|Ben, Vijendra, Sacred mountain
It’s coming towards the end of January, 2001 – and the end of my one month Yoga teacher’s training course in Kerala, India.
The only thing that is constant in this life is change.
Nothing stays the same. Nothing lasts. Nothing is guaranteed.
The world – by which I mean the body; mind; emotions; senses; desires; atmosphere; season; environment; climate; people; economy; society; the family; the earth; the WHOLE WORLD – is constantly changing.
That change is very simply the nature of the world we live in. The universe is expanding, and we have learnt to think of ourselves as a static point within a changing world, but what is that static point really?
We are also changing all the time. Every cell in the body, right now, as you sit reading this, is either regenerating or decaying. No single cell, no single part of your body, will be the same now as it was when you began reading this sentence!
It’s almost as if we are riding on a wave of change. Can you feel it?
There IS a point of stillness – a static point within all the movement – but it’s not what most people think it is. It’s not the human being that we think we are, that we associate ourselves with, that’s constant. It’s the awareness behind the human experience that remains unchanged, and untouched by the world.
This human life is a wave that we ride for a short while. The more we allow ourselves to be aware of that, the easier our lives become. Because whether we like it or not, the wave rises and falls. Whether we like it or not, the world around us changes, unpredictably, relentlessly, inevitably. How we accept that change; how we surrender to it; and how we learn to love it as part of the nature of this life, depends entirely on what we cling to.
We are each of us riding the wave of our life, in an ocean of unpredictable, inevitable change.
Most of us cling to the belief that we are the body; or that we are the mind; that we are our work; or that we are our personality. If so, at some point that little ‘life-raft’ that we cling to will disintegrate, and we will be left alone with the realization that the wave is all there is. Then, we either surrender and go with the flow, or, we start looking desperately for something else to cling to!
Usually, our suffering is the result of our clinging – and life brings us the perfect lessons that we need to stop clinging. I don’t know why, but it seems that life itself is a lesson in detachment. Sometimes it can seem very harsh, but that’s usually because there’s simply something we don’t want to let go of !
In the Bhagavad Gita, it is written: “Yoga is skill in action”. I believe that surfing elegantly over the wave of life, without attachment, without clinging, is skill in action; the ultimate yoga.
I’d love to know what you think…
1. Realise consciously that the only thing you REALLY want is to be deeply happy.
2. Understand that happiness is an inner experience. It is inside yourself, or nowhere! Therefore nothing and no one can give it to you.
3. Look inside for that happiness, and cultivate it consciously, doing (as much as possible) only things which make you happy!
4. Accept your mistakes, failings, and so on… don’t resist them, it will slow you down (in other words, if you have a bad day, and you really struggle to be happy, don’t worry!. Tomorrow is another day: every day you get better and better in every way)…
Most people spend ALL their time trying to either: seek pleasure, or avoid pain.
This is because we remember pain in the past. And we choose (obviously) not to repeat that pain. And we imagine pleasure in the future (also based on our memory of it in the past), and choose (obviously!) to repeat it.
However, memory (past) is not real. It is just an idea. It has no substance. Two people remember the same thing differently – it is not fixed. So our memory of pain is also not real. Trying to avoid pain is like running away from your shadow – it’s pointless.
And the same can be said for the imaginary pleasure – imagination is not real, in the same way that memory is not. So, most people are living in the past or the future, and not being present.
Happiness is not outside you. It is not in the new car, the beautiful partner, the lottery which you might one day win – actually studies have shown that amongst the highest risk groups of suicide are those people who suddenly get rich!
It is either within you, or it DOES NOT EXIST in a meaningful way. It is an experience. Our motivation for avoiding pain and seeking pleasure is that we really want to be happy. But we didn’t stop to think – where and when is happiness? Is it in the future imaginary pleasure, or the past remembered pain?
If we really think about that question, the only possible answer is – it is here and now, inside us. Or not. But it cannot be anwhere, or ‘anywhen’, else!
So, if happiness is what we want, and happiness is HERE AND NOW, what to do about it?
BE HAPPY! Do what makes you happy! Follow your JOY! Let go of all else. Buddha said: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”
Is it easy? No, not if, like me many years ago, you have a habit of doing pretty much the opposite. But if we practice it, it gets easier and easier, like anything.
And imagine a world (this is what the imagination is REALLY for!) where everyone did only what made them happy… every person would be PRESENT. That means that there would be no room for jealousy, resentment, anger. All the negative emotions are in the memory or the imagination of pleasure and pain… they DO NOT EXIST here and now. To be present; to BE HERE NOW; is to experience peace, love, and simplicity: true happiness.
10 years ago I was in India on a long train journey. At one station a young boy, about 10 years old, came along cleaning the floor with a cloth – the dirtiest cloth you’ve ever seen! He was wearing only a filthy pair of pants, and was begging for money from the people whose feet he was cleaning around. They were mostly paying him no attention. All of my western education and conditioning led me to ‘feel sorry’ for him – “poor kid, no money, dirty, probably hungry, no future, what a terrrible situation”… and then he came to me, and I saw his eyes. To this day I have seen very few people with the joy and happiness and shinging light in their eyes that he had in his. I deeply realised in that moment that external circumstances are unimportant. All that matters is to be happy.