Discovering Kleshas

Art by Ingrid Sanchez

Art by Ingrid Sanchez

Kleshas are something I've known of my whole life, but had never put a name to. Basically, they're all the pesky things holding you back. Or more literally, 'poisons'. They come under five main titles: avidya (ignorance), asmita (ego), raga (attachment), dvesha (avoidance) and abhinivesha (fear). From a Yogic perspective these are seen as the root cause of all suffering. 

After reading Stephen Cope's The Wisdom of Yoga, I was enthralled by how the people in the book came up with characters to personify their negative klesha traits. They discussed how they disliked parts of themselves that sometimes came up throughout life. This made so much sense to me and was a breath of fresh air as I realised how this happens to all of us. We are only human after all, and it’s all part of our human experience to deal with the vast range of emotions we are able to carry in this form. Anger, resentment, jealousy, anxiety, greed, judgement, close-mindedness, dishonesty… Identifying these characteristics seemed like such an effective self-healing method, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before (this is also known as Gestalt).

And so, I came to identify one of my 'worst' aspects: welcome (or not so much) ‘the Spoilt Brat’. The Spoilt Brat, I recognised one night after probably a little too much red wine, comes out whenever things don't go according to her way. She is stubborn, refuses to budge and must have an answer as to why things aren't in her favour - bottom lip stuck out and all. She likes to be in control and can be rather manipulative in mischievous ways. She's gets grumpy and is quite the little nightmare. 

The magic of this process is that: once you have identified these aspects within you, they cease to overtake you as the emotions begin to stir up. As you start to notice the patterns that arise, you can take yourself out of getting involved in the whole palarva and address the persona directly. Not you again! Then deal with it accordingly... inquiring into why this has become a negative trait, where it may stem from, which klesha it corresponds to, etc... I came to realise that this aspect of myself most likely developed from the whole having-separated-parents since a young age and then having competitiveness flung upon me from both sides, thus learning to use this to my advantage. Once I understood the Spoilt Brat, I realised she wasn't so bad after all and I could simmer her down quite easily. It's a humorous occurrence these days, if ever I see her at all. 

I've since developed a list of klesha personas that are a part of me, which I'm working on to accept, understand and eventually love. I find that it's a beautiful therapy to prevent them from overruling me entirely... and whilst the process was somewhat difficult at first, it is gradually allowing me to be more content with who I am. 

Here's the rest so far:

  • The Mad Magpie

  • The Party Animal

  • The Lazy Lump

  • The Temptress

  • The Egotistical Enemy

  • The Overthinker

  • The Starved One

Getting to know yourself is the only way you will learn how to alleviate your suffering tendencies… Should you take this introspective journey up, try not to be too harsh on yourself and find the funny in the process! You'll come to realise that you're not so bad after all. Counteracting these 'bad' traits with some more appealing personas is also a good call, just to keep it all in balance.

Wishing you inner peace,

Coco, Spoilt Brat & Gang.