Not Fair

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A week or so ago I published a post regarding some frustration surrounding my relationship with someone I had considered my Best. Shortly thereafter, in fact the next day, we had a nice long chat. The result of that chat amounts to two realizations: The first is that I should maybe give more effort at recognizing and acknowledging what progress he does make, however much or little that might be. And the second isn’t so much a realization as a clarification between us. In our discussion, I feel I made it clear that I cannot continue to see him as I have because it’s essentially unfair to him.

That realization, and using that realization to govern my thoughts and actions going forward, have meant some real change on my part. Everyone knows it’s total shit from a bull’s ass when someone breaks up with you and they’re like, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But this experience has shown me that there sometimes can be truth to that. From the most genuine place inside myself, I sincerely feel that it’s unfair of my friendship with this human to have expectations that he simply isn’t likely ever to live up to. The reasons why he won’t pertain to his personal development and are all entirely on him and completely his own responsibility – plain and simple. But from my side of the fence it’s important to recognize the lunacy that I might be carrying: Turkeys are not capable of long distance flight. It’s terribly unfair to fault a turkey for being a turkey and being unable to fly like sparrows. The reality of what a turkey is has to be met and accepted, for at least as long as it takes the turkey to evolve into something capable of flying longer distances. Right?

In a rather unexpected turn of events, it would appear that this lesson has somehow also landed in the thoughts of my Beloved.

A little back story: Our neighbor lady has recently swapped her male companions and the new guy is a “composer.” By “composer,” I mean anything but what you’re thinking. He’s not a composer. From my own experience, the best he could be considered would be a “mixer” and I wouldn’t be surprised if he fancies himself a DJ or something. He’s a younger male (maybe early 20s), he’s fond of dragging one of their kitchen chairs out front and reclining on it in a way that just looks like slouching – all while wearing only her sunglasses and some camo cargo pants. It’s very clear that, in addition to a legit composer, he also sees himself as some kind of Armani model. Priceless, to say the least.

My Beloved and I have discussed this young wannabe a number of times in the recent weeks since he moved in. My Beloved is actually quite affected as his favorite place to hang out within our home happens to be probably the closest point between our property and the neighbors’ which means that my Beloved is subjected to the “composing process” more directly than I.

Last Friday, as we were deciding where to grab dinner he says, “Josh, we have to move.” We discussed what that would mean and require and then almost immediately reached out to a realtor friend of ours. I can tell you all about the difficulty in getting your home “staged” for showing while still living there – a process made even more difficult by a third adult who’s in the mix because he has nowhere else to go, yet who doesn’t seem to understand the urgency of trying to sell one’s home at the end of the prime home selling seasons.

I’m getting kinda wordy and side tracked here…. What I’ve been meaning to get at is that during our discussion, my Beloved actually said to me with his mouth something to the effect of, “I don’t think it’s fair to our neighbor that we can’t tolerate his work with music.” And the result of this view is that we’re now planning to sell and move as soon as we’re able.

The situation with the neighbor and the one with the person I’ve referenced before as my Best are obviously very different. However, I’m now entertaining questions in my mind about when it’s most appropriate to “lovingly step back” or to “lovingly disconnect” (as a Christian friend of mine is so fond of saying) for the sake of allowing others to be who they are for as long as they insist on not evolving and when it’s not appropriate. In the past, this wouldn’t be something I’d do. I’m confrontational and as directly honest as I’m able to be in any situation.

If how and where you’re walking ends up with my toes stepped on, do I let you know as much in no uncertain terms and expect you to become more aware of your own walking or do I simply move to stand in a different place?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Is breá liom tú

Earlier yesterday I noticed a Facebook notification that a friend’s birthday had arrived. Along with that notification I noticed it was my mother’s sister’s birthday as well. I clicked on the notification where it allowed me to wish my aunt a happy birthday and typed, “Happy Birthday! I love you!” before clicking on the same place in the friend’s notification to wish him a happy birthday, too.

Then something happened that I didn’t realize until hours later when that friend “liked” my birthday wish to him. I am still not sure if it’s because Facebook auto-populated my greeting to him or if it’s because I was still half asleep when doing both greetings, but my greeting to this friend ended up identical to that of my aunt’s, “Happy Birthday! I love you!”

