My just-two-year-old-son was staring at someone eating a personal pizza pie. As this party lifted the slice, which stayed attached to its neighboring slice for a good, little while in that cheesy-kind-of-way, Ajani excitedly, adorably exclaims, “Noodle!” Super cute, yet much more than that. It’s deep, and effortlessly illustrates a key concept in yoga, vṛtti sārūpyam. When we grow up, it’s not so cute, though, slapping old memories on top of new experiences like mustard on top of ice cream.
Memory has an extremely powerful hold over us, because it serves as a filter in our minds for all we see and experience. Yoga philosophy/psychology establishes that it completely influences all of our patterns of behavior in the following way: Our innate potentials get activated (or not), via our life experiences. Life experiences leave an impression, a residual feeling (like a feeling of sadness, or curiosity, anxiety, self-confidence). We remember that impression when we act (via our thoughts, what we do, what we say), and patterns are formed, and they self-perpetuate, unless we change them.
My boy remembers pizza, because we make it and eat it (albeit in an altered form – vegan – a diet which, some of you know, has lackluster cheese-replacements that don’t stretch like mozzarella). He knows noodles, as we slurp them often. But he doesn’t know cheese, because we don’t eat it. Automatically, because it kinda looks like a duck (cheese looked like a noodle), it’s a duck (a noodle). But it’s not. I perpetually rediscover this ever-present phenomenon’s deep roots as I see through this child’s eyes. The chain of events starts immediately in life, as we go grasping for some replication and familiarity for security in a wild, new world. As an infant, any nipple that came within a foot of his mouth was a milk fountain worth rushing in on. Because we threw rocks in the ocean on our walks, he threw rocks he found on the shores of fountains, pools, and man-made fish ponds right on in. He discovered pecans, and one day while I was dressing, he uttered, “pecan,” whilst roaming by, just-beneath-eye-level with my visible, sacred feminine zone (a classic).
It’s a lesson highlighting the concept of sat, reality, and pariṇāma, change. What we perceive is real, to us, based on the multitude of filters through which we perceive (memory, imagination, desire, aversion, fear, emotions, education, principles); that doesn’t mean it’s the be all end all. It’s our version, and it is mutable. Like how reggae music recycles a basic bucket full of stellar melodies and rhythms and comes up with totally unique songs, like how different chefs create totally different recipes from some similar ingredients on the Iron Chef. Like how we fabricate, via our fogging devices, for the most part, something other than what we see.
So if you’ve ever thought someone else was so together only to find out they were falling apart, wondered how you wrongly concluded that you were in union with someone who was worlds away from you, if you have ever said something that someone misinterpreted, if you can’t understand why someone has a peculiar view of you that has nothing to do with who you are, perhaps you can sit with this idea and it will be a little less of a wonder. The sum total of all our prior experiences lies between us and what we engage with in the world. It’s not that only beauty is in the “eyes of the beholder.” Everything’s in the “eyes” of the beholder. Change your film and change your world. I heard yoga is pretty good for that.