Does perspective depend on what lens you’re looking through? Can your life’s experience and personal ability to comprehend a situation be understood as the limited space to which you draw conclusions and live life? How large is the space within and around what we each understand reality to be? Our current, hot topics of our national situation feel heavy, and it can be hard to draw anything but a troubled and worrisome conclusion. It can feel like we’re falling with a hard ground to hit. Or maybe the feeling of falling with no ground to land – endless falling.
If I spend too much time watching the news, especially both sides of the news, it certainly feels terrible. So for the sake of argument, does it depend where we’re looking to know how we’re doing? Does it depend how we’re thinking to understand the nature of change? Is this truly the worst time in history or is it more personally our worst time in life? What value is there to think any differently? And maybe that’s just it, to think differently.
Our mind is the powerful resource for invention, creative brilliance and eloquent expression of being human. Our mind is also the powerful resource for oppression, massive harm and social injustice in the most ignorant forms. I’ve seen it noted that the creative mind is born from crisis and turmoil and the destructive mind is born from boredom and ignorance. We need a way out or a way to understand. We need something that raises us up from the destructive energies of life because they are always there – outside and inside. Life must give us something that keeps us from going into the ruinous state, which strangely is that which we are actively avoiding.
For my own journey, I’ve benefitted from the yogic practices, spiritual inquiry and 12-step recovery by examining a life of destructive behavior that was able to shift. With dedication and time, I’ve learned there is a way out. It just seems though, there are many who aren’t interested or don’t see that anything needs to change. It’s like the employee who makes mistake after mistake, disappears when things get difficult, makes excuses and blames others. Others see there’s a problem but this employee feels they’re doing fine and even feels like a good job is being done. In this case, the employer can let this employee go, remove them from their role. But that’s not so easy when a leader has convinced many to see his actions and behaviors as a power to follow and uphold.
Will a frustrated mind and a mind that struggles impatiently to find answers, be the mind that will imagine the best way out? Or will a mind that is able to take a step back, out of the boxing ring and review the plays, review the behaviors before returning to the ring be the best? As it turns out, every option imaginable is an option and we each have to sort out which one we will act upon. Which one will we figure out how to transform or how to support. I’ve seen where my agitated, compulsive mind has brought me. So I tend to work hard to be with the mind that is more centered, thoughtful and unwavering on what has been sculpted, carved and formed over a long period of time, with dedication and community support. I may not find the exact solutions right away, but the teachings of yoga have often led me to the kind of inquiry that feels useful for taking action.
Ok, time to let the mind wander through these yogic teachings for a rub and scrub of thoughtforms… And I always like to remember and share that these are teachings given to spiritual aspirants and work best when meditated upon.
The numbered, bolded sentences below are quotes from The Living Gita – the Complete Bhagavad Gita with commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda. The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Hindu scripture written over 5000 years ago. These particular stanzas give deeper visions of yoga as a way to experience an ongoing state of peace and equanimity – a non-reactive, non-judgmental and purely centered mind.
2:51 – Enjoying equanimity of mind, renouncing the fruits of their actions, free of the bondage of rebirth, the wise undoubtedly go to a stainless state.
The “stainless state”. I like those words. There is no residue, nothing that leaves a mark from any action. Nothing spilled, nothing dropped because there is nothing there to leave a trace. All is burning pure. All actions of life leave no trace because we haven’t asked anything or even engaged in conversation. After refining a life once filled primarily with reward-based actions as the only mission in life, then to one of pure dedication and/or of service, true wisdom will shine. No behaviors or actions will disrupt the pure mind.
It takes humility to admit there is an attachment to nearly every action. To be completely non-attached and to be able to breeze through life without making “stains” is the behavior of quite a highly evolved being. And to my limited reference, I haven’t known of anyone that lives this way, though some spiritual masters like the Dali Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh come to mind as my closest references. Being peaceful and so well centered takes profound, difficult, yet rewarding work. Just as being angry, resentful and bitter takes a lot of work! In that case, I wonder if it’s the ego that feels a sense of accomplishment with these charged emotions? Can someone reach a state of false power where owning rage and being completely absorbed with self-interest feels successful? And that filling up of a mind-cup with rage can feel full, maybe so much that it is satisfying enough to last a lifetime with never feeling like anything is missing or should be different.
I wonder how much every one of us longs for a full cup of some sort or another? For simplicity, I’ll call it a good cup and a bad cup. And consciously or unconsciously, we work towards filling our cup even if it’s in the direction of inadvertent self-destruction versus humble self-realization? Meaning, the full cup of achievement from self-absorption feels like the full cup of self-realization? (Which one could argue that the cup of self-realization is actually an empty cup!) Is that something we’re seeing playing out at large in the world today? And honestly, not to point fingers (since when we point out one, there’s always 3 coming back at us) as I can recognize my own shortcomings where I’ve been selfish or had self-seeking motives. Not to the extent I can see in some high-profiled people, but the seeds of the same behavior are there and thankfully, I’m learning how not to water them, one day at a time. My experience has been to empty that cup of habitual thinking/acting in order to be empty and open to it being filled by something greater than my own making. And from there, a chance at seeing and being different has been made possible, sprouted from the seeds of honest longing for a life of integrity and peace. Honest seeking and best efforts to perceive from a non-judgmental, non-critical mind.