Almost instantly I could feel my face flush with redness. How could I have made such a goof!?!? This friend isn’t even someone I am close to. I haven’t seen him in person in most of a decade and when I did last see him we weren’t really more than friendly coworkers. Had there been chance for more to develop it would have flopped with 110% certainty: He’s a smoker. He’s a recreational drug user. He’s not taken care of himself AT ALL. And he has some other health concerns I’ll not mention here exactly. In so many ways he is someone who could never be a spouse to me, or even much of a good friend really and he’s someone I NEVER see or hang out with… And yet there I was saying, “I love you!” to him. Ridiculous.

Ridiculous? Why? I spent about 10 minutes in intense debate with myself: How did I let that slip? Should I edit my post to his page to remove the last three words? Is he laughing at me? Would others see this and wonder?

I remember when, once upon a time, I listened to “regular” radio in my car instead of satellite radio and usually had it tuned to a specific local station where the main host is a guy named “Dave Smiley.” The Smiley Morning Show had no shortage of antics and many were amusing. I recall that whenever they took a call from listeners, which could be hilarious or quite serious, Dave would always close the call by saying, “Ok. Thanks for the call. I love you.” He didn’t do it as a joke or facetiously or anything. He didn’t make a big deal out of it, but just said it. A time or two I recall some of the cohosts expressing how they are uncomfortable saying that to just anyone. And I recall thinking how mean that they wouldn’t want everyone they encounter to feel loved by at least one person. And yet there I was practically embarrassed that I “accidentally” said it to someone AND was concerned what they and others might think.

How ridiculous! Saying, “I love you” a hundred times a day to perfect strangers doesn’t make it meaningless or cheapened. Your actions surrounding those words are what do that. And I’m increasingly convinced, in today’s world, that those who reserve this phrase for a guarded and select few are as exclusive as the most hateful Abrahamic extremists because that reservation is a form of personal withdrawal that only serves to create more division between a group called, “Those I Love” and another one called, “Those I Do Not Love.” Whenever people have thought they knew the mind of God so well as to discern which other people would fall into one group or the other, then we’ve seen the foulest hatred and murder. This is not to say that if you don’t “love” someone then you automatically “hate” them. But please think about what it actually means to have those two groups in your life.

I’d like to say that my face went red because subconsciously I was ashamed of having divided my world into those I love and those I do not. That would be giving myself far too much credit, though. My face went red not only because I do have those two groups within my personal existence, but also because I was shamefully ignorant of this and what it actually means or implies.

Dear reader, regardless of your personal background – whether, your guidance tells you to “love your neighbor as your self” or to experience the same Atman within every living thing, or whatever – do try to love all, and do not, like me, be caught embarrassed by it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Sting, Stang, Stung?

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Just about the meanest person I know is my best friend. He has his moments of kindness and thoughtfulness, but the mode he operates in the majority of the time is neither of those and his level of self-endearment and selfishness is second only to that of my (terrible, horrible, no good, very bad) birth mother.

It’s not very often that I allow my day to be ruined almost as soon as my feet touch the floor – but today that’s just about exactly what happened. I had an exam for school scheduled for mid-morning, and I awoke early enough to enjoy an enormous volume of coffee, piddle around online briefly AND review some of the test material before I would need to hit the shower and head out. This happened to coincide with his getting out of bed, dressing for work, and leaving for work. As he neared my home’s door to exit he let me know that he would actually be gone only a short while because he was going in for just one client and would then be returning home to then head back out to go to a wedding.

“A wedding?” I asked. “Whose wedding?” “Shawn’s,” he said. “You’re such an asshole” I responded. “What? Why?” “Because you just are” I finally said, shaking my head as I walked away from him. He muttered something like, “ok” and then left. For the next 30 minutes, at least, I was pretty upset. At this point you may be wondering why my best friend going to a wedding would be upsetting. Allow me to provide some background.

He and I have known each other since before we either could drive. In fact, LONG before we either could drive. At this point in our lives, I’m almost proud to say, we’ve known each other longer than we haven’t. For me that means a lot because in any human’s lifespan the number of people who fit that description is usually a very small number – which to me makes these folks real gems. And during this expansive period of human time he and I have seen and been through many dark and wondrous things. On more than one occasion I’ve bailed him out of nastiness that was his own creation. Currently, he’s paying (just about THE lowest) rent to stay in what used to be my home’s temple room – which I was glad to help him with, but which was no easy thing for me to allow.

