Welcome to Yogananda Meditation Center. My name is Turiya and our topic tonight is Humility.
In everything in spiritual teachings, there are always these opposing ideas that seem to be conflicts. The way I’ve experienced meditation personally is that I’m able to go deepest and become most relaxed when I’m absolutely alert and have a tall spine. Usually, we think of relaxation as falling asleep, lying down on the couch. But that kind of relaxation is very different than the relaxation that happens, at least for me, in meditation. And so my understanding is that in meditation I’m trying to raise my level of awareness without becoming too passive or too subconscious and it’s just a different kind of relaxation.
One way that we talk about humility in yoga tradition especially is self-forgetfulness. All things that limit us, all things that cause us to feel pain and suffering are rooted in the definition of “I” and being overly focused or overly identified with this “I”, that is like “me, Turiya” or whatever the part of me that’s me, that I’m feeling, that I’m wanting, that I’m hurting, that I’m needing or that I’m really good or that I’m really bad or I’m really capable or I’m totally incapable. It’s all about that “I”. But I just sang a chant that says “I am Om, I am Om. Divine Mother come to me” and that’s why I wanted to try to explain it, but I was like I’m just going to tie myself into a knot.
But there are two approaches (and we can do them both) to dissolving this “I”. One of them is the devotional approach that was displayed by many Christians saints, that Jesus or Mother Mary or the Heavenly Father are everything good and everything right and me as the humble devotee, I’m a sinner, I’m terrible, everything I do is wrong – in certain versions of Christianity and Catholicism – everything I do is bad and I better not screw up or I’m going to go to hell for eternity. I don’t relate to any of that, I think it’s a nonsense, but for those people that it works for and there have been many, they found freedom through this idea that “I” don’t matter. Like Saint Francis, Saint Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa was also a good example, Saint Anthony. But there are these these souls that actually had a direct experience of the divine in the way they related to it and found, I would say freedom in it, through this self identification that was really deprecating and really almost like soul smashing that “I’m no good and I’m terrible, I’m awful and I’m a waste of flesh and I don’t deserve to have good food, I’ll take table scraps and that’s all I have. I don’t deserve a good home, I’ll take a leaking roof in the woods. And God will provide everything for me”. That’s one approach and it works for some people.
In my tradition, my teacher Paramhansa Yogananda said that was nice, but it was for back then. There’s other ways to do this and then there is another approach from India. It’s not the only approach in India, but one approach in India is to expand the sense of “I”-ness to include everything and that’s why the “I am Om” chant – so Om meaning all of creation, all of the divine is really me. And the way Yogananda used to explain it is he’d say the ego is like the wave on the sea. And it’s a wave on the surface of the sea that believes that it is its own reality, ignorant and therefore cutting itself off from the power and the potential of the whole ocean, by claiming just to be “me”. I am the little wave.
So you watch the little waves, they blow with life changes. Wind is like emotions and changing conditions and sometimes it’s turbulent and sometimes it’s calm and these little waves just blow like little victims from one side of the ocean to the other, then they crash on the beach and die. Yet the ocean never changed. The volume of the ocean never changed, the depth never changed, the whole ocean is the same, untouched, uninvolved, but completely there and present in the experience of the wave. So this is how in yoga they explain that is like the individualized spirit that is identified as a separate reality, the ego. And if it would just relax! You know how they say – the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The more we’re identified with this “I”-ness, if it’s in the wrong way, the more we suffer with ups and downs, like really big wins and then really terrible losses, because it’s all about “me” and because we’re like these waves that are crashing right? One approach to meditation is to see it as we watch the breath or we concentrate on other things that are happening inwardly, as a way to take us away from our identity as something that’s unique, separate and limited and merge our awareness, reconnect with our ultimate potential as something much greater and much more permanent than a human body and the current personality and thought processes that we experience as our own.
So like I said that the devotee that thinks they are nothing but a worthless sinner and God does everything, is one approach. It works for some people, it’s valid, it’s an absolutely valid path. And another approach is to say “I’m not that ego. I am the ocean”. And to live it and to live up to it and it’s not easy. For me personally, I’m in between both and so one way to make this humility thing a practice that’s practical and real is to say – this is the most important thing, I think this is why I wanted to hit this topic first, give it a little energy – each one of us being that individual wave on the surface of reality or let’s say on the fringes of consciousness and awareness, we’re out there on the periphery, has that whole depth of potential beneath one of each of us.
