Practicing Gratitude

babaji-1999It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well, but when we’re struggling, it can be hard to access even the possibility of gratitude. At those times it may be hard to see anything to be grateful for. When we see the glass as half-empty, we tend to see only what’s not working. It takes a big shift to see the glass as half-full. The level in the glass remains the same, but which side do we see? How can we change the angle of our minds so we can see that there’s still something in the glass?

How we walk through life matters. If we continue to see only what’s wrong, our view of life is clouded and we become depressed. The weight of this kind of thinking pulls us down and it’s hard to see up.

If a person thinks the burden of the world is on their shoulders, they feel the weight of the world and in a few years they become hunchbacked. Then one day the person sees clearly and realizes the world exists by itself, but it’s too late. The hunchback cannot be straightened.

The mind always goes through different stages, sometimes negative and sometimes positive. The mind is the creator of everything. You create heaven and you create hell. Both are in the mind.

Byron Katie, in her book, “I Need Your Love – Is That True?” questions our assumptions about life. She turn our habits of thinking around.

She asks:

“Do you know what supports your existence right now?” Then she points out that “your neck and shoulders support your head, the bones and muscles of your chest support your breathing. Your chair supports your body. The floor supports your chair. The earth supports the building you live in. Various stars and planets hold the earth in its orbit. Outside your window a man walks down the street with his dog. Can you be sure he isn’t playing a part in your support. He may work every day in a cubicle, filing papers for the power company that makes your lights come on.

Among the people you see on the street, and the countless hands and eyes working behind the scenes, can you be sure that there is anyone who isn’t supporting your existence? The same question applies to the generations of ancestors you preceded you and to the various plants and animals that had something to do with your breakfast. How many unlikely coincidences allow you to be here!”

Our existence is miraculous. Problems arise when we forget how amazing our existence is, and all we can think of is what’s wrong. Byron Katie refers to this as “the thought that kicks you out of heaven.”

I invite you to take a few moments to consider these questions:
What is supporting you right now? In the midst of whatever challenges you’re facing, what is working?
What did someone do today to contribute to your life?
What did you do today to contribute to someone else’s life?
What happened in the past that has helped you in the present?
What did someone do for someone else that touches you deeply?

The world is not a burden. We make it a burden by our desires. When the desires are removed, the world is as light as a feather on an elephant’s back.

contributed by Sharada
all text in italics by Baba Hari Dass


Sharada-headshot

Sharada Filkow, a student of classical ashtanga yoga since the early 70s, is one of the founding members of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, where she has lived for many years, serving as a karma yogi, teacher and mentor.

Turning Inward

Babaji photos

Each season (of nature, of life) brings its own beauty. Later this month marks the official beginning of winter, although we’ve been moving toward winter for several weeks. In this part of the world, the days have become shorter and by late afternoon the darkness is setting in; this is an invitation to turn inward. Along with the rest of nature, we can take this time to slow down, to settle into ourselves and reconnect with the sacredness of life.

There are many ways to reconnect with the sacredness of life, and sharing celebrations is one way, but we also need quiet time to do our inner work. If we want inward time in this busy season, we have to choose it.

Whenever I go out the door or start any work, I never forget to remember God.

Winter is a naturally quiet time of year, a time when nature rests: plants are dormant, animals hibernate. We too need rest – not just physical rest (although that too), but resting our overly busy minds. Many of us are drawn inward by music, art or being in nature. Traditional spiritual practices focus on ritual, chanting and other practices, especially meditation.

The fifth limb of the 8-limbed system of classical Ashtanga Yoga is pratyahara, withdrawing the mind from its preoccupation with the outer world. This practice is the bridge between the outer world and the inner world, leading to meditation.

Pratyahara is practiced by repeatedly pulling the mind back from going outward.

There are many methods that support pratyahara, including mantra (repeating sacred sounds), nada (listening to inner sounds), japa (repetition of mantra or a name of God), puja (worship), tratak (gazing) and kirtan (chanting). These practices help still the mind, supporting us in reconnecting with the peace that already exists within us.

In the beginning when we practice pratyahara we have to avoid objects of pleasure in order to save ourselves from creating a desire to have them. This is called austerity (tapas). But when we master pratyahara, then we can live in desires without desire. We observe all social rules, but our mind is not attached to anything. Our balance becomes so perfect that we can function in the world without a thought of balancing.

