Differing but the Same

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One day I was walking with a friend, and as we passed a man living on the street, she exclaimed ‘what a loser’.  She shocked me and it saddened me deeply….that anyone, anyone on this earth, would consider this term for someone whose path had taken an unfortunate, or in fact, a different direction than ours.  I believe that the majority (if not all) of these people do not choose to sleep on a park bench, in the freezing cold or in the stifling heat, without shelter, food or a friend to talk to.

We are all different on the outside and come in different exteriors, different packages so to speak.  But when one looks inside the box we are the same. We have the same essence and for that essence to thrive we need to be able to connect with the essence in others.  Rather than thinking outside the box, perhaps we can consider there is no box. It is through that flow, that essence, that we learn about one another and in turn we learn about ourselves.  The action is called tolerance.

Just like a plant that is not watered, if you do not nurture it, and it becomes disconnected from the elements, it becomes starved of life.  It dies inside and out. To me that is what happens to those referred to as the ‘down and out’, those you see sitting against walls in street sidewalks, begging to be noticed. They were once someone’s child and now have no home, emotional, or otherwise.  They are the world’s ‘home-less’. They have lost their home.  They have lost their place.

Human kindness from others allows their essence, their nectar to flow, even if just for seconds. As my father taught me, ‘buy those on the street a meal or a coffee’. Something to nurture their body and soul.  Yes, a coin is fine too, of course.  So what if that coin is spent on a cigarette?  I don’t know what it is like not to have a roof over my head, let alone sleep out in the cold! So I am not in a position to judge.  I have learned to look into their eyes as I pass them by.  Let them know they are part of my world too!

Often I reflect upon the question – Am I connecting in my own world?

We need to remember that when we are gone, no one will remember what we wore at their party; how many honours we obtained at school; how many languages we mastered; what car we drove; how many houses we owned; or what our title was at work; they will only remember how we made them feel.  They will remember the kindness we bestowed upon them. However some will also remember being hurt or bullied, controlled or cut down by us too.  There is a choice!

There is a wonderful Arabic proverb which says: ‘The Axe forgets, but the tree remembers’.

Isn’t the greatest wealth in any being  found in their ability to connect, to offer kindness and compassion?

All of us have the ability to nurture the essence in others and in by doing so we nurture ourselves. When we feel fear, anger, hatred, envy or in some way believe we are superior to those whom we meet, there can be little, if any connection.  And not only does our own energy deplete by transmuting these emotions, we deplete the energy in others and soon they will move away.

For so long, we have valued knowledge as being the most important element in our lives, but in fact isn’t it understanding?  Is it not understanding and acting upon that understanding? Knowledge is just a commodity.  Understanding is the key in turning knowledge into something valuable.

Doesn’t this apply to how we treat others in every aspect of our lives?  Knowledge or understanding?

If we think that by behaving as though we know better, are smarter, wealthier, faster, happier, more valuable, then we are being foolish and show up our own stagnant thinking and lack of understanding and compassion.

Acquire knowledge. Understand it. Act upon it.  When our thoughts, understanding, speech and action are in line going forth……then we are in harmony.

It also takes courage to find the ‘heart’ in things. And where does the word ‘Courage’ come from?  The French word ‘Coeur’ – heart.

Do we have the courage never to cut down or look down upon another? Do we have the compassion to bestow upon those who are hurting?

If so, then we will truly thrive, simply by connecting…..

Heart…to…heart!

 

P.S.  I would like to honour whoever took this photograph.  It came to me, I don’t remember how, nor can I recognise who took it. But I thank you, whoever you are.  It says it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahimsa: ‘Do no harm’.

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It is cool to be kind….not cruel to be kind!

This Sanskrit word opens a mélange of ideas, beliefs, and opinions about what ‘do no harm’ actually means.   ‘Ahimsa’ is so easily expressed but not so easy to adhere to at times.

And….the antithesis to ‘do no harm’ is really very, very  simple –

As expressed by the great author Henry James:    “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Nothing is more unattractive than someone being unkind about another and nothing is more futile than one being unkind about oneself.

Recently I held a ‘Soul Soothing Sunday’ whereupon students came to a gentle Hatha yoga class and we sat around discussing ‘Ahimsa’.  Off to dinner afterwards, and the conversation was still continuing – and today is still continuing – weeks later in fact!

Many have come forward with responses to what ‘Do no harm’ means to them.  Here are some of the precepts in leading a life of ‘Ahimsa’, some of which you may never have considered before this.

  • Think before you speak
  • Keep your word
  • Know that betrayal in any form can be devastating to the one who has trusted you
  • Do not believe you have the right to change the direction of another’s life
  • Proffer compassion not retaliation.
  • Use your rational intellect in seeking truth rather than jumping to conclusions and being ruled by the ‘emotional mind’.  In other words, seek facts not here say – assumptions don’t cut it.
  • No judgment
  • No gossip
  • Charm is one thing, honesty is another.  Nothing can be more harmful than those who are passively aggressive.  (Those who are sweet-faced but are really silent assassins).
  • Avoid aggressive people whenever possible, ‘for they are vexations to the spirit’ (as quoted in The Desiderata).
  • Understand that everything one says will have a ripple effect.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.
  • Understand that everything one does affects this world.
  • Stand alone if necessary and be strong rather than join the crowd and be carried away by the majority.
  • Understand the human condition.
  • Offer a hand and not an opinion unless requested.
  • Offer a smile and not a scald.
  • Let go of social conditioning.
  • Live in beauty.
  • Be mindful in all that you do.
  • Let people in the queue.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Stay out of harm’s way. If you are in the presence of someone causing you harm, remove yourself from his/her  path.
  • Diffuse rather than ignite.
  • Lead the way – don’t acquiesce.
  • If you are in the company of those whom you know feel harm in your presence (e.g. jealousy) stay away for their sake and for you own!
  • Know what kindness looks and feels like.
  • Do not separate yourself by beliefs, values, nationality, religion, disposition, tradition and status – we are all doing our best.  We are all in this together.
  • Be sensitive to the fact, that it is very easy to harm.

I have learned from my teachers that ‘Ahimsa’ is the golden rule of yoga and if one can fully achieve the practice of ‘Do no harm’, one need learn no other form of yoga, for all the other practices are included in it.

And so, there are many, many paths to peace.

Hold hands with humanity and one can then be free from judgments, criticism, assumption, hatred and enmity.

Understanding is the key.

Kindness is the way…

Idealistic?     Well, why not!

Annemaree x

What is enlightenment anyway?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been thinking about this for some time wondering what on earth ‘it’ is all about.  Not life that is….I think I have figured that out to a degree, but now I am focused on the concept of ‘enlightenment’.  A term which is bandied about as much as ‘journey’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘self-discovery’. Yoga is now being used to advertise yoghurt and ‘gurus’ are being sought like personal trainers.  With depth being devoured and authenticity plummeting, do we actually reflect upon the true aspiration of yoga? Enlightenment.

Is enlightenment living on some remote rock face in India infused with so much ganja that you don’t know whether you are coming, going or in fact being here now? Travelling through India as I do, I am often dubious about the ‘enlightened’ beings I encounter.

I guess enlightenment is synonymous with the Dalai Lama; his constant laughter and luminous smile!  He can’t be that happy all the time.  Or can he?  I doubt whether he is smoking anything!  He just ‘is’!

Actually, he is my pin-up boy!  I have a picture of him in this very room, hoping that I shall ‘catch’ everything he exudes – warmth, compassion and selflessness as a start.  His total love of the human race – and that infamous giggle!   Now that would be good.

Some years ago I was in Kerala, India.  I was on my way to visit a friend and in order to get to his home I had to traverse a narrow pathway in the middle of a paddy field.  It was sultry and warm, with a velvety black sky.  I was serenaded by the night choir of insects; the sounds of summer that nestle in the hot humid air; and the distant chants emitting from the temple priests that were echoing through the village….so mystical, charming and ethereal.

It ‘occurred for a split second (or so it seemed). Everything merged as though I was cocooned into an instant.  I was in a timeless place. No past.  No future.  The ‘now’.  The knowing of ‘now’.  The joy of that one enchanted, albeit fleeting, moment.  All had merged and I KNEW that I was exactly where I was meant to be and I was experiencing a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what it must be like to be totally present.  And I mean….totally!  I didn’t think ‘it’.  I felt ‘it’.  I didn’t analyse ‘it’.  I knew ‘it’.  Oh for the joy of that instant to be relived again and again.

I get ‘it’ intellectually.  Not being controlled by the ego.  Not being burdened by the past.  Not fearing the future.  Not being caught up in my thoughts.  Not reaching, seeking or striving.  Just being right here now.

I did get a true glimpse!  And that is enough for me to keep expanding.  Not being limited by this physical world but expanding beyond the realms of my own self.  In other words – getting out of my own way!

It’ happens now and again and it is divine.

Letting go of preconceived ideas, habits, beliefs and behaviours that contract rather than expand my persona is part of the deal.  Easier said than done of course!

I asked a friend last evening what she considered ‘enlightenment’ to be.  She simply stated “waking up to your truth”.

A question you may ask is that when the great masters become ‘enlightened’ what changes?  Are they still human?  Do they still have foibles and make mistakes and behave like us?  I asked this of one of my fellow yoga teachers one day.

His response:

“Before enlightenment: chop wood carry water… After enlightenment: chop wood carry water.

So enlightenment doesn’t change the day-to-day expectations and demands (but obviously quality of life changes to the max…)”.

And what does Deepak say?

“You resurrect your soul.  Your soul gives you a life of joy, effortless spontaneity, love, compassion, kindness, peace, equanimity, joy at the success of others…..unlimited imagination and creativity. To be enlightened means to be ‘in the light’ – literally.  To be free!”

One can only hope.