Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, April 22nd 2022
Yes, Having a Clear Aim is a Necessity for Practice
Whenever things seem to not be going against me, directing my mind toward God, the Truth, or Holy Beings is more attractive and easier to sustain. But as soon as things don’t go my mind’s way, regardless of how much I try to control it, my mind can react emotionally and turn in the opposite direction of the Truth. How do I tame this wild mind?
This week, at the school where I work, my supervisor changed my teacher-team’s schedule, adding more work, work that I considered to be unimportant in comparison to other work, to a week that was already overloaded. I did not expect that my mind would react the way it did since I had been working on keeping it calm day after day. But to my surprise, it became quite upset and then immediately very busy, looking for someone to blame for the unexpected additional workload. The more it dwelled on the circumstances, the more it sought justifications for being displeased and the more it hung on tightly to the feelings that came along with these kinds of thoughts. Next thing I knew, it was fully saturated and tensed up.
This continued for a good number of hours. Even when I was not paying attention to it or realizing it—it was propelling itself, all on its own. What caused me to slow down and recognize the locked state of my own mind-functioning and the fact that I had completely gone in the opposite direction of the Truth, was the intensity with which my mind clung to the feeling of having been wronged. The energy that was going toward this thought pounded in my head and started to become bothersome. At some point, while experiencing these feelings of discomfort, I was able to also recognize that this state was being sustained by some sense of satisfaction that came from blaming somebody or something and growing the self-aggrandizing idea of being “right” while that somebody or something else was “wrong.” Thankfully, while giving myself some time to just look at what was taking place in my mind and while in a state of awe about how much my mind was willing to continue to move in this direction, these words appeared in my thoughts, “Discrimination! Try it! Right now!”
In Echo From the Cave: 180, I shared how, when looking for a way to appease my active mind, I resorted to the Testimony in Pranavadipa Volume 87, which contains Gopala’s description of his practice of discrimination. I began to try to use “Is it permanent?”, “Is it pure?”, “Is it joyful or blissful?” and “Is it the true Self?”, the questions that Gopala chose as his weapons of discrimination following the teachings and guidance of Shri Mahayogi, to see what change may take place in my mind. As a very beginner with little experience in discrimination, I faced the new challenge of trying to pose the questions (which contain the undiluted Truth) to an agitated mind in the thick of a crisis-state while being fully shielded, unwilling to open any space for a question or suggestion of any kind. I quickly had to adapt the questioning to the state and to the shifting around that was taking place in my mind and pry my way in.
“Is it the true Self?” was the question that made most sense to use for the specific conditions because of the inflated sense of “I” that had taken over. I had to treat it like a critical patient, carefully.
—“Why are you upset?”—I asked.
—“I have been mistreated, somebody was trying to take advantage of me, not being considerate toward me”—my mind was willing to answer with a complaint.
—“Who is upset about this? Is it the true Self?”—I was able to ask, but my mind resisted, so I decided to go on.
—“The true Self, according to Shri Mahayogi, only knows and sees. It does not move or react”—I pointed this out to my mind, trying to use what I have heard from Shri Mahayogi about the true Self. “The mind and the body are not the true Self,” I added, “so neither you nor the other person’s mind is the true Self. Does it make sense to react to the mind and the body which are shifty, and ultimately will change again unpredictably? Is it worthwhile to react to something that has no stability to begin with?”
—“If I am not the body and mind, then who am I? Who is the other? Who or what should I focus on if not the body or the mind?”
I realized at this point that my mind was more willing to listen and to be pointed in a new direction.
—“You are the true Self, the unchanging and unmoving. And so is your supervisor.”
This is as far as I went with the questions because my mind had to cope with the answers and ponder further on its own.
I allowed my mind to look for this true Self within. It began looking for something independent of the thoughts in the mind and beyond the distinctions of the physical bodies, which meant something complete and whole without a second, indivisible. I allowed it to seek within, as if scanning for something, while I stood to the side observing or witnessing quietly as not to disturb. I let it seek everywhere, even outside, in the circumstances of my school, the ideas that hold the school together, or even further to the way the world works. The expanding question, “Is it the true Self, the unchangeable and unmoving?” kept guiding it and cancelling out thoughts that did not qualify as the true Self. As this process continued, before I knew it, the big and messy ball of emotions began to quiet down—not completely—but significantly, enough to allow me to focus on the tasks in front of me again, in the present moment. The tension in my mind began to ease up, and the thoughts began to become less domineering. I was able to smile a little, and breath better too.
The battle is by no means over. Such a reaction comes from a very strong sense of “I,” one that I have to chip away at little by little. I have no doubt that I must repeat this kind of process over and over, in various circumstances, whether it feels like an emergency or not, because the mind of ignorance that is convinced that my mind and body are the Self, is there 24/7. “I have to have a strong will and the determination to keep going until my mind gives up, and the ignorance in the mind truly crumbles.” (Echo From the Cave: 180)
From this new experience, however, I realize that the issue that I have had for a long time, lack of consistency, could make any progress a challenge. I have no doubt that I must repeat this kind of process over and over, but how can I become more consistent in this practice?
My mind is so persistent when it goes after what it desires. Shri Mahayogi has described in the content of one of the Satsangha in Pranavadipa that desires are “anything the mind wishes,” and taught that “there is a difference depending on whether that desire is coming from pain-bearing-obstacles or not, in other words, whether that desire is coming from ignorance or selfishness, or whether it is altruistic or not.” Perhaps I can nurture an equally strong desire or aim to pull my mind away in another direction.
Anandamali always emphasizes the need for a clear aim. When I began to think about learning to practice discrimination, originally, my aim was to calm my active mind, but I see that Shri Mahayogi says that the purpose of cultivating a calm mind is to enable one to meditate. I know that I very much want to be able to meditate. I asked myself what is the purpose of meditation? The answer for me was, “I want to know and love God.”
When I make the connection between my aim and the practices toward that aim, then each practice takes on a new meaning because it is not being done in a vacuum, but directly connected to the most important purpose in my life. The aim then, should be the why behind any of the practices in Yoga, such as asana, meditation, reading scriptures, chanting to a holy being…and in fact, any action, if taken as a step toward the Truth, anything done wholeheartedly “to know and love God” may also be called Yoga. If this aim becomes the strongest purpose in my life, real and firm, stronger than any other desire, I believe that my mind will become more tamable and willing to give up, and consistency in practice may not be an issue anymore.
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