When To Accept, When To Change

SunriseI often find myself torn between attempts at surrendering to the present moment, and discerning my role in changing it.  This simple piece of wisdom from Sri Swami Satchidananda offers a higher vantage point from which life’s circumstances can be peacefully navigated:

“If we know that we are instruments, and nothing is in our hands, then accepting and changing are not in our hands either. It’s very simple. If you are prompted to accept, then accept it. If you are prompted to change, then change it. Even that will be prompted. Something will tell you, “Come on; go ahead and try to change it.” Then your answer should be, “Okay, God, if that’s what You want, let me do it with Your backing. You are prompting me, so I am doing it.” It’s super surrender, and life is really beautiful that way.

All you have to do is follow God’s lead. The brush never tells you, ‘Oh, touch here, touch there, use a broader stroke.’ It lets the painter use it. So, you simply be the brush, and let God paint whatever He wants. God is seeing the whole picture, and it will be a masterpiece.” Sri Swami Satchidananda



4 Steps For Manifesting A New Reality While Staying Rooted In The Present

Swami SatchidanandaStep One: Allow yourself to fully feel that which arises in the present moment, whether comfortable or uncomfortable.

Step Two: When that which arose has completely passed through you, place your attention on thoughts that serve you. Think the thoughts you would think if your dreams had already come to pass.

Step Three: Allow those thoughts to awaken the feelings that would be present if your dreams were currently your outer reality.

Step Four: Bring your attention to the exact space of now that you are in and allow those beautiful dreams to permeate your present world.


How To Calm A Turbulent Mind

Photo by Peter SperoIt is common to tell someone to, “take a deep breath,”  when they’re on the verge of becoming distraught.  This next advice goes far beyond well wishing and explains how the breath can actually work for you in times of trial:

“The wonderful way of charging yourself with nectar is just by breathing. Breath is our life. Breath not only builds up the body, it also builds up the mind. If you regulate the breath, you have regulated the mind. To give an example: Suppose somebody looks at you and uses a very bad word. The person used nothing but a sound, but you got really disturbed. You become angry. Just a little agitation of the mind agitated your whole body. And what happened to your breath? That is the secret. The agitation of the mind brings agitation of the breath. So take the clue and say, ‘To calm the mind, calm the breath.'” (Swami Satchidananda)


Spilled milk: to cry or not to cry?


Today I almost cried over spilled milk, literally.  I splurged on fancy organic milk and as I was walking through the door to my home it fell to the ground, broke open, and spilled everywhere. It wasn’t just a trivial problem, it was the trivial problem.  Yet, that didn’t matter to my thoughts which easily picked up on why this was an issue I should be upset about. When I am easily upset by small things it is a reminder that I’ve forgotten who I truly am, my infinite true self.  

When I try to remember the problems I had a year ago today, or even last Sunday, I have no inkling of what they were.  Can you remember what problems you had last year?  Can you remember the problems you had five years ago, or ten? The only problems I think about are those I am experiencing now, which will soon fade with the passage of days and be replaced with new issues to be bothered about.  The situations themselves are not problems, they are how they are.

Problems are created by thoughts about a situation.  Suffering, and negative emotions, are created by judgement of an experience.

It is easy to see how spilled milk is only a problem when I make it so through my thoughts.  It can be more difficult to watch experiences without judgment when the stakes are high.  I am grateful for this passage from Swami Satchidananda’s Weekly Words of Wisdom, because it is a great reminder to stop grasping at outer solutions for peace and happiness and remember who we really are:

“The teaching in the Bible, just as we find in the Bhagavad Gita is: Don’t look for the fruits of your own actions. You are made in God’s own image. You don’t need to look for fruits from outside. But Adam forgot that he was God’s image. And forgetting is what you call avidya, or ignorance. You forgot your truth. The minute you forget it then you look for it from outside. So Adam thought, ‘Ah, by eating the apple I’ll be happy.’ That was said to be the first ‘sin.’ Eating the apple was not the first sin. Forgetting his true nature was the original sin. Once you forget your true nature, you will commit face many, many problems. So, remember who you are.” (Swami Satchidananda)


What is better than happiness?


