The Kleshas – Avidya

On our journey through life, we’re bound to face some dark and difficult times. According to Pantanjali’s yoga sutras, there are obstacles or hindrances that specifically add to our suffering. Pantanjali shares in sutra 2.12, that all human suffering – whether physical, psychological, philosophical, or metaphysical – is attributed to the five Kleshas.

This week we’ll learn about Avidya, The first klesha, Avidya is often referred to as ignorance. I like the Sanskrit literal translation – a = not and vidya = wisdom/knowledge, which translates roughly to “not having wisdom or knowledge”. Avidya means we don’t see things clearly.

Imagine you’re taking a relaxing evening walk and down a path and up ahead, you think you see a snake. Your heart races, you step carefully and stop enjoying your walk in fear of getting bit. You decide to get a little closer, and as you do, you can see that the shape is not a snake, but a rope. A sense of calm relief washes over you as you continue down the path. This example illustrates Avidya simply, but in life it’s often much more complex.

When we don’t have all the facts, when we assume (and you know what they say about assuming…), we look at some events in our lives through foggy lenses, putting false meaning and undue importance on things that might not be true. For example, you’re shopping at the grocery and see your friend down the aisle. She drops a can in her cart and wheels right past you, seemingly ignoring you. You start to think she’s upset with you. Maybe she doesn’t like you. Did you do something to anger her? Maybe you shouldn’t invite her to that party you’re throwing next weekend. Is she saying bad things about you to your mutual friends? Maybe she’s never liked you. Suddenly, what is probably your friend, lost in thought and not even seeing you, turns into drama, worry and all sorts of bubbling emotions in your mind. Most likely, she has no idea this drama is going on.

In yoga and mindfulness practices, we start to notice our behaviors and take a step back to witness how we act, how we think, and how we feel. Realizing we may not know all we need to know, and putting the brakes on when we notice we’re worrying – perhaps about nothing – can help us feel less stressed and more in control to respond to situations rather than react.

Start to pay attention to your assumptions. Learn to trust in the divine connection, as truth is unveiled in perfect time. Join me in class this week to experience movement, sound and meditation to help you understand how to suffer a little less, relax a little more and journey to know your own blissful, perfect nature!

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