Spending Time With My Spiritual Teacher

Meet Ken, a passage meditator living in Grass Valley, California. Ken shares how he uses photos to remind him of Easwaran's presence in his daily life.

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Easwaran

Photos of Easwaran are very central to my sadhana. I have photos around the house, on bookmarks, on my computer desktop and mobile devices.

I was introduced to passage meditation by a couple friends at a time in my life when I was experiencing some serious medical problems. One friend gave me Words to Live By, which I started reading every day. These thoughts for the day resonated so deeply with me, that I made one of those vows that if I made it through this, I would try meditating. A few months later, as I began to heal, I attended a four-week introduction class and started attending the local Blue Mountain Center of Meditation meditation group.

I meditated every day and began to learn to use my mantram and the other points in the eight point program. As Easwaran says, “this is a come as you are party” and that allowed me to move closer, at my own pace. This was perfect for me because I was more than a little skeptical and had some doubts. I began to see benefits of meditation and gradually wanted to experiment more.

The meditation group displayed a photo of Easwaran at every meeting and I decided to get a photo when I attended my first retreat in Tomales. The first photo I chose for my home was one of him smiling encouragingly. I placed that where I could see it from my meditation corner, as well as from the living room. I began and ended meditation by looking at EE and saying my mantram. I could see him from all parts of the living room and would often sit and look at him and say my mantram.

EE on Dining Table.jpeg

I lived alone at the time, ate alone and had a habit of reading at meals. I heard EE say that eating and reading at the same time divided attention and that anything I could do through the day to lessen this division, would help my meditation. I pretty quickly experienced how meditation and the mantram helped slow down my runaway thinking and actually changed my life, so I became very motivated to improve my meditation.

I put another photo on my table and said my mantram before starting to eat and often while I ate. I developed an affection for having meals with EE and often looked at him as I ate. Having EE there also helped remind me to keep my mind quieter, bring my attention back to the meal and not just space out or automatically let my mind go off thinking. The mealtime really started feeling like quality time with my teacher.

Now, living with Stephanie, my partner in dharma and fellow passage meditator, we say our mantrams before eating and have our meals together with the same Easwaran photo. These days, I mostly work from home and have lunch alone, so several meals a week I am still lunching alone with EE.

We have several photos of Easwaran around the house; on the bookcase, under the video monitor; in our meditation space (along with Granny) in the corner of the bedroom; and a few smaller ones in various locations. I still begin and end meditation with looking at Easwaran and Granny.

The latest addition is on the kitchen/dinning room serving counter, facing the kitchen sink. We put this one there after hearing that a friend has an EE photo in his farm’s tractor shed. Easwaran continues his rounds of the workplace and kitchen, where once in awhile, a glance will be a mantram reminder or help pull our mind back from the brink.

EE on Kitchen Counter.jpeg

I love having the photos around the house and catch glimpses through the day. Sometimes seeing his photo sort of jogs my memory of what is real or reminds me of my mantram. I remember hearing Easwaran say something like the purpose of his talks, books and stories was to encourage us to continue meditating. So, perhaps, this is what EE’s photos are doing for my sadhana, in all the little ways through the day, seeing him is a reminder of the real goal in life and to keep practicing passage meditation.

A few weeks ago, the eSatsang had this inspirational quote from God Makes the Rives to Flow, speaking about meditation: “As you sit, you will have in hand the supreme hammer and chisel; use it to hew away all unwanted effects of your heredity, conditioning, environment, and latencies. Bring forth the noble work of art within you! My earnest wish is that one day you shall see, in all its purity, the effulgent spiritual being you really are.” I believe that seeing Easwaran’s photo every so often through the day, cleans away just a little of those unwanted effects and fills my life just a little more with his wish for me.

 

Healing with the Mantram

Susan, a passage meditator in Woodland, California, shares how her practice of the eight points helped her heal a difficult personal relationship, and bring peace at the time of her loved one's passing. She provides a particular focus on creatively using the mantram.

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Susan

­­­­­My relationship with my mother has always been a challenge. As the only child born to an emotionally brittle mother, I was under persistent pressure to be, in many ways, a "mini me" who validated her life with my own. As I matured and began to express more and more of my individuality, she became increasingly critical and bitter. I gravitated further and further away geographically until finally we were on opposite coasts of the United States. Years of therapy and self help books taught me to set boundaries and let go of guilt, but maintaining a connection with her was never easy. Our infrequent visits were too often fraught with me eventually losing my temper followed by her heaping tears of guilt upon her 'uncaring' and 'unappreciative' daughter.

