Ananya Sri Ram Rajan – USA
As a young woman, I was fortunate to spend time in the presence of the spiritual teacher, J. Krishnamurti. “Krishnaji,” as he was known to some, spent his whole life studying the Self and the human condition. He is famously known for telling his followers that “Truth is a pathless land,” and constantly asking his audience “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” While his questions were not unusual for a spiritual leader to ask, his method of addressing those questions was unique, because he did not provide a direct answer. As he spoke, Krishnaji would address how our mind works. He would talk about how we look to others for answers, an authority of some kind to tell us what to do. And he would include himself in this category and say, “Don’t listen to the speaker. Think for yourself.”
One theme that Krishnamurti returned to again and again is suffering, because it is so prevalent in our lives. Interestingly, many women who visited with Krishnaji would talk about the anguish they were experiencing because of the loss of a partner, child, or even a parent. Aside from the physical loss of the person they loved, the emotional turmoil these women felt was often due to the identification they had with being a wife, mother, or daughter. The role they played defined who they were. Without it, they did not know where they stood in the world. Their life revolved around being the person others wanted them to be based on the roles they played. In other words, they existed for others; they did not live for themselves.
There is a huge difference between existing and living. When we live, truly live, there is a kind of magic in our lives. We move into the flow of things and they begin to fall into place. Everything feels right with the world. We begin to connect the dots in our life and are able to see how our actions lead to the events which take place around us. When that happens, we realize that we are the ones who control our lives. The process is very powerful and there is often a sense of freedom that reigns over us. Unfortunately for most of us, these periods of peace and clarity come in spurts. It does not happen all the time. It does happen, however, when we are answering our heart’s desire and doing something that we have longed to do; or when we direct our lives through the choices we make for ourselves. In other words, we don’t allow others to make decisions about our lives for us. When we do, we begin existing for others instead of living our own journey.
Too often the question from many women, especially those who feel disconnected from themselves and their own lives is, “How do I get from here to there?” Here meaning where they are now—disconnected from their inner self—to there, in flow and connected to their authentic self which in turn is connected to the divinity of life itself. The question arises because women today, I feel, tend to be busier than they ever have been in the past. But despite their hectic life, they know there is something more than what lies before them. They know there is a part of them that is connected to something that moves slower, that speaks to them with a deeper insight than the daily conversations they are having, and that is part of something much quieter than they can hear because their lives are filled with one event after another. Amidst the caretaking, cooking, and work outside the home, something is waiting. . . but how does one get there? The following are some suggestions that might help.
A Quiet Space
Silence is always a good place to start because it is something so necessary in our life and something society today does not honor. Too often we are plugged in to our phone which basically houses everything for us---our ability to talk, text, or email someone, listen to podcasts or music, or watch a video. When we decide to take a walk to relax, we rarely walk in silence or without looking at our phone. We are often plugged in to some kind of stimulation that our system never gets a break. It is like being in a house where the TV is on full blast all the time. There is constant noise in the background and we wonder why our mind cannot be quiet or why we feel restless. Working to bring more silence into our life can help this.
Creating a quiet space in one’s surroundings can actually calm a whole room. A quiet space is where there are no outside stimulations. So, no phone, iPad, iPod, or “i anything.” Nothing to create a distraction. And that is the rule. Nothing is allowed in the quiet space that creates a distraction from what the space is for.
A quiet space can fun to create if you take it seriously. Choosing colors that are soft or soothing helps. Using soft lighting also makes a big difference along with either a scented candle, oil, or incense if aromatherapy is agreeable to you. The main ingredient of course is silence. In a quiet space, one is quiet. Even if one’s mind is not quiet, it is important to just listen to or be with the silence. The mind will do what it does, but the more we practice being quiet, the more the mind will begin to calm down.
In my work as a therapist, I talk to a lot of women. It is said that women are often the glue to a family because a woman will do what she can to make a house a home, to keep peace and harmony in her family, and sacrifice her own time and energy to help others. I have witnessed this over and over again, but there needs to be a limit. Too often women will feel it is their responsibility to keep everyone happy. Whether it is the relationship between her siblings, her parents, her children, or her friends, women will often work overtime to make sure that everyone is happy to the detriment of her own well-being.
One of the greatest spiritual lessons (and one of the hardest) is learning discrimination. The term discrimination in spirituality is the ability to know what is serving one in a healthy way and what is not. It is the ability to step back and observe what is working and what is not---without judgment. As women, we get caught up in other people’s dramas as a way to show we care. It happens because we are often the sounding boards and support for one another. We learn from talking to other women whether it be our own mothers, sisters, cousins, or friends. But this can also lead to constantly sharing our every event with one another and getting caught in the net of dramas that have nothing to do with us.
Our spiritual lives start when we are able to separate ourselves from what is ours and what is another’s issue. We all must take the reins of our own life. It is why we incarnated into this physical form. We are here to experience what we need to experience, learn from the experiences, and feed our own soul. We can advise another when asked, but we cannot live their journey. Nor should we. It is a disservice to another to even try. Eventually we must let go and focus on our own growth.
According to Buddhist thought, equanimity comes from the constant conscious realization that the physical world is transient or forever changing. Nothing is permanent. It is said that when we are able to continually remind ourselves of this, we stop grasping or holding tightly to that we cannot control. This, of course, is easier said than done and it is easier to practice when things are going well. All it takes is one event that endangers the life of a loved one and such practice goes out the window. But that’s why it is called practice. We may not always get it right, but the more we do it, the better we will get.
To start the process of moving toward more equanimity in our lives, we need to start with non-reaction. Non-reaction ties in well with discrimination because it keeps us from getting caught in other people’s dramas. Non-reaction does not mean we don’t care about a person or event, it means instead of creating more reaction to a situation (which can make it worse), we work on being present. Initially, it will feel weird, but if we observe what happens when we don’t react, we will find that our lack of reaction can create space for something else to take place. By acknowledging the person’s upset, but not feeding into it, we let them know they are being heard while practicing discrimination.
These are just some guidelines to help start readers on their spiritual path. It is important that one starts with what works for them. There is no right and wrong when one decides to take the journey, that is the beauty of it. Here’s to a beautiful journey to YOU.