Sometimes our lives seem so busy that we can’t imagine taking time to slow down and turn inward, but this shift doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Turning inward is an attitude of mind, a recognition that we need we need rest and peace in order to reconnect with the sacredness within and around us. Our inner well-being then radiates out to others. May we all find peace and balance in this season and throughout our lives.

Om shanti shanti shanti

contributed by Sharada

Tolerance, Compassion and Contentment

BabajiAbout forty years ago, I wrote a letter to Babaji complaining about someone in my life (my husband), and asked what I should do. In his response, he told me to practice tolerance, compassion and contentment. I sort of understood, but not fully.

I had some understanding about what tolerance and compassion were, but I didn’t understand contentment at all. I thought contentment came when you got what you wanted. I’ve since learned it doesn’t work that way. In fact I had a lot to learn about all three.

Tolerance is more than just putting up with someone or something, although that’s a good beginning. On a deeper level, it means recognizing that your way of seeing something or someone is just that – your way of seeing, which is not the same as the truth. We are so identified with our body/minds – and our opinions – that it seems quite obvious to us that we’re right. The problem is that our version of reality is limited to and skewed by our own viewpoint. Tolerance means recognizing that others have the same experience from their point of view.

If we hold on tight to our view and the other person holds on tight to his view, both people become frustrated and angry, and nobody’s having a good time. Tolerance is lightening up and letting go of having to be right. If we can do that, there is a greater possibility that understanding can be reached and hearts can be restored to ease.

To find fault with others becomes a habit. But if we are capable of finding our own faults in everyday activities, we can really progress. In fact, what we see in others are our own weaknesses and faults. Everyone becomes everyone else’s mirror but we don’t want to accept our own faults, so we do not use these mirrors to improve ourselves.

By letting go of our habitual judgements, compassion can arise. Then we are able to recognize that suffering is occurring – in ourselves, in the other – and we can let go of blame. We can hold our hearts – our own and the other person’s – with care, with softness.

Compassion evolves to love for all beings, including ourselves. Instead of focusing on the dramas of our lives, particularly all the things we don’t like, and blaming others for our own unhappiness, we could let go and lighten up. We have to pay attention to our habit of closing down, and remember to choose a different way of seeing and responding.

Ammachi says “The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion – it is God’s favourite place.”

Contentment is recognizing that things happen as they happen, and that events don’t have to destroy our equilibrium. Unlike my earlier idea that contentment would come If I got what I wanted, contentment is unrelated to what’s happening ‘out there’. It is an internal experience of ease and peace when we can stop arguing with how things are and and find peace in this moment, whatever the moment holds.

It doesn’t mean shrugging your shoulders and saying, “There’s nothing I can do so I’ll surrender to my miserable life.” It doesn’t mean you don’t take action, but it means accepting that this moment, this situation, is the reality of the moment. Responding from a neutral (that is, nonreactive) place, more possibilities open up.

Nonacceptance of life causes resistance and pain. Why do that? Why cause pain for ourselves? It’s a habit that can change if we remember our aim. Do we want to be right or do we want to be happy? Do we want to live in pain and misery or do we want to live in peace?

If we accept life in the world, it creates contentment and all conflicts fall away.

The mind can switch in a moment from contentment to negativity. What makes us forget to remember divine presence? Distraction and desire will always come, but the aim should not be overtaken.

Yoga gives people the strength to stand on their own feet. It develops positive qualities such as contentment, compassion, tolerance and acceptance every day.

Cultivate a sympathetic heart, humility in dealings and selflessness in actions. If these are practiced with earnestness and sincerity, then you will win the race of life.

We will continue our habitual patterns until we realize that they’re not bringing us the happiness we long for. When difficult things happen, when relationships are challenging, how we respond can change our world. The teachings of tolerance, compassion and contentment show us a way to peace.

May we be filled with loving kindness,
May we be well,
May we be peaceful and at ease,
May we be happy.

OM

contributed by Sharada
all text in italics is from Babaji’s teachings

Don’t Give Up

babaji-febnewsLife is not always easy, and we regularly fail in our attempts to live with compassion and stay true to our convictions. Each time we fall, we can pick ourselves up and move forward.

Babaji says, Failure is the foundation of success. We learn how to achieve success by failing in our efforts. The main thing is to not stop the effort. In the spiritual path what are our expectations? Probably we want to be on the top of Mount Everest with very little experience in climbing. But if we go on climbing we can achieve success.

