“All knowledge comes from experience; everything else is just information.” (Albert Einstein)
Our teacher is the experiences we have in our life. We cannot hear our teacher if we are not paying attention. Our brains cannot think about one thing and pay attention to something else. So as our mind wanders from thought to thought, we cannot pay full attention to our experiences, our teacher. We cannot learn from something we are not paying attention to, therefore we miss the teachings. This is why in all of recorded history, little has changed. There is as much war, disease, hunger, poverty and crime as there has ever been. What’s changed is now we can destroy ourselves with bombs or pollution that never existed before. Why has little changed? Because we are not listening to our teacher, we are not learning. Cell phones, space travel and technology have not minimized the percentage of human suffering and do not provide the solution to fulfillment, contentment, peace and happiness. The solution is what all the great ones who came to this planet shared with us: They said in their unique way, “develop the benevolent qualities of your mind.” Jesus said, “do not judge,” Buddha said “Moderation.” Mother Teresa demonstrated Compassion, Martin Luther King “Equality,” Gandhi “Non-violence.” These are all benevolent qualities; benevolent qualities reduce stress, benevolence heals. Benevolent qualities, like all qualities, are like muscles; if you use them, they strengthen, if you don’t, they atrophy.
It’s a rare person that takes time out of one’s day to meditate, to dwell in benevolence. Silence (peace), gratitude, compassion, forgiveness etc.…. Yet if you added up our malevolent thoughts — angry thoughts, fearful thoughts, vain thoughts, regretful thoughts, gossipy thoughts, sad thoughts, critical thoughts, judgmental thoughts, worrisome thoughts, etc…. those type of thoughts add up to years of our life. They call a yogi a seer, as the goal of yoga is enlightenment, and this means “to see.” Because it’s only when you are able to see the sick discrepancy in benevolent and malevolent thoughts that you can shift your mind state. This seeing is called awareness, and this is the first important step. Now the real work begins, as we have become comfortable, even addicted to the place our mind dwells. I once heard of a Harvard study that said over 80% of the thoughts we have are the same thoughts we have every single day. This means our mind state is our greatest addiction. Breaking addictions is not easy, as withdrawal symptoms are tremendously painful. Yet considering our own medical community is telling us that over 85% of physical disease is coming from mental stress, if our goal is health and wellness, we have to break our addiction. Where can one get support in this difficult and healing process? Our yoga class, of course. This is the purpose of a yoga class. It is a community of like-minded people who support each other in a benevolent mind state.
You will not solve problems and heal relationships (including the relationship you have with yourself) with loose hamstrings, the perfect triangle pose, handstands, big muscles or a thin waist, not even a beautiful face and a fat bank account. You solve problems with benevolent qualities like gratitude, forgiveness, compassion and empathy, gentleness, humility etc…. Now we are being told by modern medicine these qualities are responsible for most health, as these benevolent qualities reduce stress. These are the qualities all great beings demonstrated. Why do we spend so much time overdeveloping our muscles and beautifying our face, thinning our waist and stretching our hamstrings or chasing after money and status? None of these things brings us wellness (health and fulfillment). This is what humans have done throughout history, and throughout history, the exact root of all our ills has not changed, and neither has our condition. One reason for this is, we have been taught math, history and science yet we were never taught the largest factor in affecting our condition is the place where our mind dwells. Why are our schools and communities not teaching us this? I feel the biggest reason is, our mind state is our largest addiction, and breaking addictions is tremendously difficult, and most people do not want to experience this difficulty. Yet if the goal is wellness, we have no choice.
This is why the great philosophers, yogis, saints, sages, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Buddha and Martin Luther King said, strengthen the benevolent qualities of your mind. None said stretch your hamstrings and thin your waist or beautify your face.
Can you imagine if we spent as much time developing benevolent qualities as we spent dieting, working out, shopping, watching television, surfing the internet, and indulging in hedonistic, materialistic and superficial endeavors?
I believe science has discovered a law called the law of attraction. This means like attracts like, or you draw to you that of which you are. In other words our reality is a by-product of our mind state. The conditions on this planet will not shift until the human mind shifts toward benevolence. As we know, this cannot happen unless we are willing to take the time to develop benevolence, as our teacher is our experience and our experience has informed us, you cannot strengthen something you do not use. So to acquire benevolent qualities, we need to spend time developing them.
Here’s a little practice and a super-sweet beginning.
Please start with 20 minutes per day and watch the fabric of your existence shift before your very own eyes.
Spend 5 minutes trying to sit silently, clearing out your mind by simply focusing on your breathing. This might get a little boring, as boredom is a valid withdrawal symptom, and now you are breaking your addiction to where you mind has become comfortable dwelling.
Next 5 minutes, remember all the reasons you have to be grateful, repeating the words “I am grateful for” in front of each reason.
Next 5 minutes, focus on the upliftment and wellness of all others, especially those less fortunate than yourself. This is also a good time to send love and healing energy to anyone anywhere you know might be hurting or suffering.
Next 5 minutes, repeat a personal message to yourself or visualize your desire, for example: “I am healthy, happy and prosperous.” Or, “May I forgive all who have harmed me” or “May I see all others as my brothers and sisters.” As you do this last 5-minute segment, visualize what you are saying.
Remember, the most special and powerful things in your life are the simple things, like the smile of your child, or the kiss from someone you care about, or the smell of a flower. Please don’t underestimate the meditation practice above due to its simplicity. A regular meditation practice is transformative.
With Love and incessant hope,