Monday, July 4, 2011

Every Moment We Have The Opportunity to Begin Again

Beatles Reference?

Recently, at a restaurant here in Rishikesh, a friend and I got into a conversation with a young man who queried “what exactly is a spiritual path?”  He, an Indian man from Mumbai, had just been told by a Western friend of his that he wasn’t spiritual enough because he wasn’t on a spiritual path.   He was openly agitated by the comment. 

First thing’s first, I must say that I was a bit perplexed that a person who is presumably on the “spiritual path” would feel the need to rate another human’s spiritual efforts.  I wonder what spiritual path he’s on.  Second thing’s second, the word “spiritual” is a bit overused in some circles and its meaning is debatable in most every circle so it is always difficult to begin a conversation, particularly one that could evoke some strong feelings, that centers on such a subjective word.

In any event, my agitated new friend took the Yoda approach: “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  Translation: There is no path to spirituality.  You either exist in peace with yourself and the world around you, or you don’t.  His sentiment reminds me of a quote from the Dalai Lama that I love: “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” And while I respect and agree with both of these sentiments, I still feel that we are all on a journey or path.  The path varies for each of us.  Some of us are on several.  We’re on the path to spirituality; happiness; peace; acceptance of our past mistakes; getting over any childhood issues, living more fit lives; downsizing our possessions; upgrading our possessions, decorating our homes; loving our jobs; improving our relationships; maintaining a better diet; finding that special someone; starting a family; maintaining a better attitude in the face of things that are hurtful, annoying, ridiculous; and on and on…

Perhaps it is as simple as “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  Maybe.  Could be.   I wish.  It hasn’t been that simple for me.  Instead everyday, I wake up and I try.   I try with yoga poses that I haven’t mastered.  You don’t just pop into the scorpion, for example.  Or when someone makes a mean, unexpected comment, of course, the optimal situation would be to ignore it.  Remember: “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”  Except for that’s crap when you are reeling from a negative experience.  You’re not happy - maybe you’re angry or hurt.  Perhaps you’re thinking of what you should have said, or what you should say, or what you should do now…and none of those thoughts fall into the “happy thought” category.  What do you do?  You could take negative counteraction.  You could take positive action.  But most importantly is to observe what you feel.  Get to know that anger.  Accept yourself.  Then realize that every moment you have the opportunity to start again, to get back on your path…whatever path that may be…back to happiness, back to loving your job, back to loving yourself, back to fitness, back to starting your family.  We have a choice of what this moment and those that follow will look like.  So someone is actively detracting from your present happiness.  Choose you, when you’re ready.  No worries how long it takes.  Eventually, the decision to get back to the path comes faster and faster, until you no longer step off the path (at least not on that issue).

All of this reminds me of a fantastic story called “Autobiography in Five Chapters” from a book I love, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost . . . I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it there.
I still fall in . . . it is a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

Cheers to you and your path!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Erica! Loved to read your blog. Found it via the yog peeth website. I will be going to Yogpeeth October 1st... very excited. Are you still living in Amsterdam? If so (me too) I would love to give you a quick call and ask for some practical advice of someone who has already gone through the training. You can contact me via It would really be much appreciated!
    Kind regards,