In both Yogic philosophy and practice, developing equanimity of mind is central to the practice of meditation. Through our practice we can observe that the mind is either constantly attracted towards the objects of the senses, or it has aversion to them. Everything is being weighed on the scales of pleasure and pain, lose and gain, good or bad and so on, and a great deal of energy is spent seeking pleasurable experiences, while avoiding others that are painful. If we become too attached to something, we may no longer even enjoy that which we have obtained because we start to fear of losing it. This clouds the joy of experiencing life as it is. One of my teachers puts it like this, “we eat the banana of pleasure, only to slip on the peel of pain.” The slip isn’t in the experiencing something, but the attachment to it in the mind. In our constant search for comfort, or a sense of safety, it is easy to mistake the temporary satisfaction felt by having certain experiences for the true lasting contentment that is our very nature. My guru uses the analogy here or a thirsty man mistaking a mirage in the dessert for water.
When we seek the view of a mountain vista, or to stand on the shores of the sea and look out into the vast expanse of water, we are in a very real sense, seeking that infinite peace within. Humanity is constantly in search for this, and people of all shapes and sizes search in the cathedral of nature for the spiritual union, even if they don’t realize it. The joy felt in such surroundings is nature’s way of wooing us back to the present moment. The point I want to make here is that this peaceful, contented feeling we get when we behold something beautiful is really whelming up from within, rather than being something is added to us, that makes us feel this way. Remembering this in the heat of passion, joy or bliss is an important piece of wisdom that the yogis share with us.
In the world of duality, we experience both side of the coin, so rejecting and avoiding pain only perpetuates it. Of coarse, this is easy stuff to talk about, but when the rubber hits the road it is another story all together. So how can we learn to loosen the grip of our attachments to the way we would like things to be and learn accept the way things as they are? Well, according to the yogis, it is only by persistent and unbroken practice in every moment of life, not just sitting, but in all of our daily activities. When we seek knowledge of our true nature, we must apply ourselves to that task and no matter how you slice it, life presents us with the opportunity to practice. We are not trying to force this process, but rather open, and relax into it, but this takes practice and constant remembering. If we are already established in the deep peace, the need for practice doesn’t arise, and no theoretical explanation is needed, one simply is. Many yogis I have come to respect teach that such a one has already gone through the needed practice. If you feel that there is more to yourself than the fluctuating thoughts in the mind, or you have a deep sense of longing and yearning for inner peace, this is a good signal that practice is the right medicine for your ills.
We may not consider ourselves to be on a spiritual path, but the path of life is a practice, if we choose to view it that way. Those that consciously take up the path of sadhana, or regular practice, have chosen to place a greater amount of life energy towards this inner investigation. The great yogi, Ramana Maharishi, would often say that the one simple and fundamental truth is that we are all having an experience of the “I” or a sense of “being alive.” We may not know who we are, why we are here, or how we can to be, but here we are experiencing life in the world. If we seek to penetrate beyond the temporary manifestations and experiences of life, and peek behind the veil, we can practice meditation to train the mind, until quieting the mind becomes as natural as walking and breathing. When we go about the day to day, try to remember that the contentment that settles the spirit is not something gained from outside oneself, from anyone or anything. That being said, the practice of yoga is not a form of escapism, where we live on an isolated island within oneself. Let life offer a helping hand, it is a priceless gift to be loved by another and share the gift of being. The freedom of yoga, or union, that I am speaking of here is the freedom to love, to taste, to touch, and experience life more fully, without being hindered by the self generating pain of attachment that binds us to the memories of past and our worries of the future. It is also a freedom from the self-criticism and for the aversion to the way we perceive ourselves. We are not broken and we don’t have to fix ourselves either. This process is one of deeper and deeper surrendering and self-love.
The one teachings of my guru that has stayed with me more than almost anything else he every wrote on his chalkboard is “peace comes when we accept life as it is.”