Wednesday, February 10, 2010
‘Man’ means “to think”
"The feeble seekers are those who lack enthusiasm, criticize their teachers, are rapacious, inclined to bad action, eat much, are in the power of women, unstable, cowardly, ill, dependent, speak harshly, have weak characters and lack virility. The Guru (Teacher or Master) guides such seekers in the path of Mantra Yoga only. With much effort, the sadhaka can reach enlightenment in twelve years. (The word mantra is derived from the word 'man', meaning to think. Mantra thus means a sacred thought or prayer to be repeated with full understanding of its meaning. It takes a long time, perhaps years, for a mantra to take firm root in the mind of a feeble sadhaka and still longer for it to bear fruit.)"
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 51st paragraph of the Introduction.
Even though Mantra Yoga is advised for “feeble seekers” I don’t think that there is anything easy about it. So there is nothing “feeble” about Mantra Yoga itself, or about any human beings I know either. So I’m not going to talk about “feeble seekers” because I don’t think about people that way, except maybe myself on a bad day…
I think that we are all using mantras or thoughts to direct our experience whether we acknowledge it or not. Since Mantra Yoga is advised here for someone who is experiencing difficulty in life, I look at it as a first line of defense against the pains of life, and the fragmentation of mind.
What is your Mantra?
I think of a ‘mantra’ as thoughts I tell myself repeatedly. On a bad day my mantra might be, “I wish I was dead,” and on a good day it might be, “I love this!” What gives?? These are just thoughts that bubble up inside of me.
Repeated thoughts are powerful
It’s a good idea to watch your thoughts, because they make a real difference in how you move throughout the world. If I have evaluated myself as unlovable, or ‘nobody likes me’ it is going to affect my body language. I might make less eye contact, and avoid interactions with others who might like me, so I am likely to miss opportunities. And if someone is nice to me I might react inappropriately friendly, wordlessly saying ‘wow, it’s so amazing that you like me.’ When maybe I’m just likeable and so it’s really not such a big deal that SOMEBODY LIKES ME. Aren’t we all essentially likeable beings? I shouldn’t be so especially horrible that nobody likes me, right? Well, the mechanisms of thought are not rational in the scientific sense. Our thoughts spring up from how we feel and what we’ve been told—all that touchy-feely stuff.
So it could be time to tell yourself something good
If you listen to your daily brew of thoughts and hear some nasty stuff, it could be helpful to take action to interrupt the toxic thought-stream. You could try positive affirmations.
I have a teacher who’s really into this affirmation stuff. So I tried it for a while, and I found it helpful in a particular way. When I started to purposefully say positive things to myself over and over, I had a heightened awareness of how poor my inner messages were. It was as if my gentle messages of blessing to myself elicited an attack from my inner status quo of low self-esteem.
An example would be if I were to tell myself that ‘I am competent, loveable and wise’, and if what I believed about myself was that I was inadequate, unlovable and stupid. Well, bullshit! Total rejection and inner turmoil could result.
Prayerful thoughts can be helpful
I have found repeated messages of prayer to be more authentically helpful for me. In prayer I am opening up my inner world to something larger than my old thoughts, so there is more space for a fresh breeze of inspiration to enter my experience.
“Mantra thus means a sacred thought or prayer to be repeated with full understanding of its meaning.”
This is very personal. Finding words that are helpful at any given time could be as individual as you.
These have worked for me:
“You are not only you, you are also me. I am not only myself, I am also you. I should care to live for you, and you should be able to care for me.”
“My work is to carry this love
as comfort for those who long for you,
to go everywhere you’ve walked
and gaze at the pressed-down dirt.”
-Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks
Poetry can offer this kind of healing opening in the mindspace. I also like Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman and others.