So the topic is willingness and what I want to say about that is just from my point of view, from my own self, so I’ll speak to me now.
Lack of willingness comes from pessimistic, negative thought – “I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to work so hard. I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to take responsibility for this or that. I’ve already done enough. I just want to lie on the couch. I just want to watch TV. I just want to veg out on the computer, on Instagram or something like that”.
There’s a story – this will keep me on track – there’s a story that my teacher used to tell about another teacher who was a guru in India. I think it was Shivananda, who was a great master in India, a yoga teacher of great realization. If I remember the story correctly, he had a Western student, but it was a student from some other land that couldn’t stay with him and that was there for training and learning about meditation and in the Ashram with the teacher. And at that time, they were getting up at something like 4AM to do their meditation and their spiritual practices and it was very structured and you know when the guru is there, you get up and there’s no “I just want to sleep”. You don’t have those issues, for lots of reasons, some of them obvious and some of them more subtle.
This individual, it was time for them to leave and continue their practice on their own and I think they said to the teacher : “How am I going to do this on my own? “ and he said “Don’t worry, I’ll help you.” And they didn’t know what that meant.
And for those of us, if you know the story I’m probably butchering it, but I’m going to get the idea across.
So let’s say they fly back to wherever they lived – Europe or America. And they’re on their own and it’s early morning. I think that they were working with their practice, they were getting up, they were motivated and then they started to lose a little momentum. And one day this individual was lying in bed and they heard something. When they were back in India with the teacher, the teacher used to walk with wooden sandals and the wooden sandals made their sound clip clop clip clop. They heard a sound and they could swear it took them right back to India so they thought it was that sound. So they went to the door and there was nobody there. Because they thought it was their teacher and so she was awake and then she was able to do her practice. And so she thought: “How did he do that? Was it real, was it not real?” I don’t know. This went on for days, every morning she would hear those sandals and she would get up and do her meditation.
But you know how there’s so much magic in this world and we just get stale to it. And so one day she heard those sandals and she just thought “I’m just too tired, I’m going to sleep”. And they never came back. And this isn’t because the guru was punishing her. It’s just because she didn’t do her part. You know what I mean? It’s like it’s a dance.
Yoga means union, the bringing together of body, mind and spirit. What is spirit? Who knows? I’m not going to try to define it. But we have yoga postures, we have yoga meditation techniques, we have all this philosophy and the deeper you go into those teachings and the more you read the words of these great teachers and masters, it gets pretty bizarre. They say some pretty crazy stuff and it’s not just in yoga. It could be in Buddhism or even Christian mystics. They start having experiences that just don’t seem so normal in every day and they’re hard to accept.
One of the things that many great saints, so people that have a lot of awareness and are very mature souls, have talked about in different ways and referred to is how the world responds to us. The world is a mirror, the energy that you put out returns. But it’s more than that. They’ll talk about how or other people will say how in that individual’s presence it seemed like the flowers were more alive or the sun came out or they were able to meditate more deeply or the music was more beautiful or the birds came and the deer came out of the forest and sat with St Francis. It’s like the world is responding to our consciousness, at least to these great souls and then there’s everybody else, like us.
Imagine having a daily ten minute meditation practice and then being able to not compartmentalize your meditation. It’s a really dangerous thing to do. You sit for some kind of meditation or you do something that inspires you and gets you really quiet spiritually and opens your heart, brings you to a sweet, maybe more vulnerable, more childlike awareness. That is a good place to be, a healthy place to be.
And imagine that the very next thing you do , let’s say you’re just walking down a city street or a suburban street like where most of us live and there’s little gardens and everything. Right now there’s all these flowers all over the place right because of the rain in the weather that we’ve had. Those flowers are like that guru. When the student was responsive to the teacher helping her wake up, he kept coming. But when she said “No, I just got to sleep, I just got to have a day of sleep. I got to be realistic. I got to be practical”, he stopped.
