July! We’re mid-way into 2019 and it’s been another dynamic year of relating to worldly matters! Whether from a political, ecological, social or personal perspective, I feel there is much to reflect on….and celebrate! It’s such an interesting time to wonder what is true, what is a lie? What is being shown, what is being hidden? What is real, what is unreal? Is there a universal Truth?
*It can be said that the goal of yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of the mindstuff. One can have control over thought forms and not be bound by them. (Sutra 1:2 – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) Once in this state, the true seeker experiences the peace center within (1:3) – a clear, knowingness of a self who is unaffected by the drama, thoughts and actions of the ever-reacting mind. At all other times, we are fueled by the passing nature of the mind that tends to have us believe that we are only our personal thoughts (1:4). In Sanskrit, the thoughts are called vrittis, aka mindstuff and they’re organized into 5 parts (1:6):
- Right knowledge
- Verbal delusion
The one I’m interested in for this month is related to misperception. There’s a famous story that illustrates how the mind can think it sees something real and the body reacts as though it is: Read the story of the snake and the rope at pranashanti.com
In our world of social media, we’re constantly being exposed to images that tell stories of 1000 words that are filled with truth, untruth, fantasy, and/or somewhere in between; in some aspect or another, we’re presenting a slice of life we wish to share and one image could be perceived many different ways. We positively or negatively (and possibly neutrally) entertain our minds with these images and have to sort out how we relate to these images and thoughts. Many have spoken of taking breaks for a while due to obsessively being on social media and plenty of studies are being reported showing the harmful effects. But as with all things outside of us, there is nothing to blame on the thing itself, in this case social media – it is us that needs the microscope. It’s our relationship to that thing outside of us with our relationship to our mind/heart inside of us.
In any relationship, there is always a coming together of distinct parts, which have distinct history: Almond butter and chocolate, king protea and peonies, politics and humor, yoga and deep healing, pain and pleasure, mind and body. Some are immediately compatible and sync well. Others may appear mysterious and take time to unfold and realize the reason for the coming together. I tend to be drawn to the latter and well, it certainly lends itself to a more challenging but often more rewarding journey! Ok, maybe the reward isn’t always the bi-product. :/ OR, and more likely, it may just be that the gift of the experience isn’t revealed til later…much later in some cases.
So if the 2 parts aren’t an immediate fit, is it an honest path to take, knowing the imbalance could lead to non-fitting pieces and an out of balance relationship? Even with Romeo and Juliet, the lesson that came was how deep family wounds can go and how emotions can rule one’s life. Love triumphs over hate when the families bury these lovers and recognize they can also bury their feuding. The hope is that within whatever relationship we are discovering and nurturing, that a powerful life-lesson is revealed. This lesson is ideally taken to heart, burned into wisdom, rewired into new neural pathways to help avoid the repetition of a destructive or at minimum, an unconscious pattern.
When I’m able to be honest with myself and not be attached to ideas or thoughts of what I want something to be, I have a better shot at landing on the truth of what it actually is, versus what it isn’t. And the what it isn’t must have needed to happen in order to find the what it is!! Telling ourselves lies in order to feel good or attempting to make something real that isn’t real leads to suffering. Here’s an example: A recent relationship didn’t go in the direction I thought it was going. Thankfully, he helped me snap out of the trance that I put myself in and I regained understanding of the purpose of our connection versus the fantasy of what I wanted. Painful, but ultimately useful. I only saw what I wanted to see and I now can see how that was selfish. We know when we put our hand in a flame that it will burn. But our life experiences aren’t always matched up so we can easily discern the passion and burn that will cause pain versus the discomfort and growing pains that could lead to something beautifully compatible. In the end, all pain and all pleasure can be the vehicle to lead us toward the painless state, where the mind accepts the lessons and honors all experience.
Knowing what doesn’t work and what you don’t want leads us to know what does work and what we do want. At least, that’s very often the case. And there are times when I do think we’re being as honest as we can with ourselves and still find we’ve made poor judgments. And that’s ok. Mistakes are often taught to be something we should avoid. But hasn’t life shown us that mistakes are the guide posts that help us find our way back on track to our truth? This requires a hard, honest look at ourselvesand one that many of us would much prefer and do avoid, finding distraction so we don’t have to feel. Running away, addiction, co-dependency, compulsive behaviors, etc. Check, check, check and check. But ultimately, the road finds a dead end and then we have this painful or wonderful moment to be honest with ourselves. Or if we don’t find a dead end, we keep going and manage life with a pattern we learn to accept. A humbling part of this human experience and the ancient yogis recognized this being exactly how we awaken! So in other words, there’s nothing going wrong if you can relate to any of this. It means we are having a shared human experience and that’s what has the potential to unite us with the most compassionate and heart-centered approach to living on this planet together.
Ok, time for some more yoga philosophy to back me up…and help guide me through this recent relationship journey that has been painful and eye-opening.
There is a yogic practice known as satya, defined from Sanskrit as truthfulness, detailed in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Within the 8-limbs of the ashtanga yoga system (not to be confused with the systematic order of ashtanga yoga designed by Pattabhi Jois) the first two are the 5 yamas and the 5 niyamas. These are 10 precepts for keeping consciously aware of our inner peace and our healthy relationships. It’s written that certain behaviors and actions can stimulate the mind toward balance and peace or toward agitation, attachment, aversion and fear. By firmly practicing the yamas and the niyamas, one will have a better chance at making progress on the yogic path and leading a life of virtue with greater glimpses of equanimity.
“With establishment in honesty, the state of fearlessness comes. One need not be afraid of anybody and can always lead an open life. When there are no lies, the entire life become an open book. But this comes only with an absolutely honest mind. When the mind becomes clear and serene, the true Self reflects without disfigurement, and we realize the Truth in its own original nature.”
-Sri Swami Satchidananda
The Statue of Liberty has quite a long history and almost didn’t make it to America. It has the actual French translation as “Liberty Enlightening the World.” I love that! In some references, it’s noted simply as a gift from the French, but other sources speak about how it may have been first offered to Egypt to be erected and given the name, “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia.” The statue required an immense amount of funding and was first conceived in 1870 and not erected in NYC until 1886 after parts of it made stops in Boston and Philadelphia. I noticed a few discrepancies but sure learned more than I knew! More to read here: Wikipedia.com
So how do we know what is true? Is it true that it’s July 2019? Do we all agree on that? Is it the collective thought and agreement on reality that situates us all with a compass to guide our minds? How do we grapple with the passing of time, of aging, of mortality? Do we lie to ourselves and others by trying to suppress the inevitable? Are we living in the present moment or sometime in the past…or future?
So many questions…so little time! Actually, we have all the time in the world! 🙂 All these questions give us the exact reason to meditate! When the mind can find calm and ease, answers begin to come to questions like these. Within us, there’s a natural intelligence that understands how to open our minds to a higher channel. Just like how our monitors and computers only transmit information – the information isn’t crammed into each of our phones or computers, they are being transmitted from another source. In this same way, our brain and our body act as that transmitter, receiving information from a collective source of higher consciousness. Just as we would want to take best care of our devices, we can take best care of ourselves so that we avoid static and bad signals. When we wake up to that awareness, we have the ability to celebrate our birth in the most profound way. We recognize that with a mind centered around gratitude, we can move slowly but surely to a life of service. I consider myself a work in progress and happy to have found a pointer that feels to be leading me in a good direction!
Truth is One, Paths are Many
Lead us from unreal to real
Lead us from darkness to the light
Lead us from the fear of death
To the knowledge of immortality
–Hindu Pavamana Mantra
*Reflections from the book: “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda”