6 Questions: Samskaras and Justifications

Who is Who:

Maj Ingemann-Molden
Age: 38
Occupation: full time yoga teacher E-RYT, lead trainer RYS 200 and yoga studio manager

Klaas Boomsma
Age: 45
Occupation: running trainer, magazine editor

Kenneth Graham
Age: 45 
Occupation: yoga teacher 

Can you name a samskara in your life that is good and helpful?

Maj: Ironically I think the samskara that has stood the most in my way is also, in other ways, very good, helpful and necessary. It is my idea/addiction to somehow being an outsider or bystander and not part of the larger group. In English we have an interesting word for excellence, which is “outstanding”. This hints that though it is painful and difficult to be standing out(side), it is ALSO what has enabled me to constantly be in touch with the bigger consciousness, and create a lot of new things that the big mass of people did not believe in at the time (for instance a popular yoga studio here in Aalborg and a career in yoga, at a time where no one thought it was possible).

Klaas: I Never snooze. If I’ve set my alarm and it goes off, I step out of bed immediately.

Starting every day with a cold shower. I love how it wakes me up and I like the idea of starting the day with overcoming something. In this case the resistance to cold and fear of discomfort. 

Ending every day with thanking my higher power for another day. A day without drugs or alcohol.
Striving for honesty towards myself and everyone I come in contact with.

Kenneth: I have the samskara of awareness to self correct. My internal guidance system triggers me to self correct when I haven’t been wise in my words or actions with those close to me or those I meet throughout the day. 

If you could implement a useful samskara in your life now what would it be? 

Maj: I wish I could connect my general belief in the intrinsic goodness of people and my knowledge of statistics and Karma workings to not be so scared all the time – I live in a general state of (very irrational) fear.

Klaas: Meditate daily.

Kenneth: A useful samskara I could implement into my life now is taking more moments to slow down, pause and appreciate right where I’m at without having to fill the moment with something more. Appreciating the fullness or emptiness of a moment and living fully within it. 

Is there or was there a samskara in your life that was disturbing or dominating your life? 

Maj: Being different, ‘special’ in both positive and negative ways, has definitely shaped, dominated and to some degree steered and controlled my life. It is both very deep and super banal, say for instance back in the day when everyone loved Brad Pitt, I thought he was really bland and boring and had a crush on Liam Neeson instead. So it’s every area of my life, where I am not like the majority – I prefer celery to cupcakes (honestly!), I don’t have a drivers license, I rent instead of owning property, and I am still wondering when I will become a grown-up even though I am soon the mother of 3 kidsJ

Klaas: I smoked from my 13th to my 37th. I could not get myself to quit.

From my 19th until a month before my 37th birthday I drank heavily and used a lot of drugs. I consider myself to be an alcoholic and an addict – nowadays in recovery.

During the period mentioned above I lied, manipulated and stole when I needed money. 
The addictive behaviours made me feel miserable about myself, which led to a lot of dishonesty (people pleasing, lying), jealousy, fear and apathy. 

Kenneth: At a young age I suffered trauma that triggered repetitive thinking and I would get stuck in a loop of thoughts and difficult emotions. The thoughts were often self-defeating and I felt plenty of shame and grief within the emotions that these looping thoughts triggered.

How have you justified that particular samskara?

Maj: I would (subconsciously) make sure I wasn’t part of the group by choosing differently, behaving differently, not showing up, leaving early, making myself hard, judging the group, making them wrong. All along, the story I told, both myself and the rest of the world, was that other people didn’t want me in the group. To be honest I rarely tried.

Klaas: I would tell myself that inebriating myself was something I needed to do, because otherwise I’d worry too much and would end up killing myself.
About my drinking and drugging I would say that is was just a phase and that I would eventually ‘grow up’ or ‘calm down’.
Or I would point out that I had had a job for years and years, I had never been fired, I had a roof over my head, a social life and a relationship: how could I be an alcoholic/addict?  

