The afflictions are ignorance, egoism, attachment (liking), aversion (disliking), and the fear of death.
Patanjali, responsible for the ancient work of The Yoga Sutras, highlights in verse 2:3 the afflictions that trip us up and cause us to struggle. So, let’s get down to those afflictions. Unpack your journal, grab a pen, and let’s get to work writing about each affliction and how it relates to you.
Meditate. Do Pranayama. Do Asanas. Do something to draw it out of you. Bring your journal with you during the day. Write. Persist. Yearn to draw out these afflictions like an unwanted sliver in the body.
Ignorance: levels of ignorance go beyond just book knowledge. It can be social, emotional, physical, as well as spiritual. Where are your gaps? Where are your blind spots? The more you seek, the more you will see and the more you will know.
Egoism: this sneaky devil in ourselves can get quite out of hand. Look in the mirror like you would when you were 8 years old. Be gentle. See what you see. Love what you see. But don’t sugarcoat what you see. Now discern where you might have made some unwanted turns with ego since you were 8. Do you prefer people? Do you like to help others? Do you give compliments? Are you critical of others? Do you do things to make yourself noticed or look better? Can you act selflessly and not take credit? Step aside and write about your ego, like a part of you that you love but also want to discipline. Easy, steady, kind.
Attachment: the things we expect. The things we long for, day to day, minute to minute. Things that if we felt we had to go without would just cut us off from joy. Consider a meal fast, invent a voluntary denial of a daily pleasure for a day or two, let go of an expectation that you normally have in a day. Go on, you know what your attachments are. Cast them out for a day, or two, or seven. Write about your relationship with them.
Aversion: things we don’t like. Things we didn’t ask for, situations we would rather skidaddle from right away. What about trying that new food, that new experience, enduring a situation with openness rather than dread? Possibly have a conversation with someone who isn’t going to stroke your ego or give you any benefit. You know best what you don’t like and would rather be more than a 2×4 away from. Practice actively letting go of that feeling and changing your perspective. Approach those things, write about them.
Fear of Death (or lack of living too): sometimes we are just scared of death. But many times we are scared of living because we might die. What are your fears? What holds you back? Are you scared of success if you change? What are you afraid to lose? Sometimes death means a termination of those things that we thought brought us life, a giving in to a new reality. Explore this…deeply. And going into that dark place is not scary. Any place inside of you is safe. Venture forth.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are filled with an abundance of wisdom and techniques for helping us to live fuller and more meaningful lives. By diving within and doing the hard work, we come out stronger, more grounded, and connected to our inner guru.