Eknath Easwaran: Patience & Beauty

This week we're pleased to share with you a 30-minute video from the Video of the Month series. In this lively talk, Easwaran describes how spiritual practices can help us to increase our patience, good-will, and love for all – qualities which are all markers of inner beauty.

We're always interested to hear what stands out to you in the video. Share any thoughts or tips you're taking away in the comments below!

Slowing Down – Very Slowly

In this week's post Gretchen shares her ongoing challenges, opportunities, and insights about practicing slowing down.

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Gretchen

Many of us begin this path with a sense that some of Easwaran's eight points are more challenging for us than others. For me, "slowing down" was more than challenging: it was just about impossible. While I did manage to meditate each morning, I was often distracted, and would routinely jump up from the chair and begin a very intense workday of visiting hospice patients in their homes, tending to my elderly mother, helping with my children and grandchildren, volunteering at church, and caring for two frisky, gigantic Great Danes – at breakneck speed. 

Life was too full, and far too fast. The cell phone, which required about fifty work-related messages per day, was always on and always within reach. Stimulation was constant. I remember someone suggesting, at my first Tomales retreat, that I repeat the mantram three times between each patient visit. It was a wonderful idea, simple and sensible, an excellent way to slow down. Problem was, I got home, gave it a try, and just kept forgetting to do it...

Because the eight points are interconnected, this problem with slowing down impacted all the others. It is hard to be one pointed, for example, when you are in such a rush that you routinely pick up work messages on your cell while driving between visits. Spiritual fellowship is hard to develop if you come home so exhausted that you collapse before making it to satsang, and find yourself numbly diddling around on the computer instead.

I look back on those days and see a path strewn with jewels. The first jewel was an unexpected, blind trust in Gandhi's insight that "full effort is full victory."  I had – for reasons beyond my own understanding – engaged in a deep inner battle, one that seemed impossible to win. Simply put, I was not powerful enough to slow down of my own accord. All I could do was put in my best effort, and hope for help. 

That was the second jewel: a distant sense that I was being helped.  

Life had somehow taught me that there was no real help; that all of us had to figure things out for ourselves, prove ourselves – in a world that in general demanded much and judged harshly. This was surely the force behind my own unmanageable impulse to go faster, do better, and accomplish more. I was trying to prove something – to the world, to the people around me, but most of all, to myself.

A sense of help – from Easwaran, from the mystics, from the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and other aspirants – was almost frightening at first, so strong was my compulsion to prove myself. But in spite of that, I could feel the help coming in. It was flowing towards me whether I deserved and understood it or not. I could feel it in the beautiful memorized words, the gentle retreats, the mantram walks, the kindness and wisdom of others, the deepening sense of peace and well-being that caught me off guard, and invited me to trust the path I was walking – or more often, running. 

At last, at last, that impulse to rush was beginning to diminish.

A third jewel, rough-cut to be sure, was a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which made slowing down an imperative, not just an intention. RA is chronic and can be debilitating, but far less so if stress and daily life are well managed. It was this diagnosis that allowed for much greater mastery of all the points, but especially slowing down.

Gradually, the jewels began to tumble in then, year upon year, bright and beautiful. Now, a few more years along the path, I can identify several life changes that would have been impossible for me to make earlier on, each a great gift unto itself:

Switching to a less stressful job. Attending satsang regularly. Writing a page of mantrams daily. Moving more slowly - and therefore more deeply - through passages during meditation Sleeping, exercising and eating well Returning to Tomales annually for retreat and re-centering Balancing life in a spirit of gentleness, rather than dashing through it

It all sounds so simple!

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Mantram-Notebooks

Gretchen's mantram notebooks

Simple but not easy, for some of us. I look back and smile with great tenderness at that former self who spent several years learning the simple gesture of putting down a cell phone while driving...

Time continues to bring change. My mother died, not so long ago. The wild, unruly Danes have died as well. Grandchildren keep arriving, each one bright eyed and full of life. My new puppy Beatrice loves the mantram walks we take each day, and never hesitates to slow down and rest along the path if she needs to.

Blue Mountain-Blog-Gretchen
Blue-Mountain-Blog-Gretchen

Time and change have only brought me to believe this more deeply than ever before: full effort is full victory.  

And also this: help surrounds each one of us.  
Wishing you the blessing of jewels on your journey, too – especially the parts that seem impossible.

Eknath Easwaran: The Power of Ordinary People

This week we share an excerpt from Eknath Easwaran's book The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living Volume 2: Like a Thousand Suns. This short excerpt contains one of our favorite images of the power of community.

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Easwaran

When you are always aware of the unity of life, you see the Lord in every living creature. Then you welcome every opportunity to serve others, and you become incapable of doing anything at their expense. To put it more personally, you see everyone as dear to you; every child is your child, and every dog is your dog. I don’t think anyone has ever put it more beautifully than the Compassionate Buddha, when he tells us that we should love and protect every man, every woman, every child, every creature on earth, the way a mother loves and protects her only child.

If we keep our eyes on this supreme goal all the time, our life will be full of meaning; every decision we make will be significant to the whole. Every morning we will renew our decision not to live for ourselves but to do what adds to the welfare of everyone, and once we have learned to make this decision we can live in any country or any society and give a good account of our lives. Of course, everyone does not make the same kind of contribution. Some are doctors or nurses, some are teachers, some are mothers or fathers. But whatever our place in life, each of us has a contribution to make that can be made by no one else. Each of us can learn to apply the changeless values of selfless living to his or her own life, and because the Lord dwells in every one of us, none of us need ever be diffident about our capacity to leave the world a little better than we found it.

There is a story from the folklore of India that illustrates this point effectively. On the first day of the sun’s creation, people expected to see it shining in the sky forever. No one knew that the sun had to dip into the water in the evening for a twelve-hour bath so that it could rise refreshed in the morning. So on the first evening of creation, everyone was terrified to see the sun about to set and the darkness beginning to spread across the world. They didn’t know what to do. Then one little person stood up and said, “I’ll light a candle.” Someone else added, “I will too.” Here, there, everywhere, millions of people started lighting candles, and soon the whole world was filled with light again.

This simple little story shows the importance of every person on earth, no matter how insignificant our lives may appear to be. Ordinary though we may be on the surface, within the heart of each of us lie tremendous capacities for love and service, and if we can keep our eyes always on the Lord of Love, there is no problem on earth too dire for ordinary people like you and me to solve.