Asmitā is an erroneous identification of the Self with the intellect. This klesha can arrive when the third chakra is out of balance, something our over-worked culture encourages.
An overly energized third chakra
“may appear as an abundance of power and energy. In reality, this is to compensate for feelings of diminished or unrecognized power. To overcome feelings of helplessness, abandonment, neglect, and abuse, there is an excessive attachment – even obsession – with power and control. Since the core self is undernourished, one tries to live up to an image or a false self that must be nourished by approval from others. This bolsters the ego with accomplishments, engagements, and busyness. Such a person will be in constant motion, excitation, and the stress that goes with it, thriving on such conditions as a way of feeling alive. A person with an excessive third chakra is ruled by a rigid will. This strong will, with its lack of flexibility, is brittle and fragile. It can flare in anger or retreat in fear when challenged.”
~Eastern Body, Western Mind, Judith Anodea
When the klesha of asmitā is acting as our veil, we overly-identify with what we do in life as opposed to who we are. In the shadow workshop that I recently participated in, we did an insightful partner exercise where we sat down and asked each other “tell me, who are you?” again and again and again. Overly identifying with any one aspect of our identity creates a lack when that piece of the ego falls away, as everything eventually does.
Think about the roles you play in your life right now — your job title, a single or married person, a child, a parent, a sister/brother/aunt/uncle/friend/lover. This list goes on and on and changes day to day, moment to moment. But who is the “I” going through those motions, playing that role? Drawing awareness to the klesha of asmitā gives us an opportunity to lift that veil of identity up and see beneath to the Purusha, that eternal part of ourselves that is ever peaceful, ever observing, above the fray of the daily fluctuations of emotions.
Connecting with our inner Purusha, or ever-beating heart, gives us an opportunity to step away from our story. When we can view our story without emotional attachment, we are better able to see how we as individuals fit into the One Human Experience. This can be helpful not only for its value in helping us rise above our emotions of the moment, but also to remind us of the connection we have with all. Understanding our own suffering cultivates compassion for the suffering of all. Understanding that we each share in the same suffering, in the same One Human Experience, unites us and reminds us that we are not separate, no matter which illusion, which Klesha, is shielding our vision in any given moment.
To move into your internal quiet seat, you can work with a guided meditation or a yoga nidra practice. You can also take your meditation into the natural world by going to a quiet place without other people and walking meditatively in the forest or on the beach. Try to lengthen your inhales and exhales, perhaps using ujayi breath to lend to your breath an aural quality. Then, try to match your footsteps to your breath, using each step as a reminder to return to the present moment. Either of these techniques is useful and will help to remind you that the constant play of words and thoughts entering and leaving your brain is not your true self. Your true self, your purusha, rises above or sits below that. Grounding down through sit bones connected to the earth, rising up with an easy fulfilled heart, drawing sustenance from the world above, below, and all around rather from the energy of others.
Learning to live in the present moment is a practice that we can return to many times throughout the day. As we learn to let the ego go, we are able to step more fully into our true compassionate identity.
Links to Other Klesha Posts: