Thursday, August 25, 2011

When You've Got So Much To Say It's Called Gratitude

Our practice does not happen in a vacuum.  We think of it as “our” practice, as if it belongs to us.  It does not.  Not a single one of us would have the ability to practice without the generosity of others.  Certainly we need to be thankful for those teachers who share their knowledge with us through direct contact or through books, videos, and the internet (see, Patanjali was not kidding when he said yogis can be in several places at once and instantaneously over long distances).  In order to pay for these classes, books, and videos, we should be thankful for our employers, and for those who trained us to work at the jobs which provide us income.  We need to be thankful for those who watch over responsibilities (watch the kids, cook dinner, wash the dishes, quietly ignore the alarm at pre-dawn hours like my wonderful wife) while we go to classes or do our practice. 

Some are able to go to retreats or foreign lands to directly study with masters; be thankful for the sacrifice of others which allows you this freedom.  Be thankful for the pilots, engineers, and taxi drivers who get you there.  Be thankful for the plumbers and grounds people who keep the physical locations running so there is a place to practice. 

Some of us are unable to study directly with masters.  Do not despair!  Cultivate a satsanga, a group of like minded students who will benefit from the knowledge of the collective.  Be thankful there are others out there who are also on this path.  Develop friendships with those who are able to study with masters, they will certainly share what they have heard.  Be thankful this knowledge is meant to be spread.

For teachers, be thankful for your students.  If you have no students in your class or a room overflowing, teach.  Be thankful that you can share what you have learned.  Be thankful that you have the opportunity to put the teachings into practice.

Be thankful that there are so many ways to practice, and that our practice can and should evolve over time.  Contortions are not for everyone.  We can breathe mindfully, sit for meditation, study the scriptures and the lives of saints, help those in need, be nice to one another, do our duty/work because it needs to be done rather than for expectation of reward.  There are many ways to quiet the noise.  The correct one is the one which works for you.

Remember to cultivate the Four Virtues (PYS I.33):  Friendliness (maitri) towards those who are happier than yourself, Compassion (karuna) toward those who are suffering, Joyfulness (mudita) with those doing praiseworthy things, and Indifference (upeksanam) to the wicked.  This is a tremendously difficult practice, but, thankfully, we have so many opportunities every day to try. 

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