Focus of the Month: May 2018

Mind: My Own Business

YS 1.2: Yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought – Barbara Stoller-Miller
YS 1.3: Tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe’vasthānam Then the Seer (Self) abides in Its own nature – Swami Satchidanana

My children help me see how challenging it can be just to be a human. Recently, my daughter complained of a headache, but after discussing her pain, she looked at me with wide-open, plaintive eyes and said, “TOO many thoughts in my head!” She even chose a poem for Poetry Day at school called “Rain” by Shel Silverstein, which is about filling one’s brain with rain and hearing water all day long. Another time my son looked at me and whispered, as if sharing a secret just between us, “Mommy – I CAN’T STOP THINKING!” I gave him a hug.
Sometimes one of my children will run up to me and insist that their sibling made them feel angry, sad, or unhappy. These feelings are valid. But when I see their immediate reaction to assign responsibility for their emotions onto another being, it feels like rather than watching a solution, I am only watching pain grow.

There is the initial pain and then there is the subsequent separation from others as an attempt to protect oneself from pain. From the outside, it does not look like a brother could ever make a sister feel in a certain way, and vice versa, right? But how often do I believe that others are wholly responsible for my emotions, that others have the power to make me feel a certain way? Why abdicate the responsibility for my own mind? Why make the state of my mind someone else’s business, rather than my own?

Our relationship with our own mind may be the most important and most challenging one we experience. The ancient yogis described the unawakened mind as being in a constant state of change or whirling. The famous yoga sutra 1.2, yogash citta vritti nirodha, means that when the whirling (vritti) of the mind (citta) ceases (nirodha) then true yoga (union) is realized. The word “vritti” comes from the same Sanskrit root, which gives us the English words whirl, vortex, and even weird. So, the unawakened mind can be a whirling, weird place to be. But that place is not who we truly are.

In order to get “home” to ourselves, we learn to navigate this inner landscape. That is the practice: learning where we are. In a beautiful promise, the next sutra, 1.3, says that when the mind ceases to spin, we will finally know ourselves and “dwell in our own nature.” Some say that the whole path of yoga is contained within these first three sutras. So, how do we begin to make the journey back to our true nature?

According to Yoga Sutra 2.4, ignorance acts as the foundation of an unawakened mind and makes it possible for the mind to whirl. Once ignorance is established, the rest of the kleshas become possible. Kleshas are ways the mind hurts itself. The word klesha comes from the Sanskrit root klish, which means, to torment. Ignorance, or avidya, is the seed klesha that makes the other kleshas possible. The remaining four kleshas are egoism (asmita), craving (raga), disliking (dvesha), and fear (abhinivesha).

The kleshas distort the world around us much like a fogged windshield prevents us from seeing clearly when we drive down the street. When you can’t see where you’re going, it’s easy to make some painful mistakes. But because our inner-vision is also limited, we tend to think the kleshas are friends rather than thieves.
You may be thinking: some fear is justified, and so is desire! You’re right. Let’s look at thought and the subsequent actions which arise from thought, not in terms of good and bad, but based upon whether that thought brings pain, peace, or is neutral.

For example, fear of the dark is innocent. Fear of a hurricane is justified. Fear of what others will think of me that prevents me from picking up the phone and calling a friend who needs help hurts both myself and another being. That fear we could call a klesha, because I believe it while simultaneously hurting myself and someone else. This is dukkha, the state of suffering and attachment to the causes of suffering.

Let’s look at dvesha, which we could also call dislike or even hatred. Hatred of pain is understandable. If that hatred grows to the point that I become addicted to painkillers, then that klesha is both running and ruining my life.

How about desire? Desire for a more peaceful world is a virtue. Desire for another piece of king cake is innocent and perhaps connected to joy in being with others. Desire for so much king cake that I don’t save any for others, or don’t save food for those who are truly hungry, is a klesha, because I believe in it while I simultaneously hurt myself and others. Because it takes time for the klesha’s ruse to be exposed, I often have to wait until the bellyache to realize that maybe the klesha that told me to eat a fifth piece of king cake was not actually a friend.

With patience and vision, we can learn to work with the kleshas. The first thing to understand is that kleshas are masters of disguise and always hide their second side. Every time we experience a craving (raga), there is also dislike, distaste, rejection, or even hatred simultaneously. Think of it like two sides of a coin. You can’t have heads without tails. You can’t have wanting without disliking. Whenever I want a happy time to go on, I am simultaneously afraid of its ending. Whenever I wish I were different, I shame myself. Whenever I wish someone behaved differently, I reject them.

Practice looking for the opposite feeling, or other side of the coin, when you experience a klesha. When you feel anger, do you also feel longing for something to be different? When we see the hidden side, we start to forgive ourselves (and others) for the way things feel. We learn more about ourselves. When I see that daydreaming about Hawaii means I reject being at home, I realize my own folly – and become filled with gratitude for having a home in the first place. Gratitude feels better than rejecting where I am. See both sides of the coin and perhaps you will begin to forgive yourself for heightened emotions, which always overlay emotions of a different nature. If you are frustrated with another being, ask if there is longing underneath that frustration. Just seeing the longing reduces anger. When the mind wants to turn back to focus on another’s flaws, gently say, “Mind: my own business.”