“Yeah, yeah” you say. What’s that got to do with the price of eggs? Well, for starters I have this apparently ridiculous habit of expecting in return, that which I have given. It works like this: I give you respect, and in return you give the same to me. I give you dedication, and in return you give the same to me. That kinda thing, y’know? This ties directly back to my Best because I’ve been just about the only person in his life who has treated him as I do and helped him as I have. That’s not tooting my own horn, please understand. And on top of all that, I don’t actually – really – expect to receive back all that I have given because I know that he’s not capable.

Still, something in me (ego, perhaps?) thinks it should be natural for a grown person to extend to others the same courtesies they have been afforded. The wedding he planned to attend today was that of a hair client of his, who also works at the gym where my Best works. They’ve known each other well enough to be “friends” for maybe 18 months. And even if it’s twice that long, it still doesn’t compare with the nearly 20 years he and I have been close – in neither duration nor quality of relationship. So many times I’ve asked him to take a day off work to do something together. In virtually every single instance he’s refused flat-out and almost immediately – citing reasons like his boss is a Nazi and wont let him take time off, or there’s not enough time for him to submit the PTO request (even when this was more month in advance!). And yet, to take time off to attend someone’s wedding is no problem.

I’ve asked my Beloved about all of this. He happens to know my Best quite well. His response was that my Best is immature, self-centered, and immensely self-serving and that it should be no wonder that he behaves in the way that he does. I agree, and it makes me feel silly for kind of ignoring the truth about who my Best is. My Beloved has suggested that I tell the Best exactly how I feel about all of this – which is typical for me. But something about these things lately (there’s this and a few other things that have been building up) is keeping me from doing that. Instead, I’ve fond it more manageable to hold my tongue around him and even be a little cold. The Best has remarked once or twice this week that I’ve been “hateful” lately, but as far as I can guess I’m doing him a favor by holding my tongue. People don’t usually enjoy being told about themselves, and those who know me in person can probably attest that if there’s anyone who’ll tell people about themselves, it’s me.

Perhaps going forward I’ll be anyone’s Best, but will refuse having Bests myself until I can do so without certain hopes. I apologize that this post seems to be as much rant as anything, and I’m not entirely certain how much of it ties together well or if I’ve communicated the real point I meant to. At any rate, you can’t get blood from a turnip and I really need to stop trying.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Verdächtigung

So, what gives meaning to a symbol is the who behind the symbol, not the what behind the symbol. I would request all of you not to be fascinated by these explanations of symbols, because while Reality can be expressed in symbolic form, a symbol cannot lead you to Reality. Otherwise, everybody who worshipped the cross should have been liberated long ago. You know, the Hindu temple-goer is often criticized as an ignorant idol worshipper. I don’t see how a Christian is less of an idol worshipper. What are you worshipping? A cross? Is it not an idol?

So, when we put an idea into a material object, that becomes idolatry. Whereas if you remove the object or the essence from its material bondage, that is liberation. So for a soul, liberation is release from the travails of space and time. Please also remember that if you continue with this thinking, one cannot see God, because He is the creator of space and time, but one can experience God. Therefore we have the presence of God, but not the vision of God. Therefore be suspicious of anybody who tells you that he saw God. Be very suspicious! Also, be suspicious of qualities of God – “God is kind. God is benevolent. God is generous.” – because if He were these things, He would also be cruel, un-generous, and unkind. Because where one quality exists, its opposite must exist… Therefore, God cannot have qualities. Therefore God cannot even have a mind, because if He had a mind, He would be subject to good thoughts and bad thoughts.

Now, I think Christianity, somewhere along the way, you know, blundered into this mistake of not only putting God somewhere in heaven, creating a permanent duality between heaven, earth, and hell, but also of attributing qualities to the divine. We are also prisoners of those qualities. You have only to look at abhyasis who say, “Oh, sometimes Master is kind, sometimes he is cruel.”, forgetting this fact, that if you are kind you must be cruel too. No doctor can help you without giving you pain. Does such a doctor exist? I don’t think so.

So you see, when we symbolize life, and say that a pleasurable life is a good life, and a life of pain is a bad life, we are bound to make terrible mistakes. So you see, symbols can be misconstrued, wrongly created, and wrongly used. Symbols are only good for the wise people, like anything else. Money in the hands of a wise man is good. Power in the hands of a wise man is good.

The common people should avoid symbols even more than they should avoid money or power.

