This morning I woke up feeling blue. I am studying the potential for this energy within myself, and am grateful for the capacity to step back and observe discomfort. This is perhaps the greatest gift that Yoga teaches us. The witness perspective is the foundation for understanding deeper truths, such as that life is always changing, and that we can’t have joy without sorrow. From this place, we can become more empowered by the reality of our lives, by developing compassion for ourselves and others, and making space for new ideas and choices.
As I observed my “blue” feeling, I could describe it as depressed, sad, heavy, uncertain, lonely. The feelings were familiar, though I haven’t experienced them in some time. I began to think about how so many people suffer in this way, and perhaps even more so in our current world environment. In my mind, I found comfort as I reflected upon what I am reading as of late--two large volumes in which Paramahamsa Yogananda, an Indian monk, interprets the Bible.
What comforted me? I thought I’d share the three most consistent messages in this voluminous and beautiful work, the final writing of Yogananda, who taught meditation and Kriya Yoga, and founded the Self Realization Fellowship. I hope that the cross-section of ancient Yoga with the essence of Jesus might help us feel a stronger foundation and inspiration at this time. Truth exists in the energy beyond our differences.
The first message reminds us of the limitations of the material world, of the nature of being human, of our mind and our ego which, left to their own devices throw us back and forth between likes and dislikes, pain and pleasure. Yoga calls this back and forth between rajas and tamas, the “noose of suffering”, and beckons us into the third or sattvik state, in which we can observe “what is” in a more neutral, pure, objective, peaceful, accepting way. Another way to experience this state is to observe the pause between the inbreath and outbreath. Try it. Yoga often describes this pause as the closest thing to our illumined “natural state”.
One of the more useful skills to help us navigate living as spiritual beings in a material world is the quality of moderation (bramacharya) in Yoga, or “temperance” in Christianity. It's a very beautiful recognition that no one thing is good or bad, but that there are elements of good and bad in all things, and that excess, as well as deprivation, may be a harmful thing. It gets at another fundamental teaching of Yoga, which is that all things are neutral, until we attribute a quality to them. The choices we make about food or work or relationships reflect the quality of energy that motivated the choice, not a certain quality of the choice itself. It has seemed helpful to remember that this skill of moderation is one of “back to center” rather than achieving any perfect state, for things are always changing the choices we need to make.
And here comes the second message from Yogananda’s interpretation of Jesus--the importance of coming back to Center, to our spiritual wholeness in any given moment. Yogananda does a beautiful job inspiring this process as he describes the blissful state of communion and connection to our Source, to God, to Mystery. He inspires us with realized knowledge (jnana) as he gently repeats, again and again, that this can only be obtained through personal experience, through setting aside time to cultivate “an interiorization of the Soul”. The practice of meditation and mindfulness helps us develop the mental muscles to invoke and focus upon these qualities of higher vibration, like Love, Union, Receiving, and Gratitude.
The third message, in many ways, affirms and combines the first two, but provides added comfort for those of us who feel “blue” in a world that seems to be falling apart. It has to do with just how incredibly difficult this wisdom is to practice, as exemplified in the countless doubting questions that Jesus contended with, even in his highly spiritual apostles, even after demonstrating the power of love, healing, forgiveness, wisdom, and service to others.
Being human on a journey toward spiritual wholeness is a mountainous journey. We see a glimpse of this, even in Jesus, when he said in his final hours,
God, why have you forsaken me?
Jesus, too, lived in the material world as a human being. He, too, had at least one moment of feeling disconnected from Hope, of feeling doubt, confusion, loss of meaning. And, then, his final words, for those who chose to crucify him:
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
I have to agree with Tosha Silver, author of “Outrageously Open”, that these are perhaps the most beautiful words ever uttered. Is it possible that we could see through the eyes, and feel through the heart, of Jesus in this profound moment, and forgive all whom we don’t understand or like, those who have offended or harmed us? Can we continue to bring the Love and Compassion of our inwardly-cultivated natural state, found in the pause and possibilities of each present moment, to the greatest challenges before us?
I am grateful to be on this journey with you. May we uplift and support one another,
With great Love,
Video track - 4:05 minutes (click on the photo)