What is happiness?  Why does it seem so elusive?  I think the fleetingness of the goal called “happiness” is due to happiness being attached to outer circumstance.  Things and experiences cause the high-energy feeling of happiness.  Since life often doesn’t go according to plan, and happiness is dependent on a favorable experience, happiness disappears when a less than desirable situation arises.

There is good news for the feeling of happiness though.  Happiness is an outer reflection of a powerful state of being.  States of being cannot be dissolved, they are unalterably present, but can be obscured and covered up by layers of identification with thoughts and feelings.  The state of being which happiness pales in comparison to is joy.  As Tolle and many other teachers maintain, states of peace and joy, which are our natural states of being, are always available within, regardless of situation.

When I received this week’s “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” I felt like Swami Satchidananda was offering permission to be happy.  Allowing yourself to enjoy a situation helps to uncover the state of joy within.  When Swami Satchidananda talks about joy and happiness it is clear that regardless of terms, and even though he talks about Yoga practice in particular, that the truth towards which he points is the key to a higher state of consciousness available in all of life’s situations.  Experiencing life from the state of joy is a profound spiritual lesson:

“You forgot to be like children. You may think that spirituality means to be serious, morose; that you can’t smile or laugh. That’s not spirituality. Your spirit should [be] filled with happiness, joy, dancing, singing, and dancing. Don’t be gloomy. That’s not the kind of spirituality we want in the name of Yoga. You should always be exuding happiness and joy—a positive spirit. Work itself should be a play. The Yoga practices should be playful and uplifting. There’s nothing overly serious about it all. God created the world as a playground. Allow the joy to come out. What is serious in this? We all come, gather together, live for awhile, and when the time comes, say goodbye and go. Within that period, can’t we be happy? God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” Swami Satchidananda


“So before we go and transform the world, let us transform ourselves” – Swami Satchidananda

What would life be like if the people you encountered were always happy to see you?  What would our relationships be like if everyone was already enjoying themselves, having a great time?

While asking these questions can lead to a seemingly impossible utopian vision where all people are happy and healthy, creating this world is a lot easier than we ever thought.  Creating an environment of health and joy can be accomplished in your life without controlling or changing those around you.  While at first this task of creation can seem overwhelming, Swami Satchidananda brings our role right down to its essence in this week’s Weekly Words of Wisdom:

ashram“When you fill your system with vitality, with health and happiness, you become contagious. People will sit with you and feel happy and laugh. Fill yourself up to the brim with your good health and energy and let it overflow. Just by your mere presence, you will bring health to others. You don’t have to talk about Yoga and health to others. If you constantly emit that vibration, that will be the beginning of world health. So, where should it begin? With you. It’s not only that charity begins at home, even health begins at home. Individuals make the world. So before we go and transform the world, let us transform ourselves. Let us reform ourselves. Make yourself healthier and happier and pass it on to others. God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” Swami Satchidananda

Any TimeWhat do you desire from others?  Do you want appreciation, recognition, love, kindness, help, opportunity, or understanding?  Swami Satchidananda’s message of beginning health at home is also true for anything that we desire more of from our world.

The surest way to experience gratitude from someone else, is to first become grateful yourself.  If you feel a lack of love and compassion in your life, become more loving and compassionate towards others.  The result of giving that which you desire to receive is momentum.  Your action creates an equal and opposite reaction.

As an experiment, think of something you could receive from others that would make your heart sing.  Focus on whatever that may be, and spend a day giving that to all those you encounter.  For example, if you want more appreciation, recognize and thank the people around you.  You may find that what you once desired is coming back at you in larger ways than you could have thought up.


How To Move With Equanimity


I am sleeping in a new home tonight for the first time in five years.  Just yesterday I was struggling with the idea of how it would happen. The most helpful tool for staying in the moment, even when stressed, was reminding myself that whether I worried or not, it would happen just the same.  And wouldn’t you know, it happened.

Retaining equanimity does not mean that you don’t experience emotion.  Equanimity is allowing yourself to experience life in all of its manifestations, allowing life to be as it truly is.  In this way you become one with life, and are carried in the infinite flow of its energy.