Yoga means union, the union between all those waves and union between the surface and all of the depth is yoga. So the state of yoga is union with everything, which you could say would be freedom from suffering, freedom from limitation and all the things that hurt us and hold us back. But the thing is is that for some reason each one of us, to different varying degrees, really identifies with this “me”, this little wave. But I would suggest that when we meditate tonight, if you want to you can practice it in a way where you can see the thoughts and you can experience the senses that are identified with “me” and just just let them be, they’re just like little waves, little leaves floating around on the tree and there’s a breeze. But don’t engage them, don’t dance with them and ask yourself if you can get to the point where there’s a little sense of objectivity and separation from those thoughts and experiences. Who is this “I” that sees the thoughts and knows that they’re not really totally “me”, if you can get there. We live in a culture where people think that “I think, therefore I am”. They think that “I am my thoughts, I am my feelings and my desires” and I think that’s why a lot of us are suffering.
So what I would invite you to do when we meditate tonight is think of it as a practice of not I and Thou (if you if you have an I and Thou relationship with God I think that’s great; go for it), but if you want to in this meditation you could just pretend or experiment with the idea that “If there is a God or if there is a higher potential within me that it’s a little bit beyond my ego and my own thoughts and my beliefs and my own understanding, that by quieting the mind and opening the heart with a sense of wonder and awe and gratitude or deep faith, a sense of prayer, we can experience our own highest potential directly and sometimes you don’t even know it”. You might meditate and think “all I was doing was sitting there watching my breath and nothing big happened, I don’t really know if I meditated”. And then maybe afterward or maybe tomorrow or tonight in bed or tomorrow in the morning when you wake up you’ll have a different understanding, a different point of view of things.
And it might just be because in that meditation you opened yourself and when I say opened yourself, again there’s different ways to talk about it, but I would say you’re not opening yourself to anything other than your own deeper reality. So we’re trying to open ourselves to understand our own selves, our own reality, our own truth, our own potential, with more clarity, because we’re not distracted by or we’re temporarily releasing the belief systems that we’ve created through our childhood, through what our peers have told us, through the all the things that we’ve experienced and just say “You know what? OK, I’m going to put all those beliefs and identifications that I have about myself on the shelf and I’m just going to go in and see what’s there”. Without defining it, that’s why I would say this is not a belief based thing. The other thing is that when we talk about humility as being self forgetfulness, it’s forgetting those limitations, which is not self deprecating, it’s not saying “I’m small, I’m nobody, I’m a sinner, I’m useless”. It’s just saying “I’m going to put those identifications, those limiting ideas on the shelf. Maybe they work for me, but right now I’m going to put them on the shelf and try to go as deep as I can into my own consciousness and sink down by relaxing away from the surface and the turbulence of thoughts into the stillness that is always within me. You’ve got to believe that it’s there and just settle down and rest in that for a while.
And you may feel (I don’t want to set up a big expectation), but at some time you may really feel a very transcendent kind of peace and calmness and security. And then after meditating – living with with this recognition of this possibility that there’s this greater potential in me then what everybody else told me when I was growing up or what I even think, what I see in the mirror. The goal is to live with out carrying those limitations forward. And feeling in our heart intuitively what our own purpose and potential is in this life. And it could be really great, it could be huge, it could be very quiet, it could be really loud, but it’s yours and nobody can define it for you. This is what I love about sharing meditation with people – is that I’m totally enthusiastic about what I feel and what I thought that it’s asking me to do with my life and then the path, the practice is how do I manifest that without getting all tangled up by limiting it with my fears or getting all puffy about it like thinking “I’m a spiritual bad ass”. It happens when you do something good then you start thinking, you start feeling proud of yourself for being intuitive and pretty soon you’re telling other people how to live. I’ve done that, I’ve done that myself and had to live with it. So that’s why “Yogananda Meditation Center” – this new version of what I used to do has come up, because I’ve really seen that I need to keep myself in check and I don’t want to limit your experience by projecting my own beliefs and experiences into your scene and that’s what I see happening all the time. It’s easy to fall into, so that’s the idea, that with humility you can accomplish anything.