We may feel that we can attain a state of peace, a mind of equanimity at certain times. Maybe it can be compared to a feeling we get when we go on a vacation, or when we’re going on a hike in nature. It can be the feeling after finishing a book read for enjoyment or helping volunteer, serving those in need. And so we long for that feeling and therefore long to go out on a hike, take that vacation, or to be of service. This is useful and I encourage it because it may otherwise never be felt! Feeling good, feeling peaceful is a natural state for us, but often it’s quite far from being accessible given the nature of life. Thankfully, there are external markers that help us to understand our natural, inborn resources. Mother nature is one of the most primary examples where we can experience awe and wonder, and be surrounded with loving arms of her branches. For some, the acquiring of things feels like it brings happiness, and to some extent and for a certain time, it likely will. It also welcomes fear of losing it, fear of not being able to have it forever, fear of not having the latest and greatest electronic or gadget, fear of never having enough. Outside seeking for happiness tends to require a constant supply of more, more, more. Inner peace is a constant, ever-replenishing resource that we can always and forever access.
2:52 – When your understanding transcends delusion, then you are indifferent to things you hear about and things yet to be heard about.
2:53 – When your mind, which has been tossed about by conflicting opinions, becomes still and centered in equilibrium, then you experience Yoga.
“…then you experience Yoga.” So what have we been doing on the yoga mat all this time?! 😀 If your reference to yoga has solely been the physical postures for physical benefit, then this definition of yoga might feel like more of a handful of info than expected or even wanted.
Interesting to me that yoga is described as giving us access to our true sense of power and absorption with the divine. It may be that what you’ve experienced on the yoga mat is relief from stress and that’s actually great and necessary in order to make space for deeper awareness. Or, you’ve learned to simply enjoy time to focus the mind on anything other than the life that it focuses on the other 23-hours or so of your day. Also very good! It just might be, as it was for me, that a time would come when there’s space to wonder how to bring more of what’s happening on your mat, into your life.
Only after being thrown around and falling, dancing with the fullness and full loss of life’s drama, do we come anywhere close to understanding our true potential.
Why is it so difficult for this world to have peace? I have wondered if I’m too attached to that concept and should learn to let that go? I’ve wondered if I’m spending more energy on wanting something that’s an outer vision of something that isn’t actually possible across all lands at all times for our human race? Wanting something on the outside to be the way I want to see it can lead to being let down. Even something that I think is noble and worthy for our world, like peace, is still tied to our dualistic reality and may always rely on its counterpart of the actuality and metaphor of war.
Like leaves that fall from the tree each time around this year. It’s like saying, I don’t want them to fall. They’re so beautiful and I want them to forever stay because I love the way it makes the trees look, I love the way it makes me feel. I love all the colors, the fullness of the trees, the warmth and the feeling I get when I see these trees in their autumnal beauty. I’ve never thought of it this way, but in line with my thought process, I create a war with thought and nature’s process. I have the option to either appreciate the process or I could insist the leaves stay and do anything in my power to prevent this or I could ignore this time of year and act like it’s not happening and then when the leaves return, say ah, here is the tree. This is my way of understanding when someone holds so tightly to a way of being and won’t let go. They believe what they believe and have no interest or regard for a different thought. To the point that they’ll ignore signs and become indignant, feeling the power of holding on and not ever, ever letting go. Ever.
The interesting thing is what many of us love about these colorful trees is that we’re actually seeing leaves as they’re dying and have given all of their best efforts to the tree. The process of photosynthesis to bring chlorophyll to the tree has enabled the tree to survive and the tree itself has a system where the cells, at the point of connection to the branch, have a scissor like process of cutting off the leaves. Then wind and the weather sometimes assist but they are not the culprits. In a way, the leaves aren’t falling but the tree is actually releasing them, saying thanks for all you’ve given and it’s time for you to go.
This is the natural process of those deciduous trees. Only the evergreen family knows a different way for the sake of its survival. Their pine needles are like tightly rolled up leaves and they have a heartier construction and survival system due to the climate conditions they have been accustomed to manage. Even though they’re ever green, they also go through a period of absorbing less chlorophyll due to the sun’s position and season. But rather than fall to make way for the next season, they have adapted due to the energy it would require for so many pine needles/tightly rolled leaves to return. Amazing intelligence built into the survival system and this is just the most basic telling of how this works.
The recent fires in California have devastated so many of these trees and burned the land and homes around it with such a force, it’s shocking. This is nature taking charge and it’s very humbling whenever I learn of these happening. I pause to say a silent prayer of comfort for all that are suffering and for those that we’ve lost……………………………… We are limited beings for sure and though we know at some point or another we will all take our last breath and leave these bodies, it doesn’t ever seem right for that to happen with pain and cruel hands, with disregard for human dignity or lack of better planning for a pandemic to quickly make other current references.
Rather than work so hard to SEE the change we want to see in the world, I’m learning to be a better observer of the changes that I do see in the world, and to follow the plan that Gandhi offered, which is to “BE the change we want to see in the world.” Unlike the trees that have had around 380 million years to be on this earth, we’re still a slowly evolving species, slowly gaining the ability to comprehend what we are capable of being. If we have the potential for being peaceful, it must be possible that we can manifest that collectively. It would require us learning to understand that letting go is useful and necessary, not something bad. We can recognize there’s some intelligent part of ourselves, like the trees, where we can detach the dying parts of ourselves we no longer need. But we might have a difficult time seeing from this different perspective. We might do well to challenge habitual thinking with the possibility for a new way of seeing. It would require unlearning old behaviors that quite often limit our full potential. Then, learning how to absorb nutrient from new energy like the brand new leaves that will arrive in the Spring in order to relearn what it means to be alive and well.