Enthusiasm (18 min)

The thing about enthusiasm is that it’s fun or it’s “funner”, but it’s magnetic. I think probably everybody here has either been themselves or already is, or knows people who are and have experienced people who are very enthusiastic about something that they do. So when when we’re around people who are enthusiastic about what they do and they’re really charged up about it and are really having fun with it, then we want to do it with them. There’s a tendency, for example if you go snowboarding or something you’ve never done before – you want to be with a teacher or instructor or in a class where people are charged up and they want to do this thing and then it’s easier to learn. It’s the same way with anything.

I’ll tell you a story. So I’m just going to go right into the “woo woo”. Swami Kriyananda (he’s passed away now a few years ago) used to tell this story about a friend of his who was a long time meditator, long time Yogi, but was also some kind of a free climber in Europe. He was in the Swiss Alps and he was doing a solo ascent on a mountain that was really challenging and he had never done it before and no one else had done this particular route. And this is something that he would normally do, something that he was good at. So he was doing this solo ascent and he got to a ledge and it was very difficult to get to the ledge and then he could never get off the ledge to get up any farther because the the mountain was like a ceiling, in a way that it’s hard to climb. Every time he tried to do it, with all the skill that he had and experience, he would fall back on that ledge and it was so difficult to the get to the ledge where he was that he was trapped on, there was no way out. He knew he couldn’t climb back down that way, so he was really stuck. This happens to be a guy who like I said, he was a long time meditator and so he had a very strong mind and he was very clear about how he was going to make his choices in life and everything and he tried this over twenty times and every time he fell back on that ledge and he was getting beat up from falling. And he sat there and thought about it and I’m sure he wasn’t happy and it was getting cold. And he thought, “Well, I have a choice – I can die on this ledge, just freeze here tonight or I can keep climbing and just keep trying even if it seems absolutely impossible. I’m going to keep climbing this wall.” And he really didn’t think there was a way, he didn’t see any way to change what he was doing, but he tried harder and harder and kept going and kept going. And there was always this one point where he couldn’t hook, he couldn’t get over the bump or whatever he needed to do. What he told Swami Kriyananda, because he lived through this, was that he kept going and kept going, he was getting all bruised up, he rested, he went back again and he got to that point and he said that before he made that reach, that he felt something like a human presence (he’s all alone up in the mountains and the sky), but he said he felt something like hands, right on his back, push him onto that wall, so that he knew he could make that little connection. And he used that and he climbed up the wall. This is the story he tells. And then he was able to come down the back on the other side and he lived through it.

What Swami said about that story is that (and this is a yoga thing) life responds to the energy that we put out. And it gets way more metaphysical than that, I don’t want to really go there but I’ll bet you people in this room have experienced something like that at some time in your life hopefully. Maybe you haven’t, I don’t think all of us have, but that even against impossible odds, if we do what we believe is right and we do it with all of our will and concentration, without what we call the “no saying” principle, without this voice in the back of the head, that’s cynical and saying “It’s never going to work, in can’t happen, this sucks, I hate it, life shouldn’t be this way, this is unfair, why is this happening to me”. Those are just poison to your success and whatever you want to do. But at that moment this guy was clear and so somehow, some people would say God and other people might say an angel, whatever, something held him on that wall. Maybe it was just the power of his own will, but whatever it was, it was able to get him to transcend the limitation that he was dealing with and get around it and so to me this is enthusiasm.

Maybe in much smaller ways in our lives, in the little battles that we face every day, think that “no matter what happens to me today, no matter how challenging it is, I want to face it with a sense of freedom in my heart and hope and I don’t want to be optimistic in a wishy-washy, dreamy way, because it might not work out the way I think it’s going to work out.” I’m not actually even concerned usually about the outcome and I would suggest not to be concerned with the outcome, because again, it’s a thing that we can’t control. But what you can control is that you can just do your best. And at the end of the day, no matter how the weather you’re sailing in changes, or you decide that you’re going to go for a certain career and then the economy changes, right? – don’t beat yourself up about it. How many people in this room have probably lived through that? But don’t beat yourself up about not being able to see it or life isn’t the way it was for my parents and all that kind of stuff. The world is changing really fast, but do your best and the cool thing is that even if you’re doing your best for yourself and it’s purely self motivated for your own success and for your own happiness, you’ll be inspiring others, because there’s something about it that when you’re into something and you find your way into it successfully, it opens a flow for other people to do that thing too. It’s just the way it is. It’s like when you’re watching sports and you see someone break a record in the hundred-yard sprint or you see someone do something in gymnastics that it’s never been done before and then in the next twenty four months, there’s three or four or five other athletes that have done it. It’s because we believe we can.

So now let’s put it on meditation. If when I ask you to follow your breath, you can do it with enthusiasm and you can experience each breath like it’s a gift, like it’s really special, what you’ll find is that it becomes special.
And that’s why, when people say to me, you meditate for an hour or two or something like that, people are wondering what are you doing in there, just sitting there, like that must drive you crazy. But the time can just go by so fast, because every breath is like a step on a stairway that’s taking you to a deeper experience of reality. And the weird thing about reality is that when you go deeper into it, it’s always good. It just is, it doesn’t mean that you won’t hit tough spots and it doesn’t mean that it’s always going to work out the way you want it to and it doesn’t mean that every meditation is going to be good. But if you go and you know that you did your best and even if your mind is just going crazy and racing around and making lists and doing everything wrong, like it happens in my meditations very often, it’s not so blissful, but I’m committed to the practice and I do it and I figure, well maybe today was just a practice in acceptance and that’s how it goes.

