In Getting It Straight, I spoke of the process of clearing old habits of mind. The eastern perspective on this can add some further clarity.
“A thought or physical act once performed does not cease to be, but remains in the consciousness in a more subtle or “melted” form…”
This from Yogananda, in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. (best known for Autobiography of a Yogi)
This melted form is called a Samskara. He describes them as creating the inner urges, tendencies and propensities that cause us to repeat those original actions. They thus become habits. What I also describe as resistances or blocks in the energy flow. Also called karma.
One can have good samskaras that incline one to good actions. The issue is more with ones that are contrary to our journey.
He indicates samskaras are purified by wisdom. Wisdom purifies by being lived. He suggests spiritual realization, and thus wisdom, occurs in three stages from the perspective of Vedanta:
1) listen to scriptural truth – shravanam
2) perceive it – mananam
3) be one with it – nididhyasanam
This illustrates the process of experiencing, then becoming that. When this is applied to our physical experience, we become identified with objects and lost to our spiritual self. When we identify with spirit, we reverse the process. From my perspective, meditation is the most important as it brings you in connection with spirit and thus allows you to experience and become it. This illumines one’s study as well, which can help make the process smoother.
As Yogananda notes, Yoga teaches the 8-fold path. Conduct, observances, postures, breathing exercises, turning within, focus, meditation, samadhi. Note that these are limbs, not sequential. They are done together and support each other.
It is interesting to see that what has caught us is also our means for release. What has taken us away will bring us home.