The Dalai Lama says the same thing: Never give up. No matter what is going on around you, never give up.

This poem by Portia Nelson tells the story of our lives in a very simple and elegant way. It is an excellent metaphor for our struggles to overcome our habits – and a reminder to keep trying.

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…..I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place,
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…..it’s a habit.
My eyes are open,
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

From Babaji: You start from where you are. Live a disciplined life, which will eliminate the burning desires for sense objects. Try to keep the mind equipoised in the pairs of opposites, and perform actions without egocentric desires.

The world always pulls us to attachment, desires, lust, greed, etc. This is the natural flow of the mind in the world. It’s like a river that naturally flows down the slope of the land. But the aim of life is to get back to the source. So it means we have to climb up.

Don’t give up.

contributed by Sharada

all text in italics is from Babaji’s writings

Living in Community

Baba Hari Dass

Baba Hari Dass

As mentioned in this month’s Centre update, the subject of community is in the air. In the many years since Dharma Sara Satsang Society began forming as a community, we have learned a lot about what makes a community work and what doesn’t – often the hard way – and we continue learning. As the elders grow older and ponder questions of succession, we welcome continuing dialogue.

Those of us who’ve been around for many years – and who “grew up” with Babaji, having been in our twenties and thirties in those early years – had a different experience from those who have arrived since, yet the foundation is the same. Recent arrivals still hold the aim of karma yoga, selfless service. The goal for the elders is to keep the foundation strong while listening with open hearts and embracing the ideals and ideas others bring. Babaji’s oft-quoted teaching -Work honestly, meditate every day, meet people without fear and play – continues to guide us.

Here are a few things Babaji has said about community:

Human beings are tribal by nature. They know for their survival they have to be supported by each other. So, like-minded people get together and make their own tribe. The tribe creates rules and a community is formed.

In the community, the main rules are to establish a sense of family, partnership, support and selfless service. A sense of family is established by working, playing and eating together.

Each member of the community is supported by the community physically, psychologically and emotionally. Everyone works for the good of the community, and the community works for the good of everyone.

In this way, everyone shares an active, industrious and virtuous life, and lives a well-disciplined life, which brings every member of the community together with a spirit of love and cooperation.

Disciplined life, love, unity and cooperation bring success and remove all morbid feelings within an individual, as well as in the community.

This is all true, yet it’s not easy. It involves a process of wearing away all our prickly edges – our ideas about how things should be, from our particular viewpoint. The ideal of working together with a common aim helps keep the fabric of the community together, but the day-to-day practice of how we do that – how we make decisions, how we relate to each other, how we respond to difficult situations – is hard work, requiring self-awareness.

When we have difficulties with another person or situation, there is an opportunity to see where we’re stuck – but, as we all know, it’s so much easier for us to blame others – or ourselves. To live and work together, we have to open our hearts and our minds and become curious about what lies beneath our own opinions and those of others. It turns out the line “meet people without fear” is a big teaching for all of us.

In his book “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”Jack Kornfield says, “If we go to spiritual community in search of perfect peace, we will inevitably meet failure. But if we understand community as a place to mature our practice of steadiness, patience and compassion, to become conscious together with others, then we have the fertile soil of awakening. One Korean Zen master told students that their communal practice was like putting potatoes in a pot and spinning them around together long enough to rub off all the peels.”

Communities come in many forms and sizes, but the same principles apply. To live a productive and nourishing life, we have to work together. We need each other; we learn from each other.

Selfless service is the best way to attain mental peace. Do your duty in the world and surrender to God – that’s all. Simply living in a community with an attitude of selfless service can, by itself, bring peace.

contributed by Sharada

It’s not what’s happening, it’s how you respond

Babaji

Babaji

Babaji has written, “Accepting the present is happiness.” Although we may understand this on some level, some of the time, very often we want things to be different from how they are right now. If it’s unpleasant, we want it to stop or go away; if it’s pleasant, we want more of it or we hold on tight for fear of losing it.

Recently I came across a wonderful story shared by Tara Brach, an American Buddhist teacher and author of the book, “Radical Acceptance”, that illustrates beautifully how we create difficulties for ourselves by not accepting situations as they are.

