Let us define what vasanas are:
In simple words, vasanas mean agitation and restlessness of the mind.
Anytime we are restless or agitated, it is a vasana. Vasanas can be defined as habitual patterns of the body-mind that cause us suffering. We get triggered so often that vasanas have become our day-to-day reality. It can begin with a slight disagreement with someone, or presence or absence of some person, thing or situation. Then begins the cycle of excessive thinking (worries), firing of emotions usually accompanied with a sinking feeling in the heart or gut, or pain near the solar plexus.
These triggers lead to a particular habitual way that the body-mind responds to fix it – often reactively – to find false comfort and relief from the discomfort he or she is experiencing. The reactions are often wrongful projections, anger, irritability, fear (self contraction) or aggression. Such reactions are not conducive for either our spiritual progress, nor for living a happy fulfilled worldly life where we have an opportunity to develop beautiful and strong relationships with other people around us for mutual growth.
Actions create strong habits. When a habit is repeated over and over again, it has the ability to create deeper imprints or impressions in our subconscious memory. That is why bad habits are difficult to get rid of. They are so deeply rooted in us that we are helplessly drawn to their negative effect on us, and we keep inviting failure (in our relationships, worldly and spiritual ambitions). If we are aware enough, we will realize how difficult bad habits are to be completely eradicated. It requires discipline, will and awareness to deal with them so that we can be free from the impact and influence they have on us in our day-to-day life.
One of the biggest misconceptions in spiritual practices is that vasanas can be addressed primarily through sitting meditations, or breath control techniques, or by simply moving into the I-Am feeling.
While it is true that these techniques may help in “cooling off” the effects of vasanas, they will not help in permanently reversing the patterns that cause us agitation and restlessness. We will experience that the habitual patterns will surface again and again, causing increasing levels of disturbance and agitation. To resolve these issues, we will have to take a journey back to the very source where the pattern was first created, in order to completely uproot the seeds that cause the habitual patterns and tendencies to surface again and again.
Vasanas are laid down in our waking state – not in meditation – so they have to be primarily addressed in our waking state practices through appropriate behavior modifications, and by observing moral ethics (humility, gentleness, accountability, etc.). There is no doubt sitting meditation allow us to be aware of our “blind spots”, and provides us the clarity on how to deal with them, but appropriate action has to be carried out in our waking state through the way we deal with those around us and ourselves. This is the most effective way we can reverse the suffering caused by old habitual patterns, and create new grooves in our mind that can be liberating and spiritually enriching for our souls.
Once we begin to recognize the restlessness caused by vasanas we move on to the next step of ISIP practice: