Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, May 13th 2022
Believing to Believe
If we consider ourselves practitioners of Yoga, especially if we have met or learned from Shri Mahayogi, we probably have come to realize that Yoga requires a big change, from not knowing the Truth to knowing the Truth. And if you are like me, this is not something that happens overnight, but rather takes conscious effort in retraining the mind entirely. It seems to me that it is like reformatting the way the mind thinks altogether or replacing the belief system that has guided it for many years, most probably many lives.
What Yoga proposes is pretty much the flipped idea of what a regular mind like mine tends to do; there is the current state in which we find ourselves, and then the state that Yoga proposes. In the state I am in, and almost everyone finds themselves by default, the mind’s wants call the shots; whatever seems pleasing to it, it tries to go after, and, whatever seems displeasing to it, it avoids or tries to escape. And so, it is all about what the mind wants or does not want, which is based on what it believes will make it happy and satisfied at any given moment. From a very young age we instinctively begin to seek our own satisfaction as the solution to any situation. On the flip side, in Yoga, anything that the mind—“me”— wants, craves, or attaches itself to, is considered the very cause of its suffering, and an obstacle to living at ease.
In my everyday life, I recognize many areas in which my mind struggles to get what it wants. When it comes to food for example, I may feel very strongly that I want to have a mid-morning snack, and my mind is convinced that it will make my morning better, give me energy and cheer me up. Even if I am full and have no need for any food, this belief or craving dominates my actions. The same with that cappuccino that I am so addicted to having mid-afternoon. When the thought of it arises, it comes with the strong belief that I will be truly satisfied by the taste, the temperature or how it feels in my stomach. In that moment, I think that my day and workload will be more bearable if I drink it. The same with chores. Having to cook my next day’s lunch late at night, after having worked all day, appears to my mind as a tiring and uninteresting burden. My mind is convinced that I will dread it. When I think about meeting a friend that I really like, I am excited and believe that this will make me happy, perhaps for a long time, and take away sorrows or loneliness. Or if I have to see someone that is not pleasing to me, I feel that I would much prefer to avoid their company altogether.
Similarly, with myself I see the same pattern in asana practice, and this most likely happens to many practitioners, which is that when I am trying to exhale long and complete, my mind desperately wants to inhale immediately. To my mind, it is as if “inhaling” was a glass of water, and it was dying of thirst. My mind really, really wants to inhale. My mind believes that it cannot exhale anymore, and that instead inhaling right away is what will make it feel much better.
From the little things of daily life to the asana practice, I recognize this pattern: my mind’s fixed ideas about what will make it happy, satisfied, and comfortable, and what will not, and its insistence in trying to pursue those ideas.
Actually, none of these habits seem that terrible, or harmful as such, but I notice that my mind is constantly demanding to be obeyed, which means that I am not free. And not only that, even after it has been satisfied to some degree, it always ends up needing something else. In the end, it is never fully satisfied, which means that, though it wants to be happy, it is instead in a perpetual state of wanting, and suffering. This never-ending cycle that the mind thrives on is what the teachings of Yoga reveal to be the error of the mind, and as this error is revealed, what opens-up is the possibility for something else, something that is opposite to suffering, the end of suffering.
Having understood this at least intellectually, I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary to change the way my mind is programmed, and learn something new. What if what Yoga says is true? What if the true Happiness comes when the mind ceases to want, and simply is and does without the wanting and craving? What if this is the ultimate Happiness and enjoyment? I would like to know. But I can tell that finding out requires the perseverance and will that come from a real sense of trust.
In the Satsangha in Pranavadipa (Volume 90), there is a topic of faith that relates to all this, I believe. Because I am noticing the strong wants and the self-absorbing tendencies of my mind and because I wonder how to flip them around and direct my mind toward Yoga, my interest has been to try to learn about faith and about how to cultivate the faith that will sustain my focus and will, while in the process of reducing desires and controlling the mind. The question posed to Shri Mahayogi that caught my attention was about whether faith should be understood as necessary from the beginning or as something that is developed just like other on-going disciplines. Shri Mahayogi’s answer was that faith is in fact needed at the beginning, but it also develops as the various on-going disciplines grow. This exchange made me realize that if I want to bring under control that mind that constantly tries to impose its whims in so many aspects of my life and perpetuates suffering, a step to take is to throw myself into the action that is required for challenging the mind’s habitual patterns, and learn something new through doing so.
It is encouraging to know that even just the wanting to transform oneself means that one has some initial level of faith to begin with; because it indicates that one has already deduced that there is something better, something reliable, something real, and longs to know it, which ends up being like a seed of faith. But I also understand that in order to overcome the mind that habitually wants to follow the well-established error or un-Truth, such as mine, faith needs to continue to grow and be strengthened. And so, the work toward this seems to be to continue to apply whatever faith we have toward gaining and growing more faith, through taking one action at a time.
The testimonies of disciples are proof to the fact that a little faith can grow and deepen when even a little bit of the Truth is confirmed for the mind. Inspired by reading Satsangha and testimonies of the applied practices of disciples, I just began working on it and trying to test if it is possible to grow in faith by downplaying the opinions and preconceptions that may come up in my mind, simply and solely by focusing on what needs to be done or what is right in front of me, objectively, even if my mind continued persisting on following its unfounded beliefs. When I was able to hold on to the singular focus of what needed to be attended to, by focusing only on the moment—now, now, now—I noticed that the mind’s desires and opinions started to get out of the way so that the reaction of my mind became neutral and therefore lighter.
Once the mind experiences this, it becomes more willing to decrease its persistent and unnecessary demands. And not only that, but these little experiments that are always within reach, when made as a way of seeking the Truth, can lead the mind to taste a small sample of the sweetness of a bit less attachment, in other words, the sweetness of a bit more freedom from its own limitations and impositions—and that itself is how the mind begins to grow in faith and believe that change is possible and thus trust Yoga more.
One action at a time—through these trials I have begun to learn that what my mind believes to be true is clearly based on its habitual wants which are based on the ideas of my mind that cannot coexist with purity or with thoughts that are real and reliable. And so, I have begun the task of gradually retraining my mind to stop reacting based on partial ideas, and instead, work to bring my mind to open up to an unknown and unlimited possibility—the Truth.
It is incredibly fortunate to be able to learn that through the Yoga that we are being exposed to, any simple and mundane activity or situation can become the opportunity for retraining the mind to stop pursuing its whims, and to allow itself to remain unattached, free of limitations—to move in the direction of the Truth, single pointedly.
To make a financial contribution, visit our CONTRIBUTION PAGE.
Visit and share our WELCOME PAGE to join our online classes.