This story took place a number of decades ago when the English had colonized India and decided to build a golf course in Calcutta. Apart from the fact that the English didn’t belong in India to begin with, the golf course was not a particularly good idea. The biggest challenge was that the area was populated by monkeys.

monkeys-playingThe monkeys, it turns out, liked playing golf, too – except their way of playing was to go onto the golf course, pick up the balls that the golfers had hit and toss them around in all directions. Of course, the golfers didn’t like this at all, so they tried to control the monkeys. First they built high fences around the golf course – and they went to a lot of trouble to do this! Now, monkeys climb…so of course that solution didn’t work at all.

The next thing they tried was to lure the monkeys away from the course – maybe by waving bananas or something – but for every monkey that would go for the bananas, many others would come onto the golf course to join in the fun. In desperation they tried trapping and relocating the monkeys, but that didn’t work either. The monkeys just had too many relatives that liked to play golf!

Finally, they established a novel rule for this particular golf course: The golfers in Calcutta had to play the ball wherever the monkey dropped it. Those golfers were onto something!

Tara Brach goes on to say: We all want life to be a certain way. We want the conditions to be just so, and life doesn’t always cooperate. Maybe it does for a while, which makes us want to hold on tight to how things are, but then things change. So sometimes it’s like the monkeys are dropping the balls where we don’t want them.

We have our habitual ways of dealing with these kinds of situations – blaming others, blaming ourselves. We may become aggressive, or see ourselves as victims and then resign. Or sometimes we soothe ourselves with extra food or drink. But clearly, none of those reactions is helpful.

If we are to find any peace, if we are to find freedom, we need to learn to pause and say, “Okay, this is where the monkeys dropped the ball. I’ll play it from here as well as I’m able.” Whatever the situation, whether in a relationship with another person, a work situation or any one of the many things that come up in our day-to-day lives, what would it mean to play the ball from here?

It doesn’t matter what is happening. What matters is how we respond. How we respond is what determines our happiness and peace of mind.

From Babaji:

Your mind is the creator of everything. You create heaven and you create hell. Both are in the mind.

You are in bondage by your own consciousness and you can be free by your own consciousness. It’s only a matter of turning the angle of the mind.

The world is not a burden; we make it a burden by our desires. When the desires are removed, the world is as light as a feather on an elephant’s back.

Contributed by Sharada

Regular Sadhana (Spiritual Practice)

Baba Hari Dass

Baba Hari Dass

Over the course of many years Babaji has often responded to students’ anxious questions with the recommendation to do regular sadhana, later shortened on his chalkboard to RS.

Sadhana, or spiritual practice, comes in many forms. Many people have a committed asana practice, and that is one expression of sadhana, as is the practice of karma yoga or developing positive qualities.

Generally, when Babaji uses the term ‘regular sadhana’, he is referring to the daily time that one sets aside for a meditation practice, a time each morning that is designated to withdrawing the mind from its preoccupation with the outer world, holding the intention of being still within .

Most of us, when we sit, are not actually practicing meditation. What happens when we first begin to sit is that we notice we are not sitting in stillness; rather we are quieting down enough to notice how out of control our minds are. Our thoughts wander all over the place, bouncing from one subject to another – very disconcerting.

All the limbs of classical Ashtanga Yoga serve as supports in becoming able to sit and still the mind. A daily practice of asana along with mindful breathing can develop flexibility in the body and concentration in the mind. Pranayama (breath control) helps steady the mind, which in turn supports pratyahara, the withdrawing of the mind from its preoccupation with the senses. This leads to the ability to practice dharana (concentration), leading to dhyana (meditation) and eventually samadhi (merging with the Self or source).

For a regular meditation (or at least sitting) practice, it is more useful to sit for a set period of time every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes to begin with, than to sit for an hour one day and none for the next several days. Sitting regularly develops the habit of sitting regularly. The commitment and discipline alone create changes that we may not be aware of, and over time we may begin to notice that we’re calmer, more tolerant, less reactive – maybe not every day, but increasingly over time. In “Silence Speaks” Babaji says, Regular sadhana works inside the body and mind very slowly. One should not be disheartened by apparent lack of progress in sadhana. There is always progress but we can’t feel it, just as when an airplane is high in the sky and going very fast we can’t feel its speed. The progress is felt at takeoff and landing.

From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, book 1, sutra 14: Persistent practice becomes firmly grounded when it has been practiced for a long, uninterrupted time with earnest devotion.

