Meet Gary, a YA living in Santa Cruz, California. Gary first learned about Easwaran through the book Dialogue with Death (now Essence of the Upanishads). Gary shares here what captivated him about the book.
It was September 2006, I was a student at San Francisco State University attending the first class of the semester on “Holistic Health: Western Perspective.” The Professor Dr. Erick Peper had us start the class by closing our eyes. Painting a detailed picture for us, he asked us to imagine an orange, how it felt in our hands peeling it, how tasty it looked and fresh and full of juice it was. Then he told us, “Open your eyes… whose mouth is watering?” It took a second, but almost everyone raised his or her hands in the entire class. This little lesson/experiment described essentially what the class was all about; the connection between mind and body, and why Dr. Peper had Easwaran’s book Dialogue With Death on his required reading list.
To be honest, I was a little turned off at first with the opening story about Nachiketa, I had no idea where this was going or why on earth in a “Western Perspectives” health class we were required to read a book on Indian spirituality, but I read on, and it was quite possibly my most valuable exercise of will ever. Little did I know that that very will I was exercising was going to be the same subject that would grab my attention like nothing had ever before.
The chapter, “Will and Desire” simply captivated me. As I read through Eknath Easwaran’s writings, I felt as if he was talking to ME! His perspective on WQ (will quotient) vs. IQ is brilliant; “In every endeavor it is the man or woman with an unbreakable will who excels.” This was exactly what I needed to hear at the time, pure empowerment. Having this new perspective on will and IQ gave me great confidence, motivation and trust, especially with my studies. Although lessons like those in this chapter are extremely valuable, I believe Dr. Peper added this book as a required reading for the connection between mind and body and how it relates to health.
Easwaran addresses the mind/body connection in Dialogue With Death: “I would go so far as to say that every movement in the mind has a physiological component. . . It follows that every chronic or habitual mental state includes effects on health. Often these effects include the stress response.” I currently work in the health field as a strength and conditioning, fitness and nutrition coach; there is no doubt that in order to achieve full health of the body, we must also cultivate a healthy mind. It’s all about stress, and there is nothing more stressful or unhealthy than a negative mental state. Easwaran talks about these negative moods, “all these mental states impose stress on the mind and body. . . affecting for example, how the immune system functions.”
Maybe the saddest part about this is that we impart this harm on ourselves, we create these mental states based on our response to our environment, even if what we perceive isn’t reality. Easwaran describes, “What Subtle (mind) sees is what Gross (body) responds to – even if what she sees is not really there.” We’ve all been in a situation like this, say for example you get angry because your sister didn’t turn the dishwasher on, only to find out the dishwasher had broken down. You created a false situation with your mind that your body has to negatively respond to.
Easwaran spells it out for us, “we do not need to change our environment to solve personal problems; all we have to do is master our thinking process and change our response to the environment.” That is the key to the orange experiment, it was not to just show that there is a connection between mind and body, but also to open us up to the idea that we have to learn to, as much as possible, cultivate a positive mind to produce a healthy body. I leave you with a quote from the Buddha, “You can have no better friend than a well-trained mind – and no worse enemy than an untrained mind.”
Gary at a recent YA retreat in Northern California
I currently practice passage meditation daily and follow Easwaran’s eight-point program. My practice of meditation and the eight-point program, created by Easwaran, has been hugely beneficial, positively influencing every aspect of my life. It is a journey that I have learned so much from and continue to learn from on a daily basis. Easwaran’s writings are a source of constant inspiration and guidance for me. I am enthusiastic about this path I consider myself blessed to be on.