental states, or kleshas. The gift that Patanjali (the father of yoga) gave us is a clear guide to breaking free of the locks of the kleshas.
Let me define each of these states for you and show you some examples of how they may be showing up in your life.
Avidya is defined as the veil of spiritual forgetting, ignorance, or individual illusion.
In Patanjili’s Yoga Sutras, avidya manifests in four ways. The first is believing that what is transient or short lived is eternal. The second is mistaking the impure for pure. The third is mistakenly thinking that what brings misery will bring happiness. The fourth is taking our ego personalities to be our true Self.
1st Avidya — Believing that what is transient or short-lived is eternal.
A simple example could be experiencing the theft of something that you loved. A deeper experience of this could be losing someone that you love.
2nd Avidya - Mistaking the impure for pure.
Eating too much junk food or/or drinking too much alcohol are examples. It sounded good at the time, but left you depleted and perhaps upset with yourself afterward.
3rd Avidya - Believing that what brings misery will bring happiness.
An example of this could be getting mad and yelling at someone. You think you will feel better afterward, but instead you feel depleted and unsatisfied.
The fourth is the big one. Taking our personalities to be our True Self.
We believe all our thoughts to be true and that our thoughts are who we are. So, we are constantly at the mercy of our changing thoughts, telling us one moment how great we are and the next moment how terrible we are.
This second klesha is all about letting the sense of ‘I - Me - My’ become the most important thing in life. Ashmita becomes a source of our suffering through the disconnection it brings. Our ego evolved to develop discernment of what was safe and what had the potential to kill us.
Imagine the first humans, living in a fierce and wild jungle, searching for food and water and trying to survive. They needed to have a strong sense of “I-ness” to differentiate themselves from the rest of their world and know that “I am here and food is there”.
It's what happened over time that began our path of suffering. We as humans developed very well and our egos developed to the point of becoming disconnected and separate from the world around us. We believed that we were the center of the universe and all our thoughts became focused on our “I-ness”.We believed our thoughts and personalities to be all that we are, and, in that, we lost our connection to the energy, life and joy that is our essential nature.
An example of one extreme would be a narcissist, a person who only thinks of themselves. The narcissist is incapable of empathy for another person or anything that isn't serving them. We all can fall into this trap of thinking we are the most important thing on this planet. It is this level of self importance our I-ness that becomes a burden and suffering. It’s a burden to have to satisfy ourselves. We become selfish and unable to let go, and it becomes a vicious cycle of constantly seeking self-satisfaction.. Around and around we go, with our thoughts and actions never feeling full, content and joyful.
Raja and Dvesha
The third and fourth kleshas are connected. Raja is attachment, while Dvesha is aversion.
In “Light on the Yoga Sutras,” BKS Iyengar writes that Raga and Dvesha afflict us on an emotional level,and are imprints of pleasure and pain. Physically,they’re located within the hypothalamus or subconscious part of the brain, Iyengar says. In this way, he says, the subconscious mind affects our behavior and this may be so deeply ingrained that we may not even realize we have certain attachments or aversions.
For example, feeling attracted to something like chocolate gives us a sense of pleasure. When we get attached to the thought that we need chocolate to be happy we will suffer when we run out. Our world has so many things that we are drawn to and getting attached to, our phones, social media, television. These are inanimate objects. And yet, when we lose our phones, don’t get likes on Facebook, or choose eating in front of our television instead of taking a walk we become dull, depressed, anxious and lose our energy, vitality and sense of well-being.
The pull of Raja leaves us with pushing away the things we have deemed “bad”
The discernment we have of our world becomes categorized, judged as to what is “good” and what is “bad”. We like or dislike certain foods, activities, people and places, and we can put so much emphasis on these things that we lose our ability to be open to their opposites. We begin to label individuals and groups as good or bad. The disharmony that this creates can lead to discrimination and even war.
The 5th and last klesha is the most troublesome, as it is fear. We are all loaded with fears, and lots of fears are hidden within the deep unconscious. You may not think of yourself as a person that lives in constant fear. Yet if you start to understand how fear manifests, you will begin to see how Abhinivesa is at the core of our lack of energy, vitality and well-being.
Fear is so ingrained in us, stemming from the first people who needed fear to stay alive, but it too grew out of control. Fear has an influence on our speech, actions, interactions and thoughts. Abhinivesa is also deeply entangled in the 3rd and 4th kleshas, raga and dvesha. Raga and dvesha use abhinivesa to keep themselves alive, it's as if these attachments and aversions have a life all their own, and with abhinivesa they don't have to go anywhere. We have countless attachments and aversions, with the stronger (seemingly) more important ones needing stronger fear to keep them alive.
Abhinivesa affects our body, mind and spirit. It's connected to our sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system, with its fight and/or flight mechanism, increases our heart rate, releases hormones to get our bodies ready to run and slows digestion in order to put everything we have to stay alive. Stress is what we call it these days, and not many people live a stress-free life.
But there is magic in understanding the effects abhinivesa has on our body and mind. Our body will tell us when we have abhinivesa present in our lives.
An example of this could be when your stomach gets tied into knots over something that happened or is about to happen. Abhinivesa is present when we think of losing something or someone we love. Anything that we deem important — or not so important — always seems to be connected to a hidden voice in our thoughts telling us something is going to go wrong. Abhinivesa has a long-term effect on our lack of energy, vitality and well-being.
Fears can chip away your vitality and energy little by little until one day you feel exhausted, depressed, anxious. Reading our own body language can reveal when fear is starting to do its work. Our breath is often the first indicator— a mental fear appears and we will hold our breath, or it will be shallow in our chest.
Taking a moment to notice and intentionally slowing down your exhalation will help bring you to a more relaxed state. Our muscles tend to tense and our shoulders and neck will feel the pain when we are afraid. Taking a moment to bring your awareness to your body and breathe a deep long breath.
Awareness of the kleshas and how each one shows up in your life will give you the self-awareness to take positive action to counteract those forces. Be gentle with yourself, we all move through the kleshas every moment (remember Devesha?). Don't label something as bad or good, just that it is present. It's at that moment that we have the opportunity to take action, to change how we think, do or say. With the knowledge of the kleshas in your life, you have the ability to live freely, with all the energy and vitality you need to feel your state of well-being.
I hope this blog will help you to better understand the Kleshas and how they can negatively affect our lives.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
― Maya Angelou
If you would like more information on our 21 day program “ Unlocking your Energy for more Vitality and Well-being” feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website www.vedayogatherapy.com.
This blog was written by Lisa Fecarotta owner and founder of Veda Yoga Therapy 7/7/21