Rasa Sadhana: A Simple Technique Sets a Prisoner Free
by Scott Brooks Jr
Learning How to Bring a Light into the Darkness
During the lowest point in my life, my self-loathing morphed into something like a black tumor inside me. Prison provides time for self-reflection like no other place. You’re alone with incessant thoughts that continually renew feelings of guilt, hatred, anger, and mental anguish. The uniform, the 8’X12′ cell, the hostile guards, conniving inmates–all your surroundings are a constant reminder of your low state and that you reap the fruits of past deeds. Every morning, as soon as consciousness flooded my brain, I would relive April 10, 2000, the day the handcuffs hit my wrists and the subsequent day, fifteen months later, when that black-robed, gavel-pumping, life-changer sentenced me to 322 months in federal prison.
I obsessed over the people I had hurt, over the pain I had caused those I cared about, and for not living up to the potential of this idealized person I had envisioned myself becoming one day. Every time I passed my cell’s polished steel mirror, the hatred I felt for the face staring back at me bubbled anew. I held rage towards the friends who testified against me. I dipped into depression whenever I remembered the woman I had lost. I felt anxiety when I thought about my parents. Would they die before my release? Would I be too old to have my own children?
Thankfully, a fellow inmate introduced me to yoga and meditation. His help, coupled with further study, and years of practice, enabled me to reach emotional balance. One of the most effective techniques I used to bring positive change into my life is called Rasa Sadhana (Rah-suh sod-Hah-nuh), Sanskrit for “emotional practice.” It is a yogic technique used by many different Indian systems. It helps make emotional issues more conscious and teaches how to not take things so seriously.
I’ve learned, through years teaching others, that deep down we are all the same. We all struggle with feelings of unworthiness. We all hunger for love. The main difference between us is the means we use to fill these voids inside. Some seek validation through work, some through their kids. We all look for acceptance with varying methods. It’s crazy to think, but even the perpetrators of the most depraved acts look for validation by dominating their victims.
Ultimately, people feel unworthy due to their unbalanced emotional state. Think about the guilt following an angry outburst. Chronic negative emotions can lower the sense of self-worth. Hate usually covers an underlying fear. Fear conjures powerless feelings. Sadness stirs self-pity. Worry relates to not feeling good enough or accepted. To fix these imbalances, a tool is needed. Rasa Sadhana provides a fantastic way to combat these feelings of inadequacy.
To start, you pick a negative emotion you would like to balance and fast on it. Fasting usually means: To deprive. Something is given up. We break-fast after not eating for twelve hours through the night, but fasts exist in many forms. Mohandas Gandhi practiced a verbal fast, a vow of silence, on Mondays. Tantric practitioners go through “feast” periods where they indulge in uninhibited sexual pleasure. Those
periods are followed by Brahmacharya sexual fasts done as complete abstinence or as periods where orgasm is forbidden during sexual congress.
Beginners to Rasa Sadhana should pick a problem emotion and fast on it for thirty days. It may take longer than that to fully resolve the issue, but thirty days is a respectable length for your first attempt. You aren’t expected to stop feeling the emotion during the fast. That would be impossible, especially since you’ll be choosing an emotion you already feel uncontrollably.
So fasting here doesn’t mean you quit feeling the problem emotion on day one, and it doesn’t mean you will stop feeling the negativity on day one thousand either.
Humans will always have emotions. We aren’t trying to turn off our emotional experience, become colorless, lose our personality, or quit responding to outside stimuli. We just need to learn how to stop being led by our emotional states. We want to find other alternatives to always getting mad or worried when things don’t go our way. We need to learn how to live happy lives, without reacting negatively to everything.
So much money gets paid to try to alleviate emotional issues. Psychologists specialize in treating the symptoms. There are pills for every emotional imbalance. These things are needed in extreme cases. To cope with traumatic events or suicidal thoughts, but no one is powerless to bring change in their life. It simply requires commitment and a valid technique.
To be continued…
Bio: Scott Brooks has served the past two decades in federal prison for a marijuana conspiracy and firearm conviction. He has been an incarcerated student of the Syda Yoga Foundation for eleven years and taught Hatha Yoga and Taoist meditation to fellow inmates for the past decade. Brooks recently published the first work in his Soul Call Series, A Soul Call from Prison: How Yoga and Taoism Cured my Crises with Cocaine and Christianity, a line intended to help people on both sides of the razor-wire find a little more awareness and peace.