Given our busy lives and the efforts we put in to get through the day, juggling multiple different things, making ends meet, meeting demands at work, demands at home & demands of the society, we all are stressed out.
The little time we have for relaxation, we try playing some games, watching a movie, watching TV, listening to music, going for walks, jogs, eating a healthy meal, going for yoga classes, all perhaps with a common objective to improve life style / quality of life and feel good / happy.
The questions that we have to reflect upon are: 1. Are the actions that we take to de-stress really helping? 2. Are these permanent? 3. Can we get to permanent / long lasting de-stress mode? 4. Are we addressing the root causes or only the symptoms?
It is also important to reflect upon what Swami Rama-Tirtha had to say. He said ‘if you are not happy as you are and where you are, then you will never be happy’. He also said, definition of rest is ‘intense work’.
Here is a story from his Lecture delivered on December 17, 1902, in the Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, U.S.A.
“ ‘…a small baby that had just learnt to crawl, to walk on all fours. The child saw its shadow and thought it to be something strange, something remarkable. The child wanted to catch hold of the head of the shadow; it began to crawl to the head of the shadow; and the shadow also crawled. The child moved and the shadow also moved. The child began to cry because he could not catch the head of the shadow. The child falls down, the shadow is with him; the child rises up and begins to hunt for the shadow. In the meantime, the mother taking mercy on the child made the child touch his own head, and lo! the head of this shadow was also caught. Catch hold of your own head and the shadow is also caught. Heaven and hell are within you. The source of power, joy and life is within you.’
The key is to recognize that we indulge in and promote the very traits that hurt us and are counterproductive (Selfishness, Greed, Separateness (Individuality, non-oneness), Anger, Mental Agitation, Bondage, Attachments, Desires focused on the fruit/immediate gratification, Fear, Anxiety) and on the other hand we sign-up for yoga and meditation looking for calmness, peace. The solution is within.
- Happiness is within, not outside.
- Selfishness drives mental agitation & anger. Renunciation of selfish desires needs to be tackled immediately.
- Attachments create bondage and bondage leads to mental agitation. Renunciation of attachments needs to be looked at immediately.
- Separateness promotes jealousy. Recognize Oneness.
- The sense of being blessed with abundance is important. Incompleteness promotes greed.
When we recognize these and take steps to handle these then we are truly ready for yoga and meditation. These are pre-reqs to yoga and meditation and not expected outcomes. We want peace, happiness & calmness but we are in pursuit of things that promote the opposite. This is the ignorance that Vedanta asks all of us to realize. Overcoming this ignorance leads to wisdom.
Bhakti yoga (yoga of worship of other, treating others lovingly with compassion), Karma yoga (yoga of selfless service to others, those in need) and Jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge of the self, and then the knowledge of the Self) is the starting point and the foundation to build upon.
Following the paths of Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga and Jnana yoga, first helps us to drop all unwanted DESIRES. This state is called UPARATI. It is a state of mind which is above and beyond all dualities such as joy and grief, liking and disliking, good and bad, praise and blame, which agitate and affect the common person. These universal experiences can be overcome or negated by means of spiritual exercises or intellectual inquiry. Uparati can be achieved, if one is careful, while engaged in day-to- day living, to avoid entanglement with, and bondage to, differences and distinctions.
- Uparati (Sanskrit) [from upa-ram to cease]: A cessation; In Vedantic philosophy a state where the yogi desists from sensual enjoyment or any worldly action, and there is an absence of desires which could be affected by exterior stimuli or influences.