I am in the third week of training. I now spend every day definitely doing at least one thing that I have been too lazy to do or preferred to avoid.
Sometimes I just want to lie down on the bed silently and do nothing. That evening, right when I got a moment of such spare time, I remembered that there was a talent show. This is the routine: Every Saturday, there is a talent show where the guests of the Ashram arrange a Sattvic show dance, sing a song, play instruments, or improvise something.
This week, although I had put aside the idea of doing anything for the show, my friend, who happens to be master of ceremonies for the show, came up to me and asked if I would do something. I wanted to cut the conversation short by saying, “I don’t know what to do, I will think it over and tell you,” but she delightfully responded before I could speak. She said, “I think you should talk on stage. Why don’t you read out a poem? I’ll add your name to the list, okay? You can give me more details later.” Then, she was gone, and I was left dumbfounded. I couldn’t utter a word, because deep inside, I knew that I had already accepted the challenge.
Here is how it goes: If people realize that someone is running away from something, they will try to find a way to make him or her face it. In other words, people encourage each other to progress beyond their limits. Everyone is aware of this, and the more you set yourself aside, the more your mind sets limits and makes you believe that this is all there is. Lethargy can then descend on you, making you inactive, but it’s actually also silently reminding you that now is the right time to act.
By postponing my half an hour of laziness, I started searching for something to present for the show, which was to start in an hour and a half. While I was performing the fastest search of my whole life, I came across the news of Can Dundar, who is an imprisoned journalist in Turkey, and many people were gathered in front of the prison gates to watch something. I then had an association of ideas: I wanted to talk about Nazim Hikmet. I decided to read one of his poems accompanied by the delightful melody of a guitar. This poem says, “Living is no joke; you must live with great seriousness, like a squirrel for example…” I immediately found one of my friends who could play the guitar and started rehearsing with her. On stage, when I was talking about Nazim Hikmet and his devotion and endeavors for a fair and peaceful world, I found once again the strength and peace to break one more of my chains by overcoming the limits of my mind.
When I went to bed that night, I almost reached the sky as my mind exploded. I was analyzing the night and the outcome: There is something about choosing not to do an action, even though I know I am capable of doing it. Rather than saying, “I can’t” to everything, I realize there is a liberating effect in saying “I can.” One more day comes to an end with the realization that the question “Can I do it?” has only one answer: “Yes, you can!”
The sleeping announcement then ends the day: “Ooom! Ten o’clock! Lights out! Good night, everybody!”
That morning, in asana class after some attempts at half-headstands, Maha Lakshmi came to me and said she wanted to talk to me about the posture. Although being a student of her was a privilege for me, my mind just wanted to escape from such confrontation. I could not delay the confrontation later than the afternoon, though. Later, as I sat next to her under a tree, she said, “What is going on? I can see that you have the strength, both physically and mentally, to raise your feet, but you do not. Why?”
Although I had already started to contemplate the real cause for this, I gave a superficial response to Maha Lakshmi: “I have been injured so many times and that is why I am overly cautious.” When she looked right into my eyes, though, she saw the true state of affairs: “No, there is something other than a fear of getting injured. What is going to happen if you fall? You do kickboxing, and you know how to do a somersault.” Maha Lakshmi outmaneuvered me so quickly that I had to confess the hidden cause loudly: “I am afraid of falling. Before falling down, I want to get up with control.” This confession was truthful, not just for the headstand but also for all my life. The response Maha Lakshmi gave back became double underlined and highlighted with an orange pen in my mind: “The headstand removes all the fears in your life. When you can hold the headstand for at least for a minute, you will be able to find the courage you need to make whatever you want in life come true.”
In the next class, I was able to perform the headstand with no help. In the following classes, I was able to do headstands again and again. I kept falling down, doing somersaults, but I got up each time. Before the talk, every stage of the posture had consisted of mental slavery, irregular breaths, lots of sweat, and a crimson face. After Maha Lakshmi’s words, the transformation of slavery into courage got me to relax in the posture and calm down. With this experience, I started to embrace everything that came with the posture and resolved to practice it everywhere, at every moment and in every possibility.
I am sitting cross-legged on the floor as I listen to the class cows pass close by. A warm breeze with a musk-like aroma blows over me, and my mind starts floating: “One does not fear to love but fears to get injured.” This is a statement my Kalyani makes. Dhidam also adds, “Wherever we go, our fears follow.” I decide that after all these recent confrontations, it is not appropriate to sleep without evaluating the relationships. So, at night time on my bed, I write down on a white sheet of paper all the positive and negative things about relationships. I distinguish which are a product of ego, which are tricks of the mind, and which are ephemeral. I consider them one by one. I then turn over the sheet and write down whichever fear I find myself holding onto. Both sides of the page look so bothersome—it is full of the ephemeral and illusory nature of emotions.
When I wake up the next morning, the page that was filled is now empty. I tear it in two and throw it away. The subject does not end here with these resolutions, however. The illusory and ephemeral nature of emotions came across me once again in the first monastery in Thailand that I attended for a retreat. But the concept of pure existence solidifies just a couple of days later in its most breathtaking form, penetrating right into me.
To be continued next time…
*Sattvic: In Hinduism, this is a philosophical concept that symbolizes the value of wellbeing, peace, purity, creativity, balance, and totality. Whereas Sattvic life indicates that thoughts, words, and deeds must be in conformity with each other, a Sattvic person is one who works for the welfare of all with self-discipline and follows the path of enlightenment.