Friday, April 4, 2014

Wanting What Others Have

Something that gives me peace, joy and a sense of purpose in life is appreciating the commonality of the world's belief systems. In the wisdom and faith traditions of the world, the essential teachings remain the same: this builds my faith in Oneness. For example, we find the Golden Rule expressed in all major religions:

Another universal ethical teaching is a warning against "greed-based desire rooted in jealousy" (Davidji, Aparigraha: The Forgotten Yama). The fifth yama or ethical precept of Yoga is aparigraha, usually translated as non-greed: aparigraha is a mindset that keeps us wanting more and focused on what the people around us have. In the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible the 10th Commandment is, "You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor." Of course these basic precepts can be expanded and enriched to cover other related behaviors and attitudes, but at the foundation of aparigraha and non-covetousness is an admonition against greed. 

Here is a paradox of the human condition: greed keeps us poor. You may say, "that is simply not so! Look at the fat cats on Wall Street. They are rich because they are greedy, scheming, always wanting more." I am speaking not only of material poverty, but also of spiritual poverty. To be full and rich spiritually is to be at peace, content, joyful, blissful. Also, many people who are materially wealthy achieved their state in life from a combination of hard work, focus, and opportune circumstances. The third part of this equation is beyond our control, but the hard work and focus components are not born of greed and jealousy of what others have. Instead, external success comes from a one-pointed focus on the goal and the task at hand, and doing what one can for oneself. That attitude is not greed and is only related to greed when the fruits of labor are hoarded and not shared. Greed and jealousy impede true wealth of any kind because they rob us of gratitude and pull our energies away from creating and receiving blessings. 

I am going to share something very personal and meaningful from my family experience. When I was growing up, one of my younger sisters adored me so much that she wanted to look like me. She told me that when she was very little, she prayed each night that she would look like me when she awoke the next morning. In reality she was a beautiful child and grew up to be a very beautiful woman, with different hair and eyes and features from me. A few years ago our Dad was telling me a story of how she told him how lucky I am to have such a wonderful life partner and that she wished she could have someone like him. It made me think about her prayer when we were younger. I wondered then what it would be like for me to be the younger sibling rather than the older one, and if she were older, would she have been more focused on her own gifts and her own desires, rooted in an appreciation of who she was instead of what she saw outside of herself

We all have moments when our attention is placed on another person's gifts, achievements and possessions rather than on our present experience of ourselves and our unique life purpose. Some of us struggle with this more than others, and it becomes an ingrained pattern of thought. When I am experiencing jealousy I notice it and try to shift back to self-awareness and my own creative work process. It happened this week a couple of times, when I was focused on the successes of other spiritual teachers who have strong networking skills and more determination that I have currently. I noticed one spiritual teacher with less training and experience, but more willingness to promote her work, receiving community support and publicity that I don't have. I was focused on the fact that she has those things and I don't, and wondering why I don't, since I also "deserve" it. I recognized pretty quickly that these thoughts were destructive and a waste of my energy. I shifted my focus back to the immense blessings and support I have received since starting on this formal teaching journey less than 1 year ago, after a lifetime of hesitation to answer my calling. I brought to mind the synchronicity, opportunity and support from others that lift me up and carry me on my way each day. I decided then to put my full support behind others who are doing similar work, rather than perceiving them as competitors. We are all in this together, answering the same universal calling to walk each other home and keep the pathway well lit. 

Do you struggle with jealousy? It is a bottomless pit that will suck blessings away from you. Shift your focus from wanting what others have: 1. Notice what YOU have, and, 2. Dream of what you want for yourself, because it is right for YOU. This will unlock all the good on its way to YOU. As long as you are jealous you will be deprived. It's that simple.

We can work with shifting the energy of jealousy in our yoga practice. As a way to honor the yama of aparigraha, we can bring in some of the other limbs of yoga: pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses); we can draw our focus inward lessening attachment to the outer world. Pratyahara will help us with our asana (physical postures), as we hone in and execute our postures with greater focus, which leads us to dharana (fixed attention and concentration), noticing only what is happening on our own mat and embodying our practice with full attention. Finally, we can always use pranayama (control of the breath), to channel our energy in the way that best serves us on and off our mats. 

In your practice today, free yourself of desire for what others have and fully experience the gift of yourself and your practice. Imagine drawing a circle of light around your mat, and then a smaller circle around yourself. Sit for a few moments with your eyes closed, in this protected circle, focusing on your unique light and energy. Silently incorporate the So Hum mantra into your breathing. This mantra means, "I am that." On the inhale, internally repeat "So," and as you exhale, internally repeat "Hum." As you proceed through your asana, don't let your energy or awareness drift off of your mat. Don't covet the asana practice of your teacher or fellow students. Instead, fully enjoy your own practice. If you become distracted, pull your energy back to inhaling "So" and exhaling "Hum." Close your eyes as often as possible in this practice to enhance sense withdrawal and to seal your focus inward. Bask in the richness of your own presence and power. Be satiated with who YOU ARE. 

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