And I’m going to say one more thing and I don’t know if this is appropriate. We were just up north for a wedding with some really close friends where we were living the last few years, up at Ananda Village. It’s a spiritual community dedicated to meditating and we all follow the teachings of this lineage. Everyone meditates and it’s a great place and we have really close friends there. And my teacher directly Swami Kriyananda (he passed a few years ago) founded that village and the work as we know it now and every kind of brought the things that help me personally, so I feel a very deep appreciation for how he changed my life and that’s why I try to share some of it here. Swami was an interesting guy because he he didn’t like to talk about himself and he had this humility thing down, but he did all kinds of things to help people, wrote a lot of books and did other things and was always thinking of the welfare of others. That’s all he ever focused on. And it was always others everywhere, it was never one specific group. His love was completely limitless.
So now they created a mausoleum for him when he died and it’s this temple and some of us were thinking that Swami wouldn’t want that, he didn’t want to be recognized. I’m always negative and critical, but they actually did it right. I actually helped build it when I was there. Just a little bit, I did a little minor work in there. But this last trip was the first time I was over all my criticism about it and I actually was able to sit in there and really meditate with an open mind and an open heart. And I felt so sweet in there and what was interesting is that there was an event happening where they have these beautiful gardens of tulips and people come to see the gardens and they come from all around and they don’t really know anything about these teachings or Swami. And in this mausoleum, he’s buried under the floor and the way they decided to make it is that it’s on the edge of this hillside overlooking this huge valley over one of the forks of the Yuba river. And all you see is pine trees and beautiful hills and sky.
So you walk into this little space that has these three giant windows. It kind of feels like you’re on the edge of the earth and all you see is sky and woods. He’s under your feet. Now I’m in there with my critical, negative attitude and I’m meditating in the back. And I’m serious, right? I’m a real meditator. I’m going to go deep. Meanwhile we have these tourists walking around and they’ve got screaming children and babies and toys and they’re doing texting. And they at least keep the babies outside when they come in to check out the mausoleum, and they’re walking all over Swami. And I’m the only one, I meditate in the back, I’m doing my techniques and I’m sitting there for about an hour and I think “This feels weird. They’re walking all over him, they don’t even know who he is, they don’t even know why they’re here, there’s nothing that even tells you what this thing is”. And then I got it. I was meditating and I felt just really connected to him. And then I opened my eyes. And there were two people who were sitting in the chair, they had these big jackets because it’s cold up there in the mountains. They’re like this. They’re not meditating in other words and they’re looking out at the scenery and they got really quiet. Swami’s right there under their feet, unnoticed. And I realized that that is exactly what he wanted. He didn’t want to be remembered, he didn’t want to be recognized, but his whole life was dedicated to introducing people to inner peace.
And it’s just weird how there were all these arguments about how the Mandir should be designed and how much it should cost and all this and why does it have to be like this and I was around a lot of that. And I was so over it when I left the Village. And now going back after being down here for a year or two, I got it. It actually all worked out, it was totally perfect, it was exactly the way it was supposed to be. And the people that came in may or may not know how it got there and what it was all about in a certain way, but they left with the essence of what yoga and meditation and all these things are all about. It’s just having a deeper awareness of our own connection with nature, with God, however we call it. So it’s just been really inspiring for me. So anyway, for me that’s the ultimate of humility, just how his life played out. I know you don’t know his past, but the way it all played out and all the different things that happen and then at the end of the day, it’s just this empty room with all this glass and he’s just there inviting you to see nature and sit there and just feel it. In our little way, this here is like holding a candle to that energy and that’s all we’re trying to do.
So let’s meditate with that in mind. Each one of us has the potential that’s infinite, but it will always be unique too. Each one of us has a very special gift to bring into this greater human experience. And so maybe when we’re meditating, maybe in some way we’ll take steps toward a greater understanding or clarity to work with that.
Recorded at Yogananda Meditation Center on April 10, 2017.
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