Kenneth: From a young age I believed in the power to heal, the power to change my brain and the ability to influence my inner states so at a young age I began to meditate as an act of rebellion. My inner rebellion became an outer rebellion towards authority and the status quo. My only justification was that I was hurt and I longed to rebel against the inner states of pain and the outer agency of the pain. 

If you had a disturbing or dominating samskara, how did you change this? Of if you know that there are certain patterns you need to change, how are you going to do this? 

Maj: To me this is one of the situations where a teacher is needed! A true teacher to call you on your bullshit and find all your blind angles – you simply cannot see them yourselves, and nor can someone who is super close to you. In my first 200 h. training, my incredible teacher Dylan Ayaloo, held up a mirror and pinpointed the above Samskara. One of the things he noticed was that I began every sentence with the word “but”; now that really says a lot about your outlook on lifeJ He also provided me with a healing opportunity to change (I had to eat lunch with the group every day and host the graduation party). Since becoming aware of it I can now choose, whether I think this Samskara serves me in a particular situation, or I wanna choose something different.

Klaas: First of all I had to admit I had a problem and accept that. I had to admit I was powerless over alcohol and drugs and that my life had become unmanageable.

I learned that I had a so-called spiritual disease and that the medicine had to be spirituality.

I came to believe that I had to decide everyday to live a clean and sober life – to not pick up alcohol or other drugs. To accomplish that I needed to live by certain principles: honesty, open mindedness, willingness, choosing love over fear.

When things get difficult there’s prayer, meditation, breathing. 

Kenneth: I know that to change a samskara it is necessary for me to approach the samskara holistically; from what I put in my body to how I focus my mind on presence, through the acceptance of my current state to the expression of emotions surrounding the samskara. For me it goes beyond positive thinking. A samskara is a groove that I may or may not be aware of. So first I have to be recognize that it is there and this is usually done through meditation, self reflection or an outer mirror. Once I recognize the groove I need to accept it for what it is then I do my best to become intimately aware of the energy, thought or action, finally nurturing a new thought or emotional pattern to create a new groove without shame or blame. 

How often and under what circumstances do you use justifications? 

Maj: All the freaking time! When I don’t wanna do my own practice, when I don’t wanna stick to my detox, when I don’t wanna approach strangers and join the group and conversation. But yoga, and especially meditation, has taught me to recognize when I do – so now I can have a laugh at it and change. I still need teachers to discover the real stubborn ones – and these days my kids are great teachers because kids question everything. “Why do you say that” “Why do we have to do it like that” “Why does your voice sound like you are angry now mummy?” etc.

Klaas: Often. I catch myself doing this pretty much every day. Not something I beat myself up over. I do it when I want something, but I know it’s better not to do it. Usually it has to do with a desire to feel comfortable: wanting to eat candy or cake, hiding the truth out of fear of being disliked, postponing practical stuff like administration, household chores. 

Kenneth:  I have 3 kids so I need to surf and drink coffee once in while to stay centered and have enough energy to make it to bedtime. Haha 

The author:

Marcel van de Vis Heil is based in Amsterdam and one of The Fat Yogis founders.

Marcel has been practicing yoga for over two decades, starting his journey with Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and Vipassana meditation, moving into more static, alignment-based styles.

He continued his practice and path with yin yoga’s founders Paul and Suzee Grilley and is now spreading the message of functional yoga and his knowledge of the human body across the world as both a personal trainer as well as a yoga teacher.

One comment on “6 Questions: Samskaras and Justifications

  • Hi guys,

    Thank you for this newsletter! Normally I’m not into reading newsletters but this one about Samskaras I was drawn into this one; the honesty from Maj, Klaas and Kenneth. A good reminder me to look at my own life in non- judge mental way but with pure honesty… OMG lots af layers to peel off…
    But it’s ok moving on… sometimes struggling but grateful for yoga and meditation. Thank you…
    so inspiring and down to earth .
    Hope to see you guys in May.