Yep, check out that linguistic mash-up. I probably should have thrown a huevo frommage! in there just to cover more bases. It’s that kind of day. In my particular case, I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of very little sleep, some large and small worries weighing on my mind, and too much to do. And, did I mention that I haven’t slept much recently? Yeah. So, there is that. But, we all have days like this – the days when the mind is a whirling dervish of thoughts, pleasant and unpleasant, often focused on the past or future. How does this serve us?
It’s easy enough to think that chitta vritti is all bad, but is it? Many philosophers argue that the fact that we, as humans, think about (almost constantly) the past and future is a big part of our humanity. I’ve never been positive that I buy the argument that animals never think in that way, because I don’t have a dog brain and thus I’m just not sure about it. But, regardless of whether it is a unique feature of humanness, it’s certainly a characteristic of the human experience. So, we shouldn’t be so quick to assume it serves us in no way.
The constant fluctuations of the mind are, in part, what help us to plan for situations in our lives – planning that is required for success in many instances. They are also what allows us to experience our rehearsal of past events, through which we develop our understandings of the world, the self, and the self’s place in the world. These understandings allow us to function in the world, as it is understood and created culturally and socially, on an everyday basis. Through communication with others, and then our processing of that communication, we develop understandings of “obdurate reality” that create the potential for pragmatic efforts in coordination with those around us. If we are unable to reflect on and understand the lines of distinction between objects and beings in our social world, we might be extremely enlightened, but we would probably have a heck of a time holding down a job.
And yet, as we learn in yoga philosophy, part of the practice of yoga is chitta vritti nirodhah, the cessation or control of the fluctuations of the mind. Yoga calls upon us to be present in the moment, experiencing the sensations of the body without attaching to them, letting go of the distinctions between self and other, encouraging our understanding of the divinity and peace that is always already there. This requires a stilling of the thoughts about what is and what should be, what will be and what has been.
Thus, like everything else, we seek a balance. The chitta vritti help us to be “in the world,” but we cannot allow them to overtake our ability to be “in the moment.”