By Shameem Akhtar
By doing surya namaskar, we can make a small start by seeing something positive about the person who irritates us. you will sense the difference for yourself.
My Estonian roommate at the ashram I was visiting was rather disturbed. She was in touch with her little boy and was rather upset to learn just how much her little boy was beginning to dislike his class teacher. She felt her son was beginning to make up stories about his teacher, blaming her for his low marks, his inability to finish homework. She also felt like all children he was not making any attempt to hide his dislike of his teacher, further vitiating the atmosphere, making him resist learning. That possibly he was becoming disruptive in the class.
We wondered how we could make the boy appreciate the idea that hate breeds hate. We worked out a strategy which could be implemented by even one as young as my roommate’s 10-year-old. Next night when he called, my roommate heard out his grievances against his teacher. But as planned, suggested that the boy first try to like her. This was, of course, a tall order. He dismissed it, though with silence. Then she asked him if she liked anything at all about her—maybe her smile, eyes, hair, even the dress. This was easier to pin down. He said, though reluctantly that he would try. A starting point, but my friend trusted her instincts and knew that he would try. And this may well change the course of this tiny war.
My friend and I decided that it was impossible, even for adults, to fight dislike too strenuously. Instead, we needed to focus on something positive— however slight—about the person. This defused the tension between individuals. Though it may take effort and time to communicate this, particularly if the mutual dislike had been fanned for long, we must continue to stick to our admiration of just one aspect of the other person.
Eventually, or even immediately, the other person will also stop reacting to us. Try this for yourself. It always works.
We also felt that as the world shrunk and we got more exposed to strangers regularly for a short term, we tended to rely a lot on our instincts of likes and dislikes. Often, in a misguided sense of self-protection, we rather be wary of someone strange than assume that they will be of help.
Though none of us are really conscious of this, this is the way of the subconscious. As biases get more entrenched we rely even more increasingly on our prejudices and instincts to make life easier for us. Also, we do not wish to be snubbed, so it is better to be suspicious!
If you are waiting at a place, watch your mind. You will find how it moves from individual to individual, all strangers, always forming opinion even though in the current situation you really need not be so wary! It is the nature of the mind to act in this fashion.
While doing this, try to locate something nice in a person instead of the negative facet. Even this can be a form of meditation–since the mind will fight this and get bored with attempting to be nice, particularly since there is nobody to applaud its efforts! But this is a powerful form of mental retraining.
Remember also that we communicate 80 per cent through our body language. Yet, we believe that we can flatter our boss for a hike even when we actively dislike him! We believe that we can simper up to our mother-in-law while we are just dying to have her out of our home! We cannot stand the acquaintance whom we have just invited to our home! But we are fooling nobody!
Instead, if we focus on one nice point of the person we dislike we would have done ourselves a great service! Why is this important? How can thinking well about someone we dislike be of any service to us? Because hate fosters a sense of duality.
Ultimately, this sense of duality means a sense of us-against-them feeling which, Vedanta believes, is the root of all our sufferings. To think we are all one–as is the ultimate truth in all religions–is rather difficult for all of us, including jnana yogis. Instead we can make a small start by seeing something positive about the person who irritates us. You will sense the difference for yourself.
The first impact will be on your health, because the body’s internal balance or homeostasis is maintained smoothly when it is not negative. The body only gets into a diseased state when its homeostasis is threatened, as it is by the sense of duality that our minor irritations encourage.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati, in his book on Ishavasya Upanishad, says that it is not only the renunciate who can experience this oneness.
Yoga in all its various limbs aims to tear the veil of illusion that binds us in our ego or ahamkara. The highest yoga is the one of equipoise. And equipoise can never exist in the midst of duality.
The mantra 7 from this slim Upanishad notes rightly: “When all beings become one in one’s own higher consciousness, then, what delusion and what grief is there for one who is constantly seeing oneness?’’
The pose of worship and love
This is the first pose in the surya namaskar or sun salutation. It is also called the namaskar pose. You stand straight, shoulders erect but relaxed.
Place palms together in the namaskar pose, at the chest. Shut eyes. Stand still. If you are a high-strung sort of person you will find this initially rather tough. For one, you may lose your sense of bearing.
Also, the body swings with each thought, experiencing each whisker of thought as a solid movement of the body. You will experience this destablising and disconcerting swing rather distinctly, prodding you into opening your eyes since you feel as if you are falling.
Try to resist this, focusing your mind on your feet to help you stablise. Or initially, if such discipline is still tough, try to chunk your stance for just two minutes (or even one minute) each time your practise it till you slowly get accustomed to standing in the pose for at least five minutes.
Once you achieve steadiness you can shift your focus to the heart, against which the edge of palms are gently rested. Feel a glow of love and affection flowing from it, in the favourite colour of your choice.
Of course, the heart centre has its own colour that is a healing green or a soothing pink. Feel the emotion drifting in wisps of the colour all around you, visualising its flow around the globe in a soft haze.
The mind will resist the image constantly since it gets bored with focusing. Try to keep the mind glued to this, entrancing it further with your own innovations of blossoming love. This is high form of meditation that usually lasts for hours, even the entire day, keeping you at peace with the rest of the world. It can be a life-transforming experience.
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