Imagine you’re going to be in Heaven soon. Yet, Heaven won’t be all so heavenly until you fully adapt to the way of living there. There’s probably going to be a ton of singing and dancing and laughing. If you’re not used to that sort of lifestyle, adjusting to it, however heavenly it might, could be a real pain. At least, in the short-term, you’d like experience some pain adjusting.
Even in Heaven there, you can imagine there being certain disciplines. However much you might like playing on the computer or watching television, in Heaven it’s kind of been agreed upon that those activities aren’t the most wholesome or best for everyone. So, those heavenly officials cut off the internet and the cable. Even movies, gone. What!!! No movies? What kind of crazy Heaven is this?
A friend I’ve been staying with, who I like to call Guru Nayan, talks a lot about non-harm. Elsewhere I’ve read Ahimsa paramo dharma, or non-violence as the supreme virtue. Part of me thinks that non-harm or non-violence isn’t really all that supreme, because it doesn’t imply any positive action. It’s sort of like a neutral state of “Live and let live.” Yet, to fully live a non-harmful and non-violent lifestyle I think could be a supreme way of living. Beyond practicing non-harm towards all forms of life by refusing to think unkind thoughts or take violent actions, you can also extend non-violence to your relationship with planet earth. Even right now, I feel like I might be responsible for a bit of harm to the planet, using this computer and the electricity it demands puts out a bit of pollution that can harm both the planet and individual forms of life. So then, when we use electricity are we breaking the principle of non-violence/non-harm?
Perhaps renunciation is such a high virtue in some cultures because it is letting go of concern for yourself and embracing selfless service to humanity, the universe, and to your present moment however it calls upon you.
And…back to non-harm/non-violence…what about walking on the grass? Is that inflicting pain upon another living entity? Perhaps grass is resilient and endures lots of pressure upon it. And I think more than the weight we put on the grass is the intention that we carry in our step. Firstly, are we aware of the life that is in the grass? Do we respect the grass and appreciate it for being with us? Secondly, do we intend peace upon the grass, or are we carrying peace in our hearts with us in the present moment? If our minds are wandering and dwelling on the past or fearing the future, that ripples out to negatively impact our environment, including the grass we walk on. If instead we are present, filling our consciousness with love and gratitude for the abundance of gifts and wonders before us, then that too ripples out, this time in a more positive way. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about massaging the earth with your feet. Imagine! By walking on the earth, you are a masseuse, enhancing the comfort of that which is underneath you. Nothing like filling every step with conscious care.
In many ways, it seems like completely escaping violence in our lives might be impossible. At the very least though, we can certainly do what we can to minimize the violence that we’re responsible for. Conscious use electricity, consciously eat healthy foods in a compassionate way, maybe even consciously walk and massage the earth with your feet. Who knows!
And now I remember the title of this post!
I recently applied join an ashram, the abundant community of Yogaville! And I’ve basically spent the past week just waiting to hear a response. The waiting has stirred a bit of anxiety and an abundance of introspection and question and clarity. In many ways, I feel like joining the community is sort of like joining a community of Heaven on Earth. When I first went there for yoga teacher training, at least that’s what it felt like.
So to join this Heaven on Earth community, I realized I’ve got to prepare myself! Practice, practice, practice. Ultimately, who really cares how many books we’ve read? But what does enhance the quality of everyone’s life is our level of consciousness and awareness and the way we live. Our practice in the art of living is what really benefits everyone.
Prior to applying to the ashram, I’ve been placing a huge emphasis on learning, meanwhile forgetting to practice. Since applying, however, I reconnected with the Yoga Sutras, and one of the first sentences in the book says, “Practice is the most important factor in Yoga.” It’s not about what you know, but how you live, how you love, how you give.
Perhaps a key here is balance. Reading a bit each day does help center the mind and maintain focus on what matters most. We’ve got to feed the mind and spirit as well as the body. And maybe you can tell a lot about a person by looking at which aspect of themselves they choose to ‘feed’ first. Since applying to Yogaville, I’ve been returning to the practice of feeding the spirit first, then the mind, and then the body.
Anyway…so much for clarity 😉 Maybe I’m just wondering…what’s the point of studying and learning anything if you don’t allow it to shift your behaviors in a positive way? Behavioral change is why we learn, right? Study so that we can live better, more fulfilling, useful, lives. And it seems common that we often discount the gifts that were freely bestowed upon us at birth, including the mind, body, and that beautiful spirit, when in reality these are almost definitely the most abundant of all the gifts we’ve been given! And that’s one thing I love about Yogaville – a community build around a Guru, a Renunciate, a Swami. And Swamis today are in many ways the most esteemed of all the people there. Such a beautiful thing when a person realizes fully that the best things in life are free, and so they choose to give up all the things in the world so that they may have what is truly most valuable – that special quality of consciousness which is aware of God, Goodness, Love, Peace, Joy, Bliss, Truth…all that good stuff in abundance 🙂
Regardless of the outcome of joining the ashram or not, I’m grateful to have even applied and to have been given this opportunity of waiting. It’s most definitely spurred abundant amounts of introspection, reflection, and clarity, and it has helped me re-align with what really matters.
I’ve heard a few people say Peace of Mind is the Highest Goal. Well, a few things I know help me experience Peace. One is thinking of Peace and/or any elevating thought. Two is by engaging in universal acts, simple activities like walking, talking, breathing, smiling, laughing, juggling, prayer. No need to complicate things. The mind is complicated enough!
“The last great unexplored continent,” the human mind, so says Earl Nightingale. The process of simplifying is super liberating and a little terrifying. What will I do without my things? Ah, well I guess I’ll get to know more abundantly the treasures within.
Well then, that might be enough harm to the environment today. God willing the ripple effects of this post outweighed the cost of the pollution! 🙂 If not, and either way, I’ m grateful for unconditional forgiveness…Hallelujah!