शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः॥९॥
śabdajñānānupātī vastuśūnyo vikalpaḥ
Imagination (vikalpah) is the knowledge (jnana) obtained (anupati) from words (sabda) when the actual object is not present (vastusunyo).
PRACTICAL LIVING Imagination is the third mental activity and a very common one. Vikalpah occurs when we have a mental image as a creation of the mind, without a direct experience of the object. Since the images we create in our minds are in some way a result of past experiences, imagination is closely linked to memory (the 5th activity we will be exploring in 2 weeks). Vikalpah can occur while remembering something, listening to someone tell us a story, while reading, in dreams, or through feelings and emotions. Regardless of what triggers the mind to imagine, the image can either create suffering or not (refer to Sutra I.5). Earlier we explored the definition of Yoga: to choose, focus and sustain (Sutra I.2). When we choose to focus on something negative that has not been directly experienced (you overheard, dreamed or read something), the imagination helps us dramatize the thought and create a “monster” out of an image which is not based on a ‘real’ object.
On the other hand, vikalpah allows us to imagine a wonderful life. This powerful concept is called ‘bhavana’: the art of visualizing the juiciest and most incredible life. Children do this naturally. Ask a five-year-old what they would like to be when they grow up and words like “purple unicorn with 18 legs and orange polka dots”, “astronaut with 12 swords to fight the monsters” are likely to be heard. Once an adult tells us “don’t be silly, unicorns or monsters don’t exist”, our ability to use vikalpah as a positive activity of the mind gets hindered. Vikalpah teaches us to focus on what we want, rather than on what we don’t want.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Vikalpah is a powerful mental activity, leading us either to suffering or to comfort. We can imagine a healthier a body when we are ill. We can visualize our bodies being thinner if we are overweight, or heavier if we are underweight. We can visualize ourselves in a beautiful relationship where we feel loved and we love openly. We can also imagine dedicating our lives to a meaningful and pleasureful activity. Through Yoga we begin to practice self-awareness and notice when we are using vikalpah in a destructive way (jealousy, victimization, arrogance, focusing on what we DON’T want) and replace the latter with what we do want.
Christy has been in my life for the past 4-5 years and has inspired me in so many different ways! This woman has the capacity to visualize anything: she is fearless and acts on her incredible imagination. She is the queen of bhavana and uses it to create the life she wants, whether if it’s moving to a big city and making her dreams come true, or moving back to a small town and connecting to nature and a slower-paced life. In that process, she has been spreading inspiration, a love for life, generosity and growth to anyone who comes across her path. I was fortunate enough to spend some very special time with her and her beautiful family recently and feel super blessed to be her friend. Christy, thank you for the beauty you bring into my life 🙂
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at deep sleep/nidra next week!