This is a book called Affirmations for Self-Healing. It’s written by Swami Kriyananda, who passed away a few years ago, my spiritual teacher.
I’m just going to read a little of what he says about self-control. “If a lake is made to feed into too many streams, it will soon become drained. Similarly if a person’s heart energies are fed into countless streamlets of desires, he becomes drained, eventually, of even the power to feel. Sated with pleasure, he grows dry, blasé and indifferent to even the greatest wonders. The sensualist imagines that by giving up his pleasures he would renounce happiness. But in fact, the more one restrains his senses and learns to live in the peace of the inner Self, the more he finds himself glowing with happiness, good health, and a radiant sense of freedom and well-being.”
In our world what I just read isn’t always the way we look at things. What I would say about that is that you can look at what happens in a little micro aspect of life and it probably would teach us something about a bigger view or a bigger chunk or a bigger part of our lives. If you go to a party and get all crazy and use up your energy and you know it’s very sensual and it’s very loud and it’s very stimulating, the next day you’re wiped out. And if you live your life like that (I know from personal experience) then the hangover part is in the later years of your life. It’s like there’s just no energy left because it’s all been spewed out everywhere.
We think that freedom is something you know we’ve been taught sometimes that through our culture and media and everything and general belief systems is that freedom is the freedom to be able to do anything and it is in a way, but what we do and the way we do it often has a price. And so yes, we’re free to do what we want to do with our energy and our consciousness, but when people get to the point where they’re possibly, I didn’t ask you tonight, but possibly interested in meditation for health benefits, for peace of mind, to be more happy and less depressed, to be able to concentrate, to be able to get more done, be more effective, be more powerful, more successful in this world, it goes directly with the ability to practice self-control.
What we’re seeking through meditation is also attained through self-control. Meditation isn’t just lying down and dreaming about whatever you want to dream. Meditation is about putting the mind on something and learning to concentrate and hold it there, to get the thinking mind out of the way and the reason it’s so important in our tradition to watch something without controlling it, it’s so in time we can experience the distance between the thinking mind and our actual perceptions. So our awareness, our consciousness is not defined by our thoughts, it’s not defined by our desires and so there’s another way to do desires and sense pleasures and all that kind of stuff, experiencing something that is sensual whether it’s sex or chocolate, a cigarette, loud music or just like some real emotional kind of a thing. It’s just sensual stuff, it’s all cool, it’s all great, we’re human beings.
But with a daily meditation practice where you’re focusing on something like the breath and it takes time for most of us, but to be able to step back and really, really be able to watch the breath without controlling it, what will happen if you’re able to hold the mind still, is that breathing becomes calmer and calmer and calmer, because you’re not moving, you’re not thinking, not thinking much and so there’s no need to breathe, you’re not burning oxygen with your processes. And so as the breathing becomes calmer and you’re releasing control of it, you see that it all works just fine and without even thinking about it mentally you get up from that, especially after doing it for a long time, and you see what’s happening in the world, in the news, in the traffic, in the environment, in your own family, whatever it might be or at the job. And it’s like the breath – you can be totally aware, totally engaged, and functional.
But you’re not controlled by it, you’re not attached to a specific outcome and because of that you have more energy to understand what’s happening to know what needs to be done and then to carry it out. Even if it’s protesting, even if it’s going to war because there’s a righteous thing that you believe needs to be done. Okay. But you can do it without hating. You can do it without anger. You can do it without resentment and without fear and you can live in freedom.
I don’t mean that meditating for ten minutes is going to give you moksha or liberation or pure freedom. But freedom is directional and so is self-control and so is meditation. And so you can flex your muscles of free will and choice and decide “Well, that’s great that I love ice cream and it’s great that I love loud music and it’s really cool having all these other sense pleasures that are that are stimulating to everything that’s happening in my body”. But if at one point in my life it did start to feel like can’t there be more than what I taste, what I touch, what I hear, what I feel? Can’t there be more?
And someday maybe, I don’t know, maybe we’ll be in a wheelchair or something, maybe you’ll be bedridden, maybe you’ll have cancer. But if you’ve developed an inner life where you’re able to experience your own reality inside, your own consciousness, there’s a whole world in there that’s better and more fulfilling than anything that we can get outside and anything that we can do. I’m not saying to renounce our worldly responsibilities, all I’m saying is that you may find that you’re able to do your responsibilities better, that you’ll be stronger when your true friends really need you and that you’ll be more successful at anything you carry out if you don’t have resentment, you don’t have attachment and you don’t do it emotionally, but you do it because in your heart you know it’s right and you know it’s what you’re meant to do because when you go and quiet down in meditation you can feel it. You can feel your dharma, you’ll know what you’re here to do and I don’t know what that is, but whatever it is, it’s great, it’s cool and it’s fun.
Recorded at Free Monday Night Guided Meditation and Lecture.