The past shows up in the nervous system as Samskaras. Samskaras are positive and negative events that have been held in the nervous system and they arise all the time like waves in the ocean.
When one is present, the awareness of Samskaras becomes more evident and then they are allowed to be released.
You can think of them as resistors in an electrical circuit or system. Samskaras represent intensities of the past. They can be positive or negative but here we will focus on negative because that is a much easier analogy to start.
The nervous system has a natural resting point but as energy flows through the system, there can be blockages that function much in the same way as resistors in electricity. The resistance is felt in the nervous system usually as a reaction/emotion.
For example, anger. Let’s say something happened, someone said something to you, and it brought up the feeling of anger. You think you are angry because of what the person said, but what happened is that the event, the other person’s words or actions triggered a Samskara.
Now, there are usually two methods to deal with this. One is to return fire and express your anger, the other is to suppress it by walking away and trying to think about something else or mentally creating a scenario in which you see yourself as correct.
There is, however, a third way to deal with the Samskara of anger. That is to be present to it. Do not give it a story, do not react to it, do not express it toward another. You allow it to be, you feel the energy of the anger, you remain completely present to it from the standpoint of the observer. You simply “watch” the anger rise, and then watch it fall.
A few notes on this. It may create physical sensations within your body, it may feel warm or hot, you may even feel it in a certain area of your body. Remain present to all of that. To give it a story is to add to it, to return fire to another is to energize it, to suppress it is to put it away so that it will return again and again. It returns until you allow it to burn out.
Depending on the person, this may need to happen a few times if anger is strongly present in the nervous system, however, each time the feeling should be less and less until the Samskara is completely burned out.
Samskaras can hold anger, sadness, nervousness, fear, guilt, longing, and the list goes on.
Meditation and yoga classes both assist in the calming of the mind and nervous system which is wonderful. Presence allows for the past to be resolved with the burning up of Samskaras.
You could think of the nervous system and Samskaras as the subconscious story of your past.
I would usually explain samskaras in a second or third session after someone has been practicing presence for a while. If you are someone who has been practicing presence for a while, this could be a nice next step. Michael Singer does a great job explaining Samskaras in his book, The Untethered Soul, specifically in chapter 6. It is a fabulous book!
He explains them in terms of the heart, and I explain them in terms of the nervous system, but as always in yoga it's not either-or, it's both.
If you are interested in learning more, please email me or book a session(s).
“Set your eyes on the highest state you can imagine and don’t take them off. If you slip, just get back up. It doesn’t matter. The very fact that you even want to go through this process of freeing the energy flow means you are great.”
- Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul