This week, we hear from Chris, a passage meditator living in New Mexico. Chris shares how she used the mantram to transform a difficult working relationship.
One of the things that attracted me to Easwaran early on was his practical approach. He never said “thou shalt”, but rather, “you don’t have to take my word for this – try it yourself”.
As a new graduate nurse practitioner, I had just moved to a rural town to work in the clinic. I was the first nurse practitioner to work in that town; the concept was new to many people. This was a small town, and word came back to me that a person with an office in the same building I worked in was making disparaging remarks about me in the community. My initial reactions were anger, contempt, ideas of vengeance – the usual parade of wounded ego characters.
In my daily reading from the Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living, I had come across a new challenge. Sri Easwaran said that if a person was irritating you, your best approach was to seek that person out, spend time with him, focus on the good in him. This, Easwaran assured, would lead to freedom.
It seemed impossible to me, but I decided to try. Each morning, I got to work early, and stopped to see the man, who was also there early every day. I would go by his office, and say hello, ask him how he was doing, what was new, and then just bite my tongue and listen.
Initially while I was doing this, my mind was full of angry thoughts: “you judgmental so and so, how dare you talk about me, you don’t even know me”, sometimes alternating with my mantram “Rama, Rama, Rama”. After a couple of weeks of this experiment, I thought that it was not working at all. In fact, rather than finding freedom, I felt I was being a hypocrite by pretending to be nice while my mind was engaged in major battle with the man.
The morning I was going to quit the experiment, I opened my daily Easwaran reading, and there was my spiritual teacher, speaking directly to me (ever happen to anyone else?). EE said that if you felt you were being untrue to yourself by forcing yourself to be kind when your thoughts were anything but kind, well…you weren’t. Your real self was compassionate, forgiving, loving. Easwaran said that it wasn’t hypocritical to put on a bright smile, and act like your real self.
Chris' meditation room, with a picture of Sri Easwaran.
So I kept visiting my office neighbor every morning at work, saying hello, asking how he was, and listening. This went on for a year or so, and it dawned on me one day that it was no longer an act. I had learned that he spent an hour every night on the phone with his mother, who was a difficult person. He secretly helped people who were struggling financially. He suffered with headaches much of the time, but did his best to remain cheerful. He worked tirelessly for an organization that did a lot of good in the community.
The winter sun in New Mexico.
I had grown to admire and respect him. He still made disparaging remarks. In the small town, these comments came back to me. A friend asked me if this bothered me, and I was surprised to hear myself say no.
Truthfully…no. I had come to see the good in him, and to realize that my own security did not rest in what he had to say. The experiment had not been about changing him – it had been about changing me, about gaining some mastery over my own mind. In other words, I had found a little taste of freedom! Over the years, I have practiced this experiment over and over. It has never failed to help uncover more security and peace, and to lighten the anger load, a little at a time.