There is no definition of “long, uninterrupted time”; all we can do is commit to a practice and then do it regularly. As Babaji says in Everyday Peace: Keep the lamp lit, walk on step by step. You can’t go astray, but will merge in the light.


contributed by Sharada

Inspiration and Gratitude

Babaji at 90

Babaji at 90

Having just returned from Mount Madonna Center – the Salt Spring Centre’s big sister centre – to celebrate Babaji’s 90th birthday and to connect with many, many brothers and sisters in our satsang family, I am struck by the precious gift of having met a master yogi and been taught, inspired and supported by Baba Hari Dass.

I know that not all readers of this newsletter have met Babaji, and may not understand the idea of devotion to a guru. When asked about it, Babaji wrote:

The aim of life is to live in peace. A guru or spiritual teacher teaches how to attain that peace. The teacher and student relationship is based on faith and trust. A guru who is not trusted by the student is not his or her guru in reality. A guru doesn’t teach much except how to live in the world with truthfulness, with nonviolence, and with selfless service to others. The guru either presents these teachings in words of through the way they live their life.

A teacher is not much of a guide except to show the right path for attaining peace, and to point out that another path goes in the wrong direction. In both cases you have to walk by yourself. The teacher’s duty is finished after simply pointing out the right path.

Babaji has been a guide to many of us, and his teachings continue to guide the unfolding of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga and all the other projects inspired by him. Many people did a lot of work, but the light that has guided us is grace.

At the retreat there were presentations every day – complete with slide shows and songs – about the many projects that have evolved since the 1970s:

  • Mount Madonna Center and the Hanuman Fellowship
  • Pacific Cultural Center (the town center in Santa Cruz, usually referred to as PCC)
  • Mount Madonna School, with a slide show of the Ramayana productions from the early years to the present
  • Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple at MMC, to which hundreds of visitors come every week
  • Sri Ram Ashram in India (sometimes referred to as an orphanage, although it is actually a home and a family), founded upon Babaji’s dream of providing a home for orphaned and destitute children. This presentation was also a tribute to Ma Renu, who initially sponsored Babaji to come to North America, and worked diligently to support Sri Ram Ashram.
  • the Ashtanga Yoga Fellowship in Toronto
  • Dharma Sara Satsang Society and the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga.

When the retreat began, people began pouring in from all over Canada and the US, everyone instantly feeling a sense of connection. We are all one family; no matter where we are on the path, we all hold the aim of living in peace. We spent the days in Babaji’s presence, swimming in a sea of gratitude and love.

Babaji’s role has shifted with age, but he still serves as a shining example by being present and accepting whatever happens, with grace. He may not remember people’s names, but he still connects with everyone, radiating love and compassion. He remains playful and twinkly, especially with children. At this retreat even some of the adults received candy!

Our job is to continue to show up, and stand up every time we fall.

Work honestly,
Meditate every day,
Meet people without fear
And play.

Keep the lamp lit, walk on step by step. You can’t go astray but will merge in the light.

contributed by Sharada

Developing Positive Qualities

babaji-1999Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

We may understand this as an intellectual concept, but it’s not how we usually live our lives. We have some very strong preferences (in itself not a problem), but when we react when something doesn’t go as we want – with frustration, irritation, anxiety or any of the many variants of anger or fear – we create suffering for ourselves, and often for others. Babaji has told us that if we develop positive qualities life will flow more smoothly.

Reducing negative qualities and developing positive qualities are not two different things.

The flow of energy in the body is blocked when the mind indulges in anger, hatred and selfishness. Keep your mind pure and you will see how easily the energy moves.

Living in the world of dualism – good/bad, right/wrong – we create problems for ourselves. Life isn’t going to hand us exactly what we want all the time.

Life is full of tides, like an ocean…everyone’s boat goes up and down.

No one can be happy all the time. Sometimes we get sad and depressed, and at that time our sadness projects onto the people around us, which creates problems or dissatisfaction. I have not seen any householders who can say that they have no problems. I can’t say that householders can eliminate all problems, but they can reduce the emotional strain by understanding the real situation.

The instruction is to understand the real situation. How to do that? Watch the habits of your mind. Is what you think true or is it a projection? When someone says or does something that brings up a reaction in you, pay attention. The reaction is a habit; not everyone responds to that stimulus the same way. Why is it that you react the way you do? Pay attention to the feelings that arise because they’re pointing you to the source of your suffering. The feelings themselves are just a momentary thing – feelings change all the time, like the weather – but what is underneath? How would you like the situation to unfold? Perhaps you long to be listened to, to be heard. Perhaps what you’d like is to connect with honesty and respect with the other person. Perhaps you’d like to be able to be fully present with the other person without judgment or fear. The bottom line may be a deep longing for peace.

