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A simple farmer lived his entire life troubled by a seeming lack of wealth. He convinced himself that all his problems would cease, and he would be happy, if only he had money. The next life he was born as a king, with all of the court's gold at his disposal. Alas, happiness was not to be found because he had no queen to love. The next life he was again a king, this time with an adoring queen, but he still wasn't happy as he had no son to inherit the throne. Next life, he was a king with a queen and a son, but the complex machinations of the throne and kingdom left him frustrated and, once more, without happiness. He thought to himself, "I know I would be happy if I could be a simple farmer..."
Yoga philosophy sees the world of form in its real light. That is, nothing lasts forever. All things that come into being will one day cease to be. To find lasting happiness, therefore, it is futile to look towards that which is not lasting. In yoga, this is what we call vidya, or wisdom, sanity, common sense.
If one can accept, even in small measure, that happiness and satisfaction cannot be found in any object, relationship, or experience, then one becomes more receptive to the message of yoga: fulfilment is only to be found within. The experience of peace is to be discovered within one's own consciousness. External events can trigger many feelings, but only an internal shift can produce abiding peace.
The external world is not good or bad, it is simply the fluctuating energy of Nature. Our harmony or disharmony with Nature produces our ease or disease, and our emotional projections onto the screen of the world create our personal perceptions, thereby shaping our notions of happiness or unhappiness.
To be free of seeking external projection, and ownership is the key to real friendship, respect, and love. When personal, vested interests are present, others are not free to follow their own journey through life. Adjustments, manipulations, seductions and exploitations are constant in dysfunctional relationships. When we are healthy and free in consciousness, we are capable of granting others the respect they deserve as individuals, and we can afford to love them because we don't need them to be anything other than who they are. Only in the absence of subconscious selfishness does service to others actually become possible, and we really can contribute to the betterment of the world.
The yoga tradition describes the four great gifts of a complete life as being: kama , health; artha, prosperity; dharma, harmony; and moksha, spiritual freedom. People labor mightily for these goals, yet most fall short in one way or another.
Everyone feels an emptiness of heart. It is simply a fact of life. Regardless of success or status, within each of us is a cave of loneliness, fear, and confusion. The ordinary person runs from this cave, never daring to venture within. Our culture even encourages us to avoid the cave and distract ourselves with an increasing array of toys and devices. The yogi, though, with an adventurous spirit born of an evolutionary drive towards growth and transformation, enters the cave during meditation.
In the beginning stages of exploration, the depth and darkness of the cave becomes more apparent and, at times, overwhelming. It is at this point that the yogi must renew her efforts and seek the support of her teacher and companions. No one is brave enough, smart enough, cool enough to proceed without help. This is Nature's way of ensuring only the humble will progress within, into Her secrets and power.
Most people will stop their exploration when the inner quest becomes too uncomfortable. When Baba Hari dass gave me permission to teach, he said, "Many will come. If one-in-100 sticks with it, this is very good". Who in their right mind, after all, wants to wake up early in the morning just to sit and explore their own pain? Well, those with a highly developed passion for, as Van Morrison put it, "The love that loves to love." It is the yogis who traverse the external spheres of the limited, self-protective mind-cave and venture into the recess, where, lo and behold, we find the treasure of peace, of joy, of love.
Few of us want to do the inner work necessary to realize truth. Most of us prefer to prop our feet up and watch a good movie. It is not a sin to seek happiness in ineffective strategies, it is simply a mistake. No need for guilt, no need for shame. The great gurus don't punish: they guide, correct, teach and inspire. Don't avoid the inner work, but don't sabotage yourself by setting up expectations that can't possibly be reached today. Be practical, be reasonable, growth takes time.
Establish a regular practice of meditation and yoga on a level at which you can actually succeed. The inherent rewards will compel you onward, and you'll find yourself naturally gravitating to a healthier life and attitude. Give no credence to what others think of you. Even less to the egoic voice which criticizes and consistently offers its judgement. It is hard to be healthy in an unhealthy world. It is hard to be loving in an unloving world. Thank you for trying.
Our friend, the farmer/king, is probably still chasing after his own tail. Let us avoid, as much as possible, making the same mistake of thinking our happiness and peace lay somewhere outside, somewhere else, with someone else. As an experiment, commit to daily sadhana under the direction of a yogi for just a few months, even just a few weeks. I believe you will find your health and joy growing, and you will want to dive deeper into this glorious path of yoga. You'll increasingly feel there is a purpose to your days and, I'm willing to bet, you'll increasingly feel satisfied, whether you be a farmer or a king.