Staying Sane in a Crazy World
We usually think the world is “out there”, and we’re in here (usually in our heads). The world out there does exist, but we don’t usually see it as it is because everything is filtered through our minds, and we inevitably add our own colouring to what we see.
“The world” and “yoga” face in two opposing directions: The world pulls us to more and more experience; yoga practice pulls us inward toward stillness and peace.
Evolution and involution are both expansion of the mind. One expands illusion and creates the world, and the other expands consciousness and reveals the truth.
We live in the world of experience, yet we want to live sanely and peacefully without being thrown off balance. You don’t need to give up your family, your job, your activities to to off in search for peace. You can find peace in your life as it is, doing what you do, but with awareness: Cultivate a daily practice, especially meditation, even if it’s for a short period of time every morning, and watch your thoughts. Take note of your reactions to the things that happen – and it’s inevitable that things will happen; some things you will enjoy, others not, but you can learn to lean into life without resistance.
We have many adjectives that we apply to our experience: we call the ‘good stuff’, the parts we like, fun, great, wonderful, awesome; the stuff we don’t like, what we think of as the ‘bad stuff’ we call awful, terrible, crazy, stupid, wrong. What makes something either ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Our minds. As Shakespeare wrote, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” We’re very good at looking for someone or something we can blame when we don’t like what’s happening.
Why is one critical of others? It is our own fear. We are defending ourselves by attacking others. Offensive defense. You hit before one tries to hit you.
Even if we understand that it’s our own thoughts that are creating our unhappiness, it doesn’t mean we respond by saying, “oh, it’s just my thoughts. I’ll stop thinking that thought” because the habit of blame is so strong. And yet, thinking the same kinds of thoughts over and over (the ultimate recycling) leads us to deepen the negative channel of thinking. The more we have a particular judgement – like ‘’that was so stupid!” the more likely it is that the same kind of thought will show up over and over again.
Your mind is the creator of everything. You create heaven and you create hell.
If you want to be in peace, then cut the tree of thoughts that is growing in your mind and don’t sow the seeds of new thoughts.
Living without dividing our experience into good and bad, right and wrong, frees up a lot of blocked energy.
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.
This is hard work that requires diligence and perseverance, and it’s easy to get discouraged. Don’t be hard on yourself! Changing your habits of thinking is the work of a lifetime; it’s a gradual process. Pay attention and catch yourself when you’re off-track, but be kind; criticizing yourself for lack of progress stops you in your tracks. When did you ever get better at anything because someone said you were bad at it?
Don’t give up. Living in peace and harmony in the midst of the world is possible. When you find yourself being pulled into your old patterns of negativity and reactivity, come back, again and again, to your longing for ease, for peace. Do your daily practice, catch your wandering mind, and live your best qualities. Walk on step by step. Wish you happy and success in sadhana.
Contributed by Sharada
All quotes in italics are from writings by Baba Hari Dass
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.