What if that’s how it is with every flower, that if we would just stop and engage with that thing, maybe it’s a sunset or a cloud or it’s another person, maybe it’s at Starbucks and you’re both waiting for coffee. It doesn’t matter where it is. But it’s a flower. And you just take a moment to appreciate it, just recognize it, recognize it for its simple beauty, its inspiration. It might be a person, there might be something someone said, it might be something you hear on the radio, but recognize it and appreciate it. You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to wave a big sign. But in some way, if we move through life with this sense of awe and wonder, like Einstein, we will perceive things in a way that other people just can’t.
And it’s not that they can’t, it’s that they don’t know that they can, that we’ve all forgotten and so for me, what meditation is – it’s a process of opening my heart, quieting down, getting out of my head and remembering how sweet life really is.
And then it’s a reminder of how to move through life and continue listening as sensitively as you can. Listen to your circumstances and listen to the things there, but when you’re meditating you hear people outside, you hear the fire trucks going (they didn’t happen tonight, but they usually do) and hear all the stuff and decide “No, I’m going to focus on my breath” and so you get up and you hear everything and you say “Wait. No, I want to meditate “. Remember what I said when you’re meditating and thoughts come into the mind, you don’t want to reject them but you don’t necessarily have to embrace them either. So you hear really negative news or you hear something really bad. OK, it’s real.
But we all know in this room, I hope or I believe that we probably do, that even through the hardest challenges that we faced came blessings and something to give us strength or at least the ability to feel compassion for others who have crossed through the same challenges. So when other people are facing challenges and it’s not always something bad happened to so and so, she’s such a poor victim or he’s such a poor guy, he didn’t deserve to be fired, it might be completely different, it might be some person acting like a perpetrator, like a criminal or wielding power in a way that doesn’t seem dharmic or right. That person is suffering too.
And so everybody at the end of the day can be a victim of their own ignorance because it is all going to come back. Everything that we put out is going to return and so even if it seems really bad or if it’s really distracting when we’re not meditating, we can choose to first of all, perceive it a little bit more objectively like the thoughts that come into the mind, you just let them kind of float like clouds, but also give them their due energy and respect. So if someone’s pointing a gun at you and says “Give me your money”, probably do it don’t say “No, I’m meditating right now. I’m visualizing you as a daisy” What my teacher said, Yogananda said it’s like a movie and it looks real and you interact with it and even if that means you have to be like a soldier in the military and fight in a war or a policeman or you’re a nurse or a doctor and you have to open someone’s chest to fix something inside, these are the realities that we face on the material plane. But you’ll be better at those things and you’ll be a better warrior and a better friend if you also maintain that inner life.
Create the space in your life that you need to have a healthy inner life, where you can just recognize the flowers, experience the sweetness and by doing so you’ll be allowing yourself to become more beautiful and more rich and more alive. But the other thing is that it’s not selfish. You’ll also be drawing that out in other people.
So this idea of recognizing beauty in the flowers, the trees, the sky, in other people, whatever inspires us, if we could just do that a little bit more, let’s say if this was a weekly group I would make that the homework – look for new ways to recognize beauty and to cherish it in your heart and remember it and appreciate it throughout your day.
And it sounds like a little thing but it’s actually not that easy to do all the time, but it’s a very important thing to do and I think that it will actually make your life better. But it will also make this world a place that we all can enjoy a little bit more. So be willing to be a little crazy, a little idealistic and to follow your heart.
So for me it’s the flower, it’s the sky, it’s the ocean, it’s people like you. But for you there might be other things, there might be a very different way of finding that inspiration and recognizing it and validating it. Looking for beauty, experiencing beauty in the way that inspires you and holding that experience in your heart, drawing beauty through all the channels that surround us every day in life is a really, really good thing to do, especially with our peers and with our families, with the people that look to us for support. Don’t criticize them. But see them as the beautiful, wonderful people that they are.
Recorded at Free Monday Night Guided Meditation and Lecture.