This is the second in a series of articles discussing concepts that relate specifically to our routine and lifestyle. It is a guide on how we can develop a lifestyle that keeps us healthy, balanced, and full of energy in the long run. This article has a list of and links to all the concepts I have covered in my blog to date. In this article, we discuss a very crucial aspect of health that is often ignored or not well understood by mainstream medicine but can give a glimpse into the causes behind a number of ailments and conditions.
What is Vichāra?
If you know any Indian languages, this might be a familiar word to you already as it has been adopted by many Indian languages and is commonly used in everyday conversations. Typically used as a noun in most languages including Sanskrit, let us look at some dictionary meanings of the Vichāra:
- Deliberation, consideration
- Discussion, examination
- Doubt, hesitation
- Decision, selection
- Prudence, reasoning
I have included a few more meanings here than I usually do because this term feels so vast that the more words we can consider, the easier it will be to understand the depth of what we are looking at here.
The meaning of the word remains almost unchanged even in other languages to which this word has been adopted so if you are familiar with this word, the meaning you know is possibly very close to its original intended meanings in Sanskrit. Now, let us look at the Yogic understanding of this term.
Vichāra in Yoga
Just as we have done with other concepts before this, when we look at a word, a term in the context of Yoga, we can add a layer of meaning such that it starts becoming more applicable and stops being just a theoretical concept.
Understanding Vichāra from a Yogic perspective, we can consider all of the meanings we have mentioned earlier and bring them together under the bigger umbrella of the workings of the mind. Using the faculties of the mind, we contemplate, understand, reason, make decisions, choose, critically examine something where we have doubts, and much more. The mind is also where we are influenced greatly by emotions, which are often partly or entirely responsible for our doubts, cynicism, choices, and decisions in life.
Now, imagine if we could manage the mind better. We would be able to think more clearly, know our options and their pros and cons without a sliver of doubt, and make decisions and choices with complete clarity and determination. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to function on a daily basis?
Often, when we try to function at such a high level, we often feel drained, tired, and fuzzy in the mind after a few hours; that is because the clarity comes at the cost of suppressing or avoiding emotions, leaving us to deal with them all at once at a later time.
In Yoga, when we discuss Vichāra, this is exactly what we learn to do – manage the mind effectively, maintain a balanced mind, and deal with emotions in an objective way. All of this can then lead to clarity of thought and making well-informed choices over a period of time.
We achieve this with a mix of practices and observances and habits that slowly bring the mind to a balanced state. We use concepts, Āsana, Prānāyāma, Kriya, Yama, Niyama, and meditative practices to slowly build up mental fortitude, willpower, and strength of character that give us the courage to face our emotions and deal with them effectively. As we make a habit of doing this, we start seeing the effects on the way we think, respond to people and situations, and make decisions. We end up with greater self-confidence, a belief in the self, and a conviction in our thoughts, words, and actions.
This is a process I have been working on for myself and I can tell you this about it! It is not quick, not easy, and definitely not without its share of challenges. But keeping up with the practices day after day and taking it one step at a time can help it feel less overwhelming and easier to imbibe. The idea is to not rush and not compare our journeys with those of others; we all process things differently and work at our own speeds, so comparison just adds unnecessary stress and pressure that can hinder the process by rushing it.