Look for the word “should” in your inner dialogue. Whenever I say someone “should” behave differently, that is raga, or desire, because I want something different from what is. Wherever there is raga, we know there is dvesha. Wherever there is pull (raga), there is always push (dvesha). When I stop and look at that, I see that I am pushing against someone; I see aggression within myself that I never knew was there when I was caught up in the story. That’s something to sit with. I don’t want to contribute to the aggression in this world. Immediately, my attitude towards this innocent other being softens, and I see how we are all human, going through life with our very human minds.

“It’s like this now,” a simple mantra from Lama Marut, helps me stay in awareness when the narrative of wanting and not wanting begins. When I remember that the mind is my own business, I let others off the hook.

Have you ever dropped a coin into a spiral wishing well and watched it whirl down, until you can no longer see it and it becomes a donation? The kleshas, like a coin dropped into a basin, spin on and on as we go through our lives. They may be life-long partners for us. It’s a good idea to befriend your life-long partners. You don’t need to spend every moment with them, but you do need to know when they walk into the sacred home of your mind. Ram Dass had the practice of naming his kleshas like children showing up for a family photo. I try to practice this by saying, “Hello, Jealousy! Self-pity, how are you today?” In acknowledging the kleshas, they soften. They are marginal when we don’t give them our energy. Although the kleshas would love leading roles, they will settle for acknowledgment. The real splendor is the open space of awareness within which they temporarily reside.

Written by Keith Porteous
May, 2018


Teacher Tools

QUOTES “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” – J. M. Barry

“All judgment reveals itself to be self-judgment in the end, and when this is understood a larger comprehension of the nature of life takes its place.” – Dr. David R. Hawkins, Power vs. Force

“It’s hard to guard against a thief from within.” – Zen tradition

“As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” If you feel bound, you are bound. If you feel liberated, you are liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude toward them does that.” – Swami Satchidananda

“There’s nothing wrong with the world. You can make it a heaven or a hell according to your approach. That is why the entire Yoga is based on citta vrtti nirodhah. If you control your mind, you have controlled everything. Then there is nothing in this world to bind you.” – Swami Satchidananda

“The ego is judgmental and unwittingly becomes its own victim…the ego cannot escape consequences, whether it turns the attack within or without…The real Self is unaffected because truth is immune to falsity” – David R. Hawkins, Transcending the Levels of Consciousness.

“Gratitude easily replaces pride, which is self-rewarding and eclipses all judgmentalism from within and without.” – David R. Hawkins, Transcending the Levels of Consciousness.

“The relinquishing of judgmentalism greatly increases the capacity of Love, as does surrendering the wanting of anything from others. Thus people are not perceived according to what they have or do but by appreciation for what they are and have become.” David R. Hawkins, Transcending the Levels of Consciousness.

“Rain” by Shel Silverstein I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain, And it dripped in my head And flowed into my brain, And all that I hear as I lie in my bed Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head. I step very softly, I walk very slow, I can’t do a handstand– I might overflow, So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said– I’m just not the same since there’s rain in my head.

PRACTICES Mantra: It’s like this now When you want to say, “Mind your own business!” to someone else, say to yourself, “mind, my own business” and affirm sovereignty over your inner world.

ASANA Practice the opposite. If you do the hardest classes possible, try restorative or even an alignment class to slow down and listen to the body. If you only go to restorative, try a flow class. If you’re terrified of inversions, schedule a private and learn which inversions are right for your practice right now.

Virasana – cultivate the pose of the hero while forgiving yourself for fear Heart openers – practice heart openers and bring to mind someone who challenges you. Let them off the hook and silently say “we’re all in this together” and know that their interactions with you are only a reUlection of their interactions with their own minds. Chanting: Sing at the beginning and end of class. Making sound with the body is a great way to channel the energy of the mind and release grief, fear and sadness.

Attend our new kirtan class on Monday nights.

Apply Yoga Sutra 2.33: Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, or, when disturbed by disturbing thoughts think of the opposite. Here is a chart of some basic “antidotes” for the mind: For Anger, cultivate compassion (karuna) for the suffering of the other being, even if you cannot see it. “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” – J. M. Barry For Jealousy, cultivate happiness for other’s successes (maitri). Reflect on your beliefs in causality. Why do things happen the way they do? If someone has attained something you admire, and causality is true, then they made that attainment based on their own past actions. Rather than watch what they have, think of what you want and plant the seeds for your future.
For feelings of low-self esteem, help someone else. See yourself in the role of the giver. For feelings of loneliness, listen to yourself. Write in a journal. Then reach out and connect with others.

STUDY Judgment Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein Power vs Force and Transcending the Levels of Consciousness among many by David R. Hawkins Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron The Course in Miracles Workbook Join Michelle, Keith and many at Swan River in doing this practice over the coming year! Join us in Meditation Classes: Wednesday at 6pm and Sunday at 6:30pm. Join us for dharma class on Fridays at 1pm, beginning in June!