As she became physically frail in her old age, my phone calls and visits became more frequent. By this time I had begun practicing the eight points but I struggled with following EE's advice to draw closer. Her conversations consisted of hours of emotionally charged resentments dating back 70 or 80 years but, in her mind, as outrageous as if they had happened yesterday. She drove away her friends with her negativity and stubbornly refused any type of in home assistance; I was all she had. Somehow I had to find the inner strength to rise to the situation and meditation was not enough; it was going to take all eight points to do it.

Mantram walks were great for burning off my frustration, but due to physical limitations, I couldn't always take a walk. Then I was introduced to mantram art at a retreat. (Mantram art is creating shapes and colors that form a picture or pattern through repeated writing of the mantram. Mantram art can be created from scratch, or by working within a preexisting form, such as a mandala coloring book.)  This became a powerful practice for me. I did it before each phone call, and many hours of it before and during every visit. I tried to slow down and listen to her with one pointed attention, but when I could no longer keep it up, I pulled out a notebook and wrote the mantram while her words washed over me, looking up for occasional eye contact and making sympathetic noises. She never asked what I was writing; I suspect she thought I was recording all those complaints!

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Mantram-Art
Blue-Mountain-Blog-Mantram-Art

My husband was a powerful help as well. Although he doesn't practice the eight points, he is familiar with EE's teachings and supports my practice. He wisely insisted that we rent our own place to stay during our visits. He could often see when I was at the end of my patience before I could, so he would invent a reason to go back to our place for a while, knowing I needed to practice my mantram or meditate or do some spiritual reading. He gave me encouragement to keep practicing when I was discouraged about my progress, and reminded me that tomorrow was another day. Meanwhile, my mother began to say that her daughter was 'back' which I think in some way meant that she saw me as being more patient and kind towards her.

Progress was not smooth. There were a lot of ups and downs, and once or twice I had a full practice day at the motel while my husband was with her because I just couldn't find the strength. But I began to see her as a very insecure, lonely, scared person beneath all her resentments, and was able to feel moments of compassion for her suffering, even if she did bring a lot of it on herself. Twin Verses became a passage I used frequently in meditation during those years: this passage has a powerful message that we are what we think, and that by changing our thoughts we can change ourselves. I fervently prayed that I would not follow in my mother’s footsteps in my own declining years, but instead gain the wisdom to remodel my own thoughts in a much more positive and loving direction.

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Susan

At age 92, my mother's physical decline became very steep. As she became weaker and more dependent, feeling compassion for her was easier. She no longer had as much energy to fuel her resentments and she became more appreciative of our support. It was easier to be slowed down, one pointed, and patient with her. Eventually, her body failed to the point where she had no choice but to be placed in hospice care in a nursing home. At 63 pounds and unable to swallow, refusing a feeding tube, she wanted to die, but her body somehow could not stop clinging to that last ragged scrap of breath.

She could not speak. I remembered that she had sung to me as a baby, and to my daughter as a baby as well, so I sang to her. I sat by her bedside for that last week, singing my best guess as to what her mantram would have been, had she had one. I made up songs about letting go, flying up, any understanding I had gleaned from my spiritual reading and my passages that might ease her journey. I sang for hours every day. And in her dying, she gave me the gift of a tiny glimpse into that next world, and the chance to finally be fully with her, simply present and filled with love, all the heartache gone, like dust in the wind.

Now I hope that my practice of the eight points will purify me, removing my impatience and my judgements and my resentments, so that I can go into my declining years able to share love and appreciation with those around me. My mother was my mother for a reason; my deep unconscious patterns (samskaras) are a perfect fit with hers, and, I hope, a perfect chance to grow beyond them through the diligent use of these precious eight points.

Excerpts From the "Passage Meditation" Audiobook

Blue-Mountain-Passage Meditation

We've been pleased to hear from our friends about the arrival of their new edition of Passage Meditation which has been released just this month. We encourage you to visit last week's post and watch the short video in which readers share their story of finding Passage Meditation, and describe what the book has meant to them – feel free to leave your own comment as well!

There are a number of new elements in this new edition such as the Q&A material from Easwaran in the back of the book. Additionally, this book will be available as an audiobook! The audiobook is read by a longtime passage meditator and friend of the BMCM, and will be available on September 13th.

This week we'd like to offer you four brief excerpts from the audiobook. We've shared excerpts from two chapters – meditation on a passage, and one-pointed attention – as well as two excerpts from the Q&A section in the back of the book.

Blue-Mountain-Blog-Eknath-Easwaran

We think the audio is something special, and look forward to reading your thoughts on it. Please share in the comments below!