There was this self-help seminar where the facilitator was illustrating a point on how we tend to see ourselves as the victim. They asked for a volunteer, and they taped this person against the wall with packaging tape, and the tapes had words written on them, like abandonment issues, low self-image, fear of change etc. After some time the volunteer called the attention of the facilitator. The facilitator thought the volunteer was going to say he's had enough and does not want to be a victim anymore. Instead, the volunteer meekly said "Excuse me, this tape right here is falling out, can you tape it back?" Some of us may have that tendency to choose to stay as victims-- even when we feel all knotted up inside-- because it is what we know and it is what is familiar to us.
The focus of the month in Jivamukti is "Untying the Knots that Bind Us". These knots are called granthi in Sanskrit, and there are 3 of them. The brahma granthi is the knot of fear, fear of death, insecurity about basic needs, money worries, doubts about one's survival. The vishnu granthi is the knot of power and ego and control and manipulation. The rudra granthi is the knot of seeing ourselves as separate and somehow better than others. The mere enumeration of these knots sounds academic. But in yoga we want to be practical. So what are these knots in practical day-to-day situations? If we are constantly worried about where our next meal will come from, we are tying that knot. If we have more than enough money and yet we accumulate things out of fear and insecurity and greed, we are tying that knot. If we eat animals because our ego thinks it is acceptable to hurt others for our own pleasure, we are tying that knot. If we blame those around us and demand them to change while thinking there is nothing about ourselves that we need to be accountable for, we are tying that knot. If we see those who are different from us because of gender, race, religion, orientation, species etc as lesser, we are tying that knot. In this lifetime, there are many things resulting from a lack of awareness that make us tie those knots. But the more important question is: How do we untie those knots that bind us?
First, we begin to see ourselves as worthy of untying those knots that bind us. Visualize yourself as an enlightened being. What would that seem like? How would that feel? What would change and what would stay the same? We are all worthy and capable of being enlightened, happy, and free from the knots that bind us. Then we have to believe that we can be free. We have to let go of the lies that tell us otherwise. We have to be brave enough to release the smallness of the ego self we are attached to. We have to be humble enough to do the hard work that is necessary.
We can work through these knots one at a time, granthi by granthi. Use mula bandha, contracting the pelvic muscles, to pierce through the knot of fear. Affirm your safety in this world, that you are safe and secure in this world and you have everything you need. Engage the uddhiyana bandha, pulling the abdomen in to hold the air in and up, to untie the knot of ego. See that you are free to be yourself as others are free to be themselves. There is no need to control or manipulate or put down others to lift ourselves up. Apply the jalandhara bandha, pulling the chest towards the chin, to cut through the knot of separation. Even as we perceive others as different from us, this difference is by no means a hierarchy. We may be different, but we are equals.
To untie the knots that bind us means that we do the uncomfortable work of breaking free from what we know and are familiar with and are used to. We release our victim stories. We detach from the personal drama that calls attention to us. We let go of our self-centeredness. To be truly free, we become unafraid of calling it out to those around us and to this world that we live in that we have had enough, that we refuse with absolute conviction to remain victims of our own self-created defeats. We choose to be free. We choose to be happy. We choose to untie the knots that bind us.