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What to do when we’re not feeling so positive

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  • Swami J
    ************************************** Swami J s Newsletter (Address and subscribe/unsubscribe info below) ************************************** May 22, 2001
    Message 1 of 1 , May 22, 2001
      Swami J's Newsletter
      (Address and subscribe/unsubscribe info below)

      May 22, 2001

      Dear Friends,

      In yoga science there are practices called yamas, of which there are
      five. These are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya
      (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (self-restraint), and Aparigraha (non-

      There are also five niyamas, which are Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha
      (contentment), Tapas (training the senses), Svadhyaya (self-study),
      and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender).

      These are presented by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra (Sutra means
      thread, like a thread of truths strung together, such as is done with
      beads, or like threads in a fabric).

      We are all familiar with such practices of having positive values.

      For example, what are we to do when we are NOT feeling non-violent,
      but are really feeling mean, rotten, nasty, or angry towards someone
      else. Or less than truthful, wanting the stuff of others, seeing our
      senses drag us around, feeling possessive of objects, not feeling
      contentment, and struggling with spiritual surrender. What are we to
      do then?

      Patanjali gives a really practical suggestion only a couple sutras
      after introducing the principles of the yamas and niyamas. It seems
      so simple as to not warrant any serious consideration. However, as is
      often the case, this simple suggestion is profoundly useful.

      The suggestion is that when we have perverse thoughts, that which we
      know are going in the wrong direction, we should think of
      the "opposite".

      However, this is where it gets tricky. It would seem that
      the "opposite" of a mean, rotten, nasty, or angry thought
      would be thoughts and feelings such as friendliness, kindness, and
      love. Having such nice thoughts and emotions may be a good idea, but
      you might have noticed that this is pretty difficult when right in
      the middle of those negative thoughts and emotions. We just may not
      feel loving, for example, for others who we see as violent, mean, or
      negative themselves.

      The "opposite" that Yoga is referring to is a different sort
      of "opposite". It is not, for example that love is the
      opposite of hate (though this is a nice practice to cultivate).
      Rather, the negative thoughts and emotions are taking us in a
      "wrong","bad", or "not useful" direction. The
      "opposite" of this
      negative direction is simply to cultivate not going in that negative

      This might sound confusing. However, Patanjali explains that
      the "opposite" thought to cultivate is that "This thought
      is the cause of infinite misery and unending ignorance."

      It is a process of training our own mind, similar to the way a parent
      might train a young child by repeatedly affirming some reality of
      behavior. It is a process that Swami Rama has called "internal
      dialogue" which is an aspect of the process of contemplation.

      In training the mind, like the child, we are instructing the mind of
      the reality, the truth that "This line of thinking is not useful.
      Mind, this is taking me in the wrong direction. This negativity [or
      other such behavior, thought, or emotion] is just going to make
      things worse, and is just going to bring even more suffering. Mind,
      you need to let go of this."

      Gradually the mind comes to listen and to let go. Then, even the
      feelings such as love have the opportunity to naturally spring
      forward, which is quite different from trying to convince ourselves
      of something we do not really believe in (for example, lovingness
      towards someone who we feel is not behaving nicely).

      This process, though simple, takes a good bit of practice. In
      practicing, it becomes clearer how this applies to each of the five
      yamas and the five niyamas, or with any other system of values we may

      It is also important to note that what is being suggested here is
      definitely not repression or suppression of thoughts and emotions. It
      is a process of training the mind to let go. This is done by
      cultivating the opposite of the negative directions or thought
      patterns by simply acknowledging, orally, inside, "This is not
      useful!" or other such words.

      From the standpoint of meditation we do these practices so that the
      mind can feel a quality of peace and serenity in relation to the
      world and other people, such that we can more easily sit in a joy-
      filled silence called meditation.

      A prayer for you: In those moments when you are NOT following your
      own conscience, may you gently remember to internally remember and
      say these words to yourself, "This is not useful."

      In loving service,

      Swami J
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