There's a word in Indian philosophy that I’ve come to love: samskara. The etymological root of the word samskara, referring to rites of passage, means "preparation, purifying, perfecting" from one's past state to one's future state. But the word has a few different contexts in addition to the translation that give it a deeper meaning.
- “Latent impressions in the mind, created in this life and previous lives.”
- “Mental impression, recollection, psychological imprint”
- My favorite from an Indian friend is simply, “Impressions of the heart.”
"Good samskaras mean impressions that reflect the true nature of things" - H.H. Dhanurdhara Swami
Wikipedia tells us: According to various schools of Indian philosophy, every action, intent or preparation by an individual leaves a samskara (impression, impact, imprint) in the deeper structure of his or her mind. These impressions then await volitional fruition in that individual's future, in the form of hidden expectations, circumstances or unconscious sense of self-worth.
I like to think of samskaras as my spiritual DNA. Like if my heart had fingerprints. Or they are like the lines on my hand that might be read by a fortune teller. They are the personal grooves I'm born with that inform who I am. But I believe they are also the things I’ve collected in my heart through my life's journey that guide my future.
All weekend long, as I am preparing for my big move, I have wandered through my home sorting through things to sell, to trash, to pass along. “Preparation, purifying, perfecting.” It’s an inventory of random piles and blank spaces. It’s kind of exciting to see empty walls and shelves after looking at the same things for so many years. I’m sure I’ve mentioned 1,000 times, that I’ve lived in the same place for nearly 18 years and have had 18 housemates. This home, the people in it, and the rooms full of material things have definitely made impressions on my heart.
When I hear my teacher or friends speak about samskaras, I imagine them not just as impressions, but actual grooves that have worn a path into my heart and into my soul. Do you know the Herbie Hancock written and Deee-Light recorded song “Groove Is In The Heart?” As I walk over my old rugs and look at my glorious things, I keep humming that tune - yes the groove of a beat or tune is in my heart - (good gravy, I just looked up the lyrics - they are NOT talking about samskara grooves…), but I am reminded of the impressions, the memories that have traced themselves over and over again.
The relationships, gifts and purchases, trips, and family celebrations - they’ve formed a groove into my heart. They are now part of me. While in India, my friend Katie pondered the idea of ‘letting go’ and how hard it is. She said that maybe attachments come from a lack of trust and once we find that trust, we naturally let go. Nice, right? I’m going to trust that I will still be me, whatever comes with me. It’s a relief to know that many of the material things have served their purpose in being useful or making me feel special and loved and don't need to make the move. The memories are embedded, freeing me to let things go and not be attached.
Have you given any thought to your own samskaras? Who or what has made an impression on your heart that informs who you are, your actions, your desires? Are there things you’re holding on to thinking they define who you are? Maybe you'd like to practice trust and letting go of things along with me during this time.
I still have some weeks ahead of me before I replant myself. And many more realizations to come as I make this transition from my present state (home) to my future state (home.) If you pray or send good vibes make wishes or manifest, please take a moment and imagine me in the home that is meant for me. May the perfect apartment, in the perfect location, with the perfect price come easily to me.
I think there are culinary samskaras too - things we were born loving or with an aversion to, things we tasted that created a memory within us, branding our tastebuds with the ability to recall the first time we ate it and how we felt. Cinnamon toast does that for me. I instantly become six years old, sprawled on the floor in front of a box fan, watching Electric Company with my childhood best, Amy Collins, chowing down on cinnamon toast.
I made a cinnamon spread with dried cherries for Stoneridge Orchards that reminds me of my childhood cinnamon toast days.
CHERRY CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE SPREAD
- 8 oz. softened cream cheese
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- A pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup finely chopped Stoneridge Orchards Montmorency Cherries
- Mix everything together and chill for an hour.
- Spread onto bagels, toast, waffles, crackers and more!