We all have weaknesses. Recently I've become aware of my weakness for a high-quality TV series. Whether it’s a zombie apocalypse, a fantasy world of dragons and kings or the 1960’s New York advertising industry, once the story hooks me, I'll cancel whole weekends of activities while I devour episode after episode.
Previous weaknesses currently decommissioned include chocolate, shopping, coffee and boozing; although I expect that in a state of disaster, any of these samskaras could resurface. According to the yoga sutras, a samskara can be described as a deeply ingrained habit.
Our personalities, lifestyles, friends, families, jobs, even breakfast choice are all reflections of our samskaras, built up over your whole life, maybe even past lives if you believe in that.
Do you recognize the same experiences occurring in your life? Perhaps there are some new characters, but the same issue, problem, argument or reflection may arise time and time again. These are your samskaras at work. Samskaras are like seeds, buried deep in our subconscious.
Like any habit, the more you reinforce that practice, the more you nurture and encourage it’s growth for the future.
At Easter I was lucky enough to attend a Buddhist retreat with the venerable Robina Courtin at the Kunsang Yeshe Retreat Centre in Australia’s Blue Mountains.
Each day we would gather in the brightly decorated prayer room, nestled in a homely garden and listen to Robina’s wise words. She recounted the story of seeing a concert pianist at the Sydney Opera House last year and pondered, “You don’t just wake up one day and realize you’re an amazing pianist; you practice every day for 10 years to acquire those skills.” And so the same can be said of other habits we'd like to develop for ourselves like love, kindness or confidence.
How do we practice confidence? Just like a baby pianist, buy the beginner book and start from scratch. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, said someone much cleverer and wiser than me.
I'm always surprised when friends confide in me their lack of confidence. These people aren’t nincompoops! They’re driven, highly educated, well presented, successful and with bright futures.
However, one only needs to dig a little deeper to unpack a suitcase of hidden fears and truths, many connected to worries about confidence. And at the root of many of these worries lies one essential question: “I don’t know how to ask for what I want”.
It seems funny to those who love them, considering how outwardly "together" they appear. The inner critic, however, can be a powerful curse. This is why quotes like, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is facing a tough battle,” could be invited that in to your practice.
Here are five tips from a yogi on reclaiming your confidence and cleansing your samskaras so you can invite more of the kind of experience you want to have in life, rather than stumbling through the minefield of the past.
1. Acknowledge your weakness.
Recognize and acknowledge the areas of your life where you’re not being fully present. This could feel like a lack of confidence, but often it's because we are disconnected from our self in some way. Acknowledge it and verbalize it by saying, “I'm feeling threatened here,” or, “I'm feeling disappointed,” and, “I'm feeling shy.”
2. Be grateful.
Write a list of 10 blessings for any experience, even if it's an argument. For example, you could say, "I am grateful that this argument shows me I can be a good communicator and stay calm in the face of aggression."
Meditation is THE cleanser of samskaras. It's the most expensive Lancome skincare money can buy for your MIND. I encourage you to find someone to teach you a mantra and start practicing every day.
4. Reclaim your power.
How you feel at any point of the day is a reflection of the state of your own mind. No one or thing outside of you can control how you feel, even though we are quick to blame “that situation” or “that person” when things don’t go our way. When you’re feeling vulnerable, explore within yourself what needs to change. Often a gentle perspective shift can save us countless hours, days, and years of grief. Take responsibility for how you feel and reclaim your power.
5. Love yourself.
This might sound cornier than a Celine Dion tribute, but when we deeply love and accept ourselves, issues like a lack of confidence can quickly become very small. How can you love yourself more? Unconditionally accept all aspects of your life so far, repeat the grateful practice above for 21 days and practice listening to the different voices in your mind. Don’t judge, just listen and love.