But the way to measure your progress with the meditation is by how you live your life, how happy you are, how fulfilled your life experiences are. The other thing, it’s different than enthusiasm but it’s supportive of it, the other thing about being able to release having attachments to outcomes that are specific and focusing more on our effort and the energy and intention that we put into what we do, is that it opens us to greater possibilities. And we might do much better than we would have ever imagined for ourselves in whatever we set out to do, because seemingly magical things (like that guy’s climbing experience) do happen. I’m not saying to depend on them, but I’m saying that by not putting out an idea of a specific outcome, a very specific goal and just working in the direction of what you believe is right for you to do and doing your very best, the way I’m suggesting gives you the ability to adjust your direction as you go and to live a little bit more intuitively and to make decisions based on what you feel inside.

If I’m meditating or trying to meditate and someone comes into my mind and I feel like I should call them – there’s one or two things that could be, at least for me. One of them would be that I’m attached to them having a certain outcome or I can’t accept their experience and I just need to deal with it and kind of suck it up and keep my mouth shut. But another one is, especially when you know that you’re not attached to a specific outcome, is that that’s guidance and it means get up and make the call. And I can’t tell you how many times in my life since I’ve been meditating, because I know I’m not attached, I’m going somewhere in my meditation and I’m focusing on God or something and then maybe I haven’t seen Bob for two years and all of a sudden I see that face with those glasses looking at me. I will call him as soon as I’m done meditating and he’ll say “Oh,my God I was just thinking about you.” I had that experience so many times. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened because I’ve had that feeling in meditation and I picked up the phone and called that person on the other side of the United States or something and they’re like literally crying and it was that moment that they just needed a friend or something.

And so what happens is that when you do that for years, you start to trust that feeling in your heart. And then it’s weird, then life isn’t nearly as stressful as it is for many people, because you know you’ll get the guidance when you really need it and if you don’t, then you’re not supposed to. And it’s just kind of how it is and everything does kind of work out for the best. I know there are lots of bad things happening in the news, and there people dying everywhere and I feel really bad for that, I don’t think it’s funny. I think about it every day. But if I become all negative about it, I actually become part of the problem. That’s what I’ve learned. So being hopeful, trying to live with an openness to try to feel what’s trying to happen in every moment and then also because if you start getting feedback that it works, it becomes very natural to be enthusiastic and to be positive about how life is. Things really do work out. I hope that’s helpful.

We’re going to meditate, but before we meditate are there any questions about what I said?

Q: I just wanted to comment that it happens to me all the time with my kids, where we think of each other and then one of us would call.
With the people that we love, that we’re really close to, I think we feel that it’s natural to have synchronicity. But what I’m saying is that this is yoga, and yoga means union, and you can build on that and it starts happening with people you don’t even know, or that you barely know and it’s almost like you’re expanding your sympathy and understanding toward others, even on an energetic level, that you’re able to tune into the realities and appreciate and work with the realities of others, sometimes even at a distance. But it might be more like at the cash register and you just know that you need to say hi to this person for some reason and so it’s like life is talking to us all the time, it’s inviting us to open our hearts and at the same time it’s clobbering us with every possible excuse to never open your heart, never trust anything.

Q: I have a tendency to focus on the outcome. Is there a specific tool we can use to let go of that?
You’re not the only one. Yoga is scientific, but it’s not a belief system. So I’m making a suggestion, but the last thing I want to do is say do what I say. I put it out there as a theory and then for each one of us, the last thing I ever want anybody to do is to do what I say. Unless I’m telling you how to meditate and breathe then do what I say. But with something like this, the best thing I think is to kind of feel it and take into consideration what you’ve heard, what you’ve read and everything you’ve lived and ask yourself if the way you’re doing it now is working. Is it working? because there will be times when you need to focus on a more relatively specific outcome and it’s the right thing to do. It’s not a black and white thing. There are times when you just need to do it.

So I’ll tell you one more story from Swami, I don’t know where he got it. Everyone talks about the law of attraction and they say if you want to attract something in your life visualize it, make a vision board. Probably a lot of people here have vision boards. I think vision boards are the devil, but it’s OK, it’s nothing personal. So with the vision board, you visualize what you want. So this guy wanted a better car, he wanted a big black Mercedes or something and he put it on his board and he visualized it in his driveway. And it appeared, but it didn’t come the way he thought it would. He lived a nice big house, he was happily married, he was successful in his job, but he didn’t like his car. And a year later he found out that his wife was having an affair, she left him, they got divorced, he lost the house because his wife got it with the kids. And his life just spiraled down. And one day he was all bummed out and he’s driving and he had to happen to be in the neighborhood and he drove by his old house. And there was the car, in the driveway, exactly as he pictured it and it probably belonged to her new husband.

Recorded at Free Monday Night Guided Meditation and Lecture.

Go to transcriptions of individual talks