You see, we keep coming back to this idea of pain. It is inevitable… Liberation and pain are bound together, until we realize this fact, that pain is a sign of liberation. We are going to avoid pain , therefore we are going to avoid liberation. And the more we go towards pleasure, the more we are going into bondage and suffering.

So, pain is different from suffering. This is you must kindly remember, that there can be suffering without pain, and one can have a great deal of pain without suffering. It is unfortunate that the two have come to be mixed up. That pain is suffering and suffering is pain is a mistake. We suffer more from our pleasures than from our pain. -Chariji Maharaj, The Role of the Master in Human Evolution

The Important One

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A Sahaj Marg book I finished a while ago, like many other of the Marg’s books, has me really pondering some things. I’ve been planning to write a post about the unity of Truth and how it is indivisible and had kept putting it off. Based on reading of late, I kinda feel like this might be that post but I’m still yet unsure.

Let’s see where this goes.

So, within the Sahaj Marg the focus is absolutely on spirituality and not religion. In fact, religion has been referred to as a form of kindergarten which is eventually (when the individual is ready) surpassed, transcended, and left behind. Naturally, abhyasis are encouraged to transcend that component of human existence as soon as he or she is able. It’s because of this that Sahaj Marg doesn’t endorse any particular form of God or murti or mantras, yantras or tantras, etc… Depending on who you speak to within the Sahaj Marg there is assigned more or less value on these things, but the Goal is understood to be far beyond and infinitely more subtle than any component of religion can actually offer.

I think one critique Chariji offers of the Hindu religion (which, btw, he is clear about thinking is the most sublime of humanity’s many paths.) is its depiction of Truth, or rather its multitudinous depictions. Our Vedas are clear in the popular mahavakyam, “Ekam sat – vipraha bahudha vadanti,” but I think in the hands of humans this often becomes a trap of sorts. Instead of focusing on the “Ekam” we focus on the “vipraha bahudha vadanti.” Yeah, sure – we use this to validate the assertion that all paths are valid and contain the same Truth. But even then, the emphasis placed on the One Truth is weak and we still find ourselves having to make a strong effort to see past external differences to find that One. The attention is always given to the “various ways” in which Truth is experienced and expressed. This can be understood to be the foundation of religion, and if not, then certainly the skin it develops.

Deepak Chopra has said that all religion really is, is the attempt at replicating one person’s experience of That. I experience Yoga, I tell you the path I took and possibly even recommend it, and then you attempt to recreate that experience yourself. Voila: The Religion (of Yoga).

Speaking of religion, Yoga was likely never intended to be a religion. Well, at least not a religion that belonged to more than the soul practicing it. Yoga was around long before religion was and that’s a very powerful and indicative piece of knowledge. Truth is one – yoga is one. And those who experience it, experience and name it variously. Ekam Sat, vipraha bahudha vadanti. No where in that mahavakyam do we read, “Truth is one and groups of people experience it collectively.” The minute you have groups experiencing collectively, or trying to, you have religion. You have separation.

If one group says, “We experience Truth like this” and another says, “We experience Truth like that” you can assume they’re speaking of the same Truth – after all if Truth is one, then those experiencing it must be experiencing the Same. But you can also know that something not quite true is being said. A more accurate thing for them to say would be, “We try to experience Truth together in this way.” But even then they’re missing the mark: They are seeking the same Truth, perhaps in the same way, but so long as the individuals within that group have unique karmas and samskaras, etc… you can be sure the experiences will be equally unique – not the same.

Just some food for thought on your Thursday. I’ll close with a quite from the well-known Dr. Vamadeva David Frawley, “The Hindu mind does not seek to impose itself upon people from the outside through force or persuasion. It is not interested in a mere change of names, labels, titles or beliefs. It looks to restoring our linkage with the higher consciousness behind the world, whatever name or form we might want to approach it through. The Hindu mind’s wish is that we reconnect with our true Self and Being that transcends all outer appearances and religious divisions and that we honor all the various expressions that Self takes, which can never be reduced to one religion, philosophy, language or culture.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

“श” के मंत्र

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In a recent post I mentioned some about stilling the outside of a person and also stilling the mind and how these relate to the progressive development of a person. In that post I also briefly mentioned a fancy little mantra I’d been made aware of by a friend who’d received it from one of his own friends.