As I experienced the ups and downs of my reactions through this transition, I was reminded by Swami Satchidananda, in an email from Weekly Words of Wisdom, how to ride the wave:

Reaching samadhi doesn’t means that you go into a trance or withdraw from life. If that were so, you can find a whole bunch of rocks sitting on a mountainside and you can say they are in samadhiSamadhi means you retain your equanimity, you still function in the world without losing your equanimity. You become like a good surfer: well balanced as you surf the waves. A good yogi will always be balanced and surf in the world, facing both ups and downs alike. You will never get hurt, depressed by a depression in a wave or excited by a crest of a wave going upward. You will still remain balanced. That means you are perfectly healthy. Nothing and nobody can make you sick or can shake you.

God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. (Swami Satchidananda)


“Worry never helps anyone” – Swami Satchidananda



For the final day of the “1 new thing a day challenge,” I went to the Chicago Air and Water Show for the first time.  This picture is courtesy of a fleet of skywriters.

For the final day of the “1 new thing a day challenge,” I went to the Chicago Air and Water Show for the first time. This picture is courtesy of a fleet of skywriters.

Human minds always have a “fall back.” The mind’s “fall back” is a pattern that it is used to, that has become habitual. For example, I would say that my mind’s “fall back” is worry. When something happens, whether it is an undesirable situation or an experience that cannot be understood, my mind will fall back into the worry pattern. It comes up with scenarios of increasingly disturbing outcomes.

Tonight my apartment buzzer rang and it was the UPS man. But when I got downstairs there was no package and no UPS man to be seen. Who had I buzzed into my apartment building? I did not have the answer to that question so my mind decided to fall back into its comfortable worry pattern. What is your mind’s “fall back?”

I took a nap, and realized I was still worried after I woke up. I then decided to ask the universe a question. Asking questions to God, the universe, the “field of potentiality” (as Pam Grout calls it), or whatever word you use, is a readily accessible life tool. I needed to know everything was okay. I asked, “Please give me a clear sign tonight, before I fall asleep, that everything is okay.” I proceeded to peruse ridiculously expensive couches on the internet, but still had my request in the background of my attention. A few hours later I checked my email per my usual routine. Right at the top of the list read the subject line, “Don’t Worry.” Inside was this message:

We worry over all kinds of things. If you can’t get the right nail polish color, you worry. Everything causes worry. You don’t have to have a crash in the stock market or some other financial crisis to make you miserable. Just one little pimple is enough to cause you to go into a tailspin—as if nobody has ever had it or it’s going to be there permanently. There seems to be so much stress in modern life: ‘I have to do this. I have to do that.’ Yes, you may have responsibilities, but the first and foremost responsibility is to take care of you. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others? So, have faith and confidence: ‘I’m going to change the situation. I have the strength to face and overcome anything.’ Worry never helps anyone.

God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. (Swami Satchidananda)

The email was from the Satchidananda Ashram which sends out “Weekly Words of Wisdom.” This one arrived right on time. The feelings of worry were transmuted into peace; the sign I received was sufficient to break my rapt attention on a mind in the midst of a worry cycle.

What is your “fall back?” Next time you notice the mind reverting to its habitual thinking patterns try asking a question. You can even just ask for help. While no one knows how the questions will be answered, it will be interesting to watch and find out.

consciousness, spirituality

“Part of the Cosmic Body”

Swami Satchidananda

I received an email from the Satchidananda Ashram, with one of Swami Satchidanada’s quotes, that contains a vital key to living peacefully.  I hope this quote can reach you in whatever way you most need it to:

You don’t have to do great things. Sometimes we compare ourselves, ‘Oh, he is doing so much. She is doing great things. I am not doing anything.’ Don’t ever put yourself down like that. Imagine, there are so many parts in the body. And you don’t see all the parts working. Some of them seem to be sitting there, insignificant, doing nothing. For example, we don’t even remember that we have a little toe. Is that toe unnecessary? No. We are all like little parts or cells in the cosmic body. Every part has its own importance. When we realize that then we believe, ‘Yes, there’s a great purpose behind it all and that all wise God will do something with me when it’s time. I’m happy to be part of the cosmic body.’ That should be the attitude.  
God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  (Swami Satchidananda)

Thank you Swami Satchidananda! And now for day 1 of the “1 new thing a day challenge!”  Today I downloaded an app for learning Chinese!  It won’t be as good a teacher as my cousins and their parents (the Li family), but hopefully I’ll know a few phrases by the time they visit for the winter holidays.  What new thing did you try today?