Mind is like a river…
January 31, 2010 § 3 Comments
I have been teaching yoga and meditation for many years. Many sincere students have passed by my eyes, and are later guided by the inner voice of my Consciousness. It is amazing that while a wide variety of individuals come and go, you can witness the unity that exists underneath the cloaks of their bodies!
What do I mean by that? Well, they all are seeking higher truth. It may begin with, “I love yoga, it relaxes me, and I am very happy when I come to my yoga class.” But, as they grow into it, things shift a bit deeper than they had anticipated. They venture into other styles of yoga, or they may explore other options like nutrition or meditation, and eventually you do not get to see them. However, a true spiritual teacher never forgets their beloved students. He or she clearly remembers them, and it is fascinating how it works!
This is what I have been witnessing for many years. A question comes to my mind, “why do they disappear?” For years, you do not see them, you do not hear from them or about them. Maybe, it is as simple as “life happens.” But when you start digging deeper into the realm of possibilities, you start to see the real picture emerging. And sometimes, you just remember them. You remember them, and you pick up your phone and dial their phone number and at the other end, there is that familiar voice, “Hi, how are you? I have been meaning to call you.” And nothing but smile appears on your face, knowing you know why you happened to call them. You get the whole spiel from your student in half an hour’s time.
You hear the common, untold story, and usually it is like this, “I got seriously distracted. A lot of things happened in my life, but I will be back.” They do come back, and then in an appropriate timely manner, they disappear again! Lo, you just had them a few days ago! What happened again, you wonder, and then you shrug it off of your shoulders and attend to the new seeker just emerging from the curtain of Consciousness.
Why, if they were sincere seekers, they were fully committed, yet disappear and re-emerge again just to disappear again? What does actually happen? Is it what we call, “life happens” or is there something else is going on? It is possible. However, in my understanding, the little I may have, it is called “mind” happens and not “life” happens. What do I mean by that? Well, there are distractions on many levels, as you may have read in my previous blog, “Blue Print of a Spiritual Leader” in which my teacher had said: “We must not create a wall between our worldly and spiritual lives. People disorganized in their life search for spiritual wisdom in seclusion; whereas, if organized properly, they can have all the means and resources that are of utmost importance for spiritual enlightenment. The purpose of human life is to make the best use of the resources that nature or God has given us.”
Where exactly is “the wall” created? If you examine sincerely and deeply, you may just discover that the so-called “wall” is created in our minds. We may easily lie about something and think, “Nobody knows about it except me”, and that becomes a “norm” in no time! You may ask, “What is wrong with just doing that? Everyone does that.” Are you sure about that? We constantly learn tricks to hide ourselves from “ourselves” and in no time you see a wall being constructed, everything becomes compartmentalized, and eventually you are completely unaware of who is the real “you”! Am I going too far with this?
My teacher used to say, something like, “Mind is like a river. It continuously flows. Try not to create a dam in this river else you will sustain a disaster.”
These are not the exact words but that is what I remember from hearing them. If you create a dam, eventually water will pile up, surge, and then will run over anything and everything—and in every possible direction. That is how we get tired and feel lonely and then indulge in things, which are nothing but constant obstacles to our growth. Creating a dam, compartmentalizing ourselves from our “own self”, may feel like an automatic phenomenon, but it comes with a heavy price, and we do pay it dearly.
Then you might ask, “What am I to do? I am not even sure I understand everything you say!” Well, it is debatable. However, the way to cure all of that is pretty simple. Do you remember that Walking Yogi’s motto is, “Be Simple, Be Practical and Be Free”? If that is what you wish to be, a Walking Yogi, then simplicity and practicality in every aspect of your life will be more highly commended than not.
Now, what is the solution, you may ask? Many of my students are getting some homework every time I teach—yes they get homework! They get something to go home with and practice. One practice that I have repeatedly reiterated many times is to go home and practice silence for ten minutes per setting per week. Do nothing but observe this phenomenon. There may be myriad thoughts, patterns, images and processes that may emerge; do not react, do not become a critic, do not entertain these thoughts, and do not get distracted, but observe them and then let them go.
If you repeatedly keep on practicing this exercise, it will lead you to introspection and guide you to the deepest realm of unconscious. There are many things you may want to discard and eliminate but then there are pearls of wisdom as well, waiting to be explored. Do you think you can handle that?
Remember, “Mind is like a river.”
This description mirrors my experience with yoga, in that my start also began with that sense of peacefulness and inner calm that came from a yoga class. My shift into the deeper aspects of yoga took me beyond the practice of the asanas alone, into meditation and lifestyle changes from what I ate, to how I slept, to how I think and interact with others.
I would also say, I have also drifted away from the direct presence of my teacher in regular attendance of yoga classes, as I hoped to apply what I learned in my yoga practice to exploring other aspects of personal and spiritual growth. As the teacher never forgets their students, the parallel for me is that the student also never forgets the teacher when the lessons learned have affected the student in a profound way.
As a student I hope I have carried what I have learned into the world, in some respects as a dedication to my teacher, as I do when I practice yoga away in other studios or in my practice with other endeavors.
In reflecting on this blog, what came to mind was perhaps for me life is like a river, and sometimes carries you to different places and that the skills passed on by my teacher,“Be Simple, Be Practical and Be Free”, are the ones hopefully I can skillfully use to navigate it in the right way.
At the top of my list of things to do today is “email Nishit”. So of course you took care of it for me.
I read this entry and will start the practice. Thank you. And I will keep reading.
On a personal level, I was wanting to write to you because in my practice and as a teacher, I have been wanting to work more with kumbhaka. In all of my studies, and even at the Institute, it felt like there was very little training in retention, and everyone in the books always says not to practice this without the guidance of a teacher. So as I felt myself heading in that direction, I thought of you.
I love that you talk about not separating regular life from spiritual life. In the last two years of being a mother, I have made very little time for my “on the mat” practice, but I feel like I have done so much work spiritually, and grown so much. I think of you whenever I sweep or mop, of you saying that you love to do those things because they are such good opportunities to practice.
I have to thank you for being my teacher not only on yoga, but on life.
I have to admit when I first started doing yoga, I was only doing it for the benefits of the physical’s exercise and to get together with my friends. I did not know much about YOGA. Yoga seemed like a good thing to do.
I was introduced to the asana and the pranayama practices. For years I thought that was all I need. I had many teachers, some of which had tried to incorporate the connection between the mind, body and the spirit. I heard them, but I did not pay attention to them. I even went as far as to change teachers. I was chasing the next harder asana practice.
Then I started taking your class. With your easy going style and you sense of humor, you reintroduce to me the philosophy of Yoga. For the first time, I actually started to put all that I have learned, or tried not to learn, together. I started to experience the peace and calmness of yoga asana, to incorporate the breath. That took me to an even deeper level of asana practice, but I was still doing yoga for the physical’s benefits.
But I was also confused. The drive to achieve the next harder asana was not the main focus point anymore. I did not know what I wanted from my practice. I stopped going to yoga classes. For a year I did not do anything. You are so right in saying that this is not life happens, but mind happens.
One day I was reading one of your Wednesday’s class summaries, and it was interesting. Then on the following week, I found myself reading that week class notes too. And this went on for a while. I found many enlightened insights in all those lines; they forced me to take a hard look at myself and to find out what I really wanted out of yoga and out of life.
With your teachings and your blogs, I now find a new sense of freedom and ease that I did not experience before. I have renewed my yoga practices with a different attitude. I have learned to “breathe and let it go” and this attitude also helps me to change my prospective when life happens.
“Be simple, Be Practical and Be Free” I will try to apply this to all as I continue to learn from you.