Tag Archives: India

Awareness: the path out of suffering

Prem Baba teaching

There was a Brazilian teacher in Rishikesh in 2013 whose name was Prem Baba and he was giving free talks at a large ashram on the banks of the Ganga River. He was talking about Awareness as his main practice. He said Presence was the goal – “truly being awake right now, not lost in some fantasy of the past or the future.” The room he taught in was light and airy, with over 100 devotees from all over the world listening to him speak Portugese or listening to the translator’s English words.

He said the main obstacle to Awareness was Inner Dialogue, the mental chatter. This comes from the unconscious wishes and fears clashing with the conscious ones.

“We can say ‘yes’ as often as we like, but if our unconscious is saying ‘no’ then nothing will change.”

He said the remedy was to take responsibility for the suffering and abandon the stance of being the victim. This is not the attitude of ‘this is my fault’ (which is still victim thinking) but rather ‘this is my opportunity for freedom’. My freedom is my responsibility – because who else can free me from suffering?

ridding_ourselves_of_anger_OM_Times

Anger isolates me from being Present

“So I try to be simply Aware of what is happening, without blaming anything or anyone.  Without blame there is no sense of injustice, no taste of bitterness or resentment.”

For instance, perhaps there is anger; be with that anger without identifying with the anger. Even if only for a few moments; this is being the witness, not the victim. If the justification for being angry arise try and witness that too. Be Aware of what is going on without believing any of it. If we don’t feed these sparks of madness they don’t become flames.

“Similarly, be  with the inadequacy, the betrayal, the hunger, the despair. Accept their presence rather than look to assign guilt for their existence. Resist the habit of putting toxins in your mental environment! This is the moment by moment process of liberation.”

By witnessing – by being Aware – we see more and more what the real nature of these painful minds are. Before I avoided them by weaving a fantasy of blame: blaming myself, my family, my friends, society, God, the devil… an endless process of avoiding taking responsibility.

I am Happy

“I am happy in my soap opera! Leave me alone!”

Now by accepting and being present – being aware – the nature of my pain becomes clear. I slowly bring what is unconscious into the light. And this awareness itself naturally leads to letting go.

It’s a moment of discovery of a world I am usually oblivious to because it’s so often drowned out by my internal soap opera. I am left with the simple reality of what I am actually  experiencing, the unadorned and naked moment. The sounds i was too engrossed in ego to hear; the colour and pattern of the curtain in my room; the feel of water on my skin; the taste of a cup of tea.

Presence gives everything a feeling of sacredness.

Walking the Mean Streets of Rishikesh

This is the start of regular blog posts! After a long period of gestation I’m ready to tell stories. This first one is a story from my 2013 India Trip Journal.

Me and Shiva, both of us looking totally cool.

Me and Shiva, both of us looking totally cool.

“It is an hour before my graduation from Yoga Teacher Training. The afternoon sun is warm but not stifling – dappled, thinly-leaved trees take the edge off the sunlight. I feel run down and my lumbar is sore – the wear and tear of 6 weeks of yoga boot camp taking its toll.”

I’m curled up in a corner of the concrete walls that lead down to the Ganga river. I have been out to buy mangoes for the graduation for reasons that I’ve since forgotten. The routine of a timetable over the last 42 days has put me in a good space, despite the aches and pains. I feel lighter and less cluttered. I have a good feeling about the future, and it’d been a long time since i had that uncomplicated sense of rightness in the belly.

“I’m Aware of all this.” I was very big on Awareness at that point. Seemed a good thing to obsess about. “I enjoy the sunlight on my skin.” I write and write on my iphone, “trying to distil the moment into a takeaway so I can practice this insight, learn it so that one day I don’t need to learn or practice and can just spontaneously live it.”

… And then the universe gave me a Boo!

Mango seeking pleasure machine.

Disappointed Mango-seeking pleasure machine 🙁

As I was typing about awareness and space and Being a huge brown shape suddenly lurched into my personal space. I felt it before i saw it. This weird brown leather wall with an eyeball. I jolt back and look up and there’s this cow with a head the size of my chest right in front of me. I was sandwiched between a concrete wall and a cow – a bull actually – big enough to squash me like a bug. Scary.

It was a startling connection with the unanticipated: genuine, unedited Awareness.

In that space there was clarity. The cow had smelt the mangoes in my bag and was heading towards them. I was in his path. He was simply pondering the physics of the situation: and this is a complicated process for a creature with a tiny brain. Their wits aren’t their strength, bless them. Their main function seems to be manure production and disrupting traffic. He wasn’t being aggressive, he was just someone looking for happiness in a very slow, bovine sort of way.

So I – being in possession of quicker wits – looked for happiness in my way. I dodged this slowly moving piece of street furniture and escaped with the mangoes.

A cow and a man

A cow and a man face off, a common occurrence

As I walked away from the disappointed bovine I carried that shock of awareness into my body, felt my limbs push and my torso hold them and push back, and suddenly I’m experiencing walking… and then just naturally slowed down and suddenly I’m enjoying walking. To walk very slowly with good posture is a wonderful thing. I’d been doing a lot of yoga for 6 weeks after all, so my body had found a few good shapes by now. Shoulders rolled back and down, spine relaxed and vertical, head up, belly soft. It was delicious.

I felt this cool.

Good posture even feels better than Disco!

It struck me that this is the body language of confidence. I felt confident; I was sure of the space I occupied. It felt strange to be walking towards a group of men and feel an urge to hide, to curl the shoulders in, bow my head and avoid eye contact. I kept the pose and walked slower than my sense of fear was comfortable with.

And I walked like a king. I felt like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, doing his bad-ass swagger down the mean streets of New York. I was Aware as all hell, and it felt great. I walked off into the sunset to my graduation, with two delicious mangoes and a world buzzing with life.