Before I share that, I want to make very clear that this isn’t a “real” mantra. In any established tradition that employs mantras, it’s very rare to find the absence of specifics that dictate things like: what a mantra is made of, how it can be used, how often it should be used, the effect it is meant to have, risks associated with its misuse. And many other stipulations.

In my opinion, those varied rules are a really mixed bag of legitimacy and bullshit. In some cases they serve as safeguards and in other cases they don’t seem to be good for much more than unnecessary policing meant primarily to shuffle devotees into one line or another (a subtle form of crowd control, which religion is terribly good at but which spirituality rejects).

None of that really matters in the case of this particular “mantra,” though. One of the first benefits experienced by anyone employing a mantra is a developing single-pointed-ness of the mind. And it’s in this aspect that we’re able to relate this mantra to the aforementioned post. Are you ready for the mantra?

Here it is: Shhh.

That’s it. It was mentioned so basically by my friend that at first I only smiled a little and then allowed our conversation to move on quite easily. However, like many other humans, I am sometimes prone to recycling negative energy through the emotions attached to certain stories of what I have experienced. I’ll mentally review a circumstance I found myself in and how I was wronged by someone or how I wronged someone or what I should and would have said if my tongue were a little quicker on the go. (If you care to learn more about this kind of nonsense, read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)

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Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh.

I’m using my mind (mental recitation here, not with your actual mouth!) to literally tell my mind to shut it. It’s that simple. I like this because it’s such a direct form of communication, which is a style of communicating that I’m known for using. And in my experience, it hasn’t mattered whether you’re very upset in the moment or whether this is used as part of the daily sadhana. You needn’t slow your breath, either. The message of “Shhh” is fantastic because, at least for English speakers, the message is inherent. You likely won’t be thinking of what “Shhh” technically communicates because you’ll be busy feeling it and experiencing it. The breaths in and breaths out, the duration of the mantra, the space in between all of these – will all lengthen naturally as this “mantra’s” effect begins taking.

I wouldn’t bank on this to scrub your karmas or develop siddhis of any sort. But if you simply wish to go deeper than you might otherwise and carry with you a relatively clean mental or emotional slate as you dive, if you wish to settle down after a tumultuous moment, if you only seek to know a very simple stillness that you might otherwise not have known – then this might just be where you could start.

Shhh.

Try it sometime. I dare you.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Energie

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I know people who just about literally cannot tolerate inner stillness. On the outside they fidget and fumble and squirm. Constantly toe tapping and needing to move their fingers or hands in some way. When trying to meditate they find it practically impossible to keep their eyes closed.

In my experience, this kind of behavior is mostly the symptom of no attention being directed to the mind. For these people the mind is the controller and is the component of who they think they are with which they most strongly identify. In fact, there are many people who can hardly imagine existing as something separate from their thoughts.

Once someone can grasp even a very basic understanding of the truth that they who they are is not what they think, then the aforementioned symptoms begin to lessen and subside. They will incrementally be able to tolerate being still – first on the outside and then within. Still, once the outside is effectively under control (at least sufficiently for any kind of meditative work) there are many challenges faced within. And just about every teacher I’ve known of has recommended a very similar approach to tackling the challenges within – that still pertain to a lack of stillness.

Notice your thoughts if / when they arise, but let them keep moving. These teachers say this and go further to assure us that these thoughts are not the enemy, but rather are minor distractions at best. They are also consistent in advising that there’s really no difference between pleasant thoughts or unpleasant ones. Treat them all as identically as you are able. Notice when they arise, and let them keep moving. Eckhart Tolle even goes into detail regarding the nature of the ego and the pain body, and how these form the foundation of much of our thought life. He also details the benefit of destroying their grip and power by shedding the light of consciousness / awareness onto them.

We think of things we need to do. We think of why we need to do them. Sometimes we think of why we do or do not want to do them. We’re usually experts at mentally reliving situations that have come and gone – rehashing them in our own way. Our thoughts and the various ways we cling to them create thick energetic vortices that, like tornados or whirlpools, can be quite strong and even dangerous.

So developing the ability to simply see your thoughts as being different and separate from your real self, and then going one step beyond that to peaceably allowing these things to come into view and then leave your sight can make all the difference in one’s meditation and spiritual development.

Recently, a good friend of mine told me of a “mantra” that had been shared with him by one of his own friends. Surprisingly, I’ve found it actually quite effective and ridiculously simple. I’ll tell you what I know about this in an upcoming post.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti