The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.” 6.
The Masseur Late one morning at the village massage clinic on the island of Allandon, the hairdresser rushed in for her regular treatment. “Sorry I’m so late, I have a big problem at work and I don’t know what to do.” “I know what you can do,” the masseur said. “What do you mean? You don’t even know my problem,” she said, plopping herself face down on the massage table. “Please give me my massage quickly, I’ve got to get back.” “You’ve got to get here first.” The hairdresser turned her head up towards the masseur. “What do you mean? I am here!” “I think you’re still back at your salon. If you were really here you wouldn’t have a problem.” “What?” she asked, shaking her disheveled hair with annoyance. “Whatever your problem is, how will you be once you’ve solved it?” She thought for a moment as she pulled herself up to a seated position. “At peace,” she answered. “And that’s what you really want, isn’t it?” “Of course.” “So I suggest that you be in the moment now, and you will find peace right away.” “But I am being in the moment!” “Are you at peace?” “No.” “Then you’re not being in the moment,” he said. This was not the first time the masseur had spoken to the hairdresser about this. However in her flustered state, she couldn’t recall how it worked. “OK, so tell me how I can be in the moment,” she said. “I can’t tell you how,” he replied, putting his hand on her shoulder gently. “It’s something you already know.” “OK, OK,” the hairdresser said. She took a few deep breaths and then started to lie back down. “I’m ready for my massage now, I’m here. I’m in the moment.” “Are you at peace?” The hairdresser huffed. “No.” “Then you’re not in the moment,” said the masseur smiling. “But I can give you your massage anyway.” Be here now, wrote Ram Dass. When I first heard this phrase in my New Age discussion group years ago, it seemed rather banal. How can we not be here, now? Where else could we be? But I came to realize that this phrase touches on something subtle, and difficult to express. It is a pointer to an internal experience that allows us to be centered, peaceful, and intimately connected with everything around us. In other words, it brings us into the world of our Dao Self. When we come from our Ego Self, we are anything but centered in the present moment. We are immersed in the shoulds of the future and the should-haves of the past. If peace is what we are looking for, it would be helpful to learn how to be here now. And before asking how to do it, let us be clear that in the end we cannot do a state of being. We can only be. To enter into the state of being in the moment we must have the capacity to literally un-do, or perhaps not-do, to let go of doing long enough so that we can just be present to the world and to who we are. This is easier said than, uh, not-done. Our Ego Self will not cooperate with this, fundamentally because our Ego Self is all about doing. When we are under the control of the Ego Self we seem unable to contemplate being peaceful until we first fulfill the demands of our life, solve every problem, finish ever last task and errand. Funny how this never seems to happen. And even if we did finally scratch every item off of our to-do list, we might get so scared that we would suddenly invent a hundred more items to put on it. We seem to be more comfortable when we’re doing something. And our consumer society wouldn’t have it any other way, since consuming is a particularly tempting form of doing. When we don’t pause to reflect on what we really want, the media directs us to fulfill ourselves in the way it see fit.
The media may even be able to convince us that we are in control while it is actually pulling our strings.
The messages coming at us like never before, through the TV, radio, telephone, computer, and out in the streets are appealing and persuasive, and as long as we stay firmly within our Ego Self they will continue to keep us looking for fulfillment through the doing of consuming. Of course all this doing makes us tired and gives us stress. We could really use a break from it all. And I don’t mean something to make us temporarily zone out from our ‘real’ life of duties and obligations, like mindless channel-flipping, late-night drinking, or expensive vacations to ‘get away from it all.’ There’s nothing wrong with these kinds of diversions, but they rarely bring a lasting peace into our lives. Wouldn’t it be better if the way we lived our lives wasn’t tiring us out and causing us so much stress to begin with? The truth is that the events occurring in our lives do not cause stress themselves. Stress is fully a product of our Ego Self. It is the dissonance between what is and what we think should be. It does not exist in the outer world, in the now.
The only way an external event can disturb our peace is with our permission. This goes for anything from a hangnail to being threatened at gunpoint.
The external event only disturbs our peace because of how we interpret it, which in turn comes from how we are looking out at the world. And only when we become aware that we are more than our Ego Self are we able to choose to look out onto the world, and thereby process it, in a different way. Imagine our Ego Selves to be like islands that are part of an archipelago, all connected to the same land mass with the tips surfacing above the water.
The islands appear to be isolated and separate, but when we examine down below the surface of the water we see that they are all connected.
They are all One.
The surface of the water is like the illusion of the ego, which separates the physical world above from the non-physical below.
The surface itself is usually turbulent, just like the mind is when it is busy and stressed. With practice we can slowly learn to still the surface of the water, so that we can see below and behold our vastness. When we identify with this vastness, rather than with our small and separate island-selves, then we come at the world from the perspective of our Dao Self, and peace and centeredness are immediate. In the Dao Self we are no longer focused on doing but rather on being.
The very meaning of ‘I’ changes, and subsequently the world transforms into something we are at one with. So how do we move from the Ego Self to the Dao Self? Hmm.
There’s that question again about doing. To move into our Dao Self we actually need to relinquish doing, since doing is in the domain of separate things and keeps us focused above the surface. Our Ego Self does not surrender control very easily, but that is precisely what is required if we want to go into our depths: surrender. Trying too hard to reach our inner being is counter-productive because it is a form of control, and maintaining control, a product of the Ego Self, is precisely what we are trying to move away from. My time in India training to become a Yoga Siromani (instructor) gave me a particularly acute vantage point from which to witness my own Ego Self in (over)action. While I finally had become mature enough not to try to compete with fellow practitioners (most of whom were far more flexible than me anyway), I still approached yoga in the same way as I had my other athletic endeavors: as a competition. Here, though, the competition was with myself. I would habitually try to stretch to the limits of my pain threshold, somehow believing that my mind must ‘overcome’ my body in order to train it to become more flexible.
The first posture we were taught was called savasana, the corpse pose, whereby the practitioner lay on the mat, arms and legs outstretched, in total relaxation. I knew it well and didn’t really consider it a posture. It was just the break between each asana (held posture). I was surprised when we were told by the Swamis at the ashram that we could skip one or more of the asanas any time we felt tired and simply remain in savasana.
The very idea of this was embarrassing to me, that I would ‘give up’ on doing a posture and simply rest. I had never given up on a challenge and wasn’t about to start now! How would that look to others? What would prevent me from giving in to laziness? My Ego Self was clearly in charge here, I just wasn’t aware of it at the time. In the space of practicing daily with the Swamis, their instructions started to sink in: ‘accept where your body is at this morning...’, ‘try to relax in the posture...’, ‘breathe...’, and as things progressed over the weeks, I did start to skip one or more of the difficult asanas and take a rest here and there. I started to recognize when my body needed it. Slowly I paid more attention to how I was feeling inside, and I gave less attention to how I was looking on the outside. Rather than feeling that yoga was a war between the body and mind, I felt I was learning to bring them into greater harmony. It eventually struck me that savasana might be the most important posture in the entire sequence, because it embodies the transition from doing to not-doing, from our Ego Self to our Dao Self.
The variety of different pointers to flowing into our Dao Self is one of the main subjects of the new conversation. Yoga is only one path, but it will serve here as a good example because it illustrates the fundamental resistance we have in Western society to transcending the Ego Self.
The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yeug,’ which means to join or union. Traditionally, the yoga practitioner sought to achieve a union between their individual (Ego) self and their communal (Dao) self. But many of us here miss out on this because we think yoga is just for improving our physical health and reduce our stress. We have tended to adulterate yoga to fit our Western perspective. What we call ‘yoga’ is really only the asanas, the held postures. In traditional yoga, asanas are but one of eight limbs of one of four branches which touch upon different aspects of human life. What we have essentially done is turned yoga into something to do. An exercise, rather than a practice. A routine rather than a lifestyle. If we just add yoga to our ‘to-do’ list we will simply be giving ourselves something else that we need to find time for and get stressed about. We may be enthusiastic for the first little while, but this is not likely to last.
There will always be other, more ‘urgent’ tasks that will crowd it out of the picture. As long as yoga remains simply a thing to ‘do’ in our lives, its impact will be short-lived. It will be swept away from our lives like a flower without roots in the ground of being. We have to realize that when it comes to shifting our being, how we do something becomes more important than what we do. In evaluating whether it is worth our time to do yoga our attitude tends to be ‘What’s in it for me? How will I benefit?’ But this attitude actually works against any activity designed to promote union, harmony, and peace. Rather than thinking about what we can take from a practice like yoga, we need rather to ask what we can give to it: if we give ourselves, our being, that’s when the benefits will evidence themselves. When we give our being (i.e. the being of our Ego Self), we are in effect willingly surrendering ourselves to a higher or greater being (our Dao Self). But this is not an easy thing to do. In Western society many of us have become very cautious about submitting ourselves to something or someone else. Perhaps we are worried that we will be told what to do, that somehow we will become enslaved or controlled. We have had enough of that. We have fought hard in our lives to become independent, self-directed, and free. In India I was among yoga students from 22 countries, predominantly Westerners like myself. While the students were very interested in the teachings and practices, most of the Western students had various levels of resistance to different elements of the practice. Some didn’t like the vegetarian diet, and in fact there was quite a debate about its value during one of our lecture sessions. Others didn’t like to be forced to perform community service. Many complained about having to wake up at 5:00 and then do chanting for an hour. And when it came to a discussion of some of the deeper austerities of yoga practice, such as sexual abstinence and a withdrawal of the senses from the world, it was almost laughable for many of us. While eternal bliss in union with the Dao (Brahman in Hindu teaching) sounded interesting, we still wanted to hold on to many things and didn’t want to surrender the lives that we lived. Without some willingness to surrender, however, the fulfillment we are looking for may continue to elude us. We are aware that all great yogis surrendered to their masters. And these masters also surrendered to their masters, and so on down the line.
They would not have achieved their elevated states of consciousness had they not been willing to do so. But in the West we are on the fence. Some of us go to foreign lands and learn ancient customs out of a longing to see things in a different way, out of a conviction that the Western paradigm is falling short of our expectations. And yet, we hesitate to jump in headlong. Is this just our Ego Self in action, or are we sincerely waiting for something more, something that truly resonates with us? Due to the pressure of mass censorship, we now have our own censorship-free, and ad-free on demand streaming network! It is the world's first and only conscious media network streaming mind-expanding interviews, news broadcasts, and conscious shows. Click here to start a FREE 7-Day Trial and watch 100's of hours of conscious media videos, that you won't see anyw.
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