I.9. SHABDA-JNAANAANUPAATII-VASTU-SHUNYO VIKALPAH 'Verbal delusion is caused by the identification with words that have no basis in reality.'
When you hear an opinion and believe it, it becomes your truth. In order to create new truths, we have to choose which opinions to believe. When your enemy insults you, do you believe it? When you make a mistake and tell yourself you are no good, do you listen to that voice?
Understanding that we have control over how to emotionally respond to our thoughts is difficult to accept, and even more difficult to practice.
Our Attachment To Thoughts
A thought enters the mind, it may be a memory or an opinion, and we automatically attach an emotion to it. The emotional response might be conscious or subconscious, but it is often stronger than the thought itself.
Swami Vishnu-Devananda uses the following story when explaining this concept to his students:
“A great Hindu holy man was once insulted in front of his disciples by a non-believer who spat upon his face several times. Not one muscle twitched, nor did his calm facial expression change, because he did not identify with his physical sheath. His mindwas centered in God. Can you imagine the strength of that mind? Swami Sivananda prostrated before that man who tried to kill him, and Jesus forgave those who crucified him. No matter what was done to them, they responded with one thought, that of pure love. A true master will notreact in anger, for to him, insult and praise are the same. Restraint of thought waves does not mean suppression. Suppression dams up violent emotions. For various reasons, people suffer abuse, suppressing anger or pain by smiling and carrying a stiff upper lip. The restrained thought waves must be given an outlet. They must be sublimated and channeled into such uplifting activities as Mantra repetition, exercise, singing and meditation on opposite, positive thoughts. Exchange love for anger and joy for sorrow.”
Restraining vs. Suppressing Negative Thoughts
Detachment from the influence of our enemies takes intense mental strength. But what I failed to recognize was if I was restraining negative thoughts, or merely suppressing them, when trying to practice this sutra.
I think I was just suppressing them. I think I was burying them deeper inside, not allowing them to creep back up into my consciousness so that they couldn’t affect me and cause pain.
It’s easy to hide from negative words, thoughts, and emotions. But how do you become so God-centered that you can respond to hurtful persons with love? The answer is in the sutra: exercise your mind with mantra repetition, exercise, and meditation on positive thoughts in order to make it stronger.
Give the restrained thoughts an outlet, channeling them from a negative form to a positive one.
Learning To Plant Good Seeds
One of the first concepts I learned in yoga class was that of seeds. The teacher took us through a vigorous flow until I was sweating and exhausted. While attempting to catch my breath in Child’s pose, he told us to plant good seeds.
He explained that every action and conversation is a chance for us to plant a seed. We can choose to water the seeds of goodness and love, or fertilize seeds of jealousy, anger, resentment, and sadness instead. He challenged us to practice mindfulness immediately after class, while still engaged in our yoga practice.
When leaving class, become acutely aware of where your thoughts take you. Do you find an urge to text your ex-boyfriend in order to get his attention? Or rush to the door first so you can beat the rest of the students out of the building?
What if you fought that urge to reach for your phone, and instead connect with other students in the room? Or took a few extra breaths in seated meditation before leaving the studio, keeping the peace of your practice with you a few moments longer?
Finding simple, consistent ways to strengthen the mind might not lead you to give your enemy a big hug and tell them you love them. But it could make you one step closer to experiencing inner peace and love for yourself when faced with adversity, for we all have the ability to choose how to emotionally respond to our thoughts, as difficult as it may seem.