If we are not aware of ourselves, we cannot progress.

Progress depends upon your honesty.

Much as we’d like it to be otherwise, we have no control over how other people act. If we have control over anything, it’s our own responses. That’s the work.

It takes courage to begin inquiring into the workings of our minds and investigating our habitual responses; it seems easier to look outward and blame others (or ourselves), but that doesn’t support our self-development; nor does it work. We have to accept responsibility for our part in any situation.

The mind always goes through different stages, sometimes negative and sometimes positive. When the mind dwells in the negative, we have to discover the cause. There is always some self-interest that creates negativity. Discontentment begins when we don’t get what we want.

If a person wants to hike a mountain and starts thinking about how weak they are, how bad their diet is or how impure their mind is, then that person can’t go very far. You have to be positive, enthusiastic, courageous and firm in your aim.

Someone asked Babaji how to be simple, how to look inside, to crack through fear. Babaji replied: These things can’t be taught. They are developed by reducing ego, attachment and anger. One can’t develop positive qualities without making a discipline in life. First one should develop an aim, which is the attainment of peace. One should move regularly toward that aim.

Contentment, compassion and tolerance are the three pillars that support the palace of peace.

Instead of focusing on all the things that aren’t going well, you can shift the angle of your mind. It’s hard work but not impossible; minds are trainable. That’s why we practice.

Cultivate a sympathetic heart,
humility in dealings,
and selflessness in action.
If these are practiced
with earnestness and sincerity,
then you will win the race of life.


Contributed by Sharada. All quotes in italics are from various writings by Baba Hari Dass.

Staying centred in the midst of life’s turmoil

babaji-1999We are all familiar with stress in its many manifestations. Why do we get so caught in the drama of life and in our habitual reactions? Sometimes life seems to flow along smoothly and we are calm, open, loving. Then something happens – and boom – we’re right back into our old patterns, even though we may have thought we had evolved, and were ‘done with that one.’

Babaji has written: We live in the imagination of others. When we see a person, we don’t see the reality of that person – we see only our projected desires, which is our imagination. In this way, as long as we have not yet realized the truth, we all live in the imagination of each other.

In our everyday life we identify things as good or bad. If something doesn’t support our ego, the mind labels it as bad, and if it does support our ego the mind says it is good. Our ego, according to its likes and dislikes colours every object, thought or idea and gives judgement accordingly.

This is a very simple teaching, yet we’re often not aware that that our response to something is our view and not the truth. In fact it usually seems perfectly obvious to us that our version of reality is true. What can we do? Babaji suggests that we live life in the world as a duty. Duty is one of those words, along with discipline, that is easy to misunderstand because of our associations with it. It is not a heavy-handed dictum; rather, it is a shift from our usual self-centred view of life – changing the angle of the mind – to an open-minded curiosity about what’s best for the whole rather than just for ourselves. Instead of assuming that our opinions are right, we can inquire: Is that really true? I once saw a wonderful bumper sticker that said: You don’t have to believe your thoughts.

Babaji reminds us that developing positive qualities is the foundation. Tolerance, compassion and contentment are the three pillars of spirituality. God can’t be seen in a form sitting in heaven but can be experienced by loving every person. Although the habit of blaming others is common, many of us turn the blame against ourselves. “Loving everyone” includes ourselves.

How do we develop these qualities.? By learning to notice when we are moving into reactive mode, taking time to centre ourselves, acknowledging that this is challenging for us, and by listening. It takes a lot of practice to be able to have that kind of awareness in heated moments, but we have many opportunities throughout the day to stop and check in with ourselves: Is there tension in my body? Why might that be? It’s really a practice of Svadhyaya, self-study. Swadhyaya is also scriptural study, which reminds us of our aim, of how we want to live.

Watching the ego becomes a habit; you have to become as alert as a thief. If we want to be free of suffering, we need to stay true to our aim. We can be serious about our practice, but we needn’t be somber and serious in our lives. As Babaji has told us repeatedly, life is not a burden; we make it a burden.

Don’t think you are carrying the whole world.
Make it easy.
Make it play.
Make it a prayer.

Contributed by Sharada. All quotes in italics are from various writings by Baba Hari Dass.