I admit to you, both of my readers, that I do not have a full answer to the question of who or what is that which we call God. And if there is such a thing as God, I am sure I do not know what God is thinking or doing. No idea. Of course, I have my lifelong and ongoing education to rely on for help in the search, as well as my feelings, wishes, observations and experience all along the way. All this has made for 1) waaay more questions, 2) a sense of patience with my unanswered ones. 3) It also makes me spend more time relating what other people think to what I think. I like being open-minded, flexible, and alert.
However, even if none of us had ever gotten a complete answer to rely upon as being true and not false, not conjecture or imaginative inference or analogy or some other shadowed, fractional or dubious way of understanding things, we still, always, have to figure out what to do. Right now and in fact all the time, every moment, waking or sleeping. Even if we admit that we may never know the answer to a single question, we still have to do something anyway. Even though we may be on the verge of barking madness because we have no idea what we should or ought to do, as long as we are composed of matter whose atoms and quarks move, we will be doing something anyway.
What to do then? Not to be flippant, but it might as well be the right thing, meaning the thing that is good, any way way you look at what you are doing. My experience in practice is that the right and the good things are right and good because the sooner you do them, the sooner they make things easier, and not just for me but for people around me, on and off the mat. I think ultimately it’s what Patanjali meant when he said that asana (that pure doing part of yoga practice) becomes effortless when one is able to give up effort and still maintain the pose. One can only do this when one is doing it right on many levels, from ethical to practical to spiritual.
So what is the right thing to do? It’s helpful to note that regardless of the differences in peoples’ notions of who or what God is, remarkable similarities can be found in the advice the many teachers give on how we should act here, on the ground. In a yoga posture like Rajakapotasana (go look it up). Cleaning up after the animals. Living and working with your various partners in life. In the midst of war; maybe in life you have had to actually fight for one side or another in a conflict. There are some truly worldwide ideas out there about what is right action, right conduct. Here are a few, off the top of my head; you should recognize them all from things you have been taught somewhere down the line, no matter where you that teaching came from:
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Do not do to your neighbor what is abhorrent to you.
- Relax your throat; relax your breathing; relax your mind.
- Do no harm.
- Tell the truth.
- Control your appetites so that they do not harm yourself or others.
- Do not take what is not yours.
- Do not want that which you do not need.
- Don’t worry, be happy.
- Do your work with full intent to arrive at the goal, yet unattached to the results. Just do the work.
- Your way of doing things should be steady and comfortable.
- Do your duty. Do the job that is yours to do, no matter how it got in front of you.
- Practice steadily and gain skill at what you do. Skillful action always helps.
- Stay healthy or get healthy as soon as you can.
- Develop the ability to focus one one thing for long periods of time, to absorb yourself in study and practice. Doing this requires stability and also a sense of direction.
- Don't worry about time. Also, don't waste time.
- Don’t be lazy or inattentive.
- If there is an obstacle in the way of your progress, become quiet, focus, develop your discipline, intelligence, and skill and move forward again.
- Have your feelings, but don’t get caught up in them; it keeps you from paying attention to what is.
- Any amount of effort in the right direction will do. No effort is wasted.
- Be friendly, compassionate, joyous, steadfast and dedicated to your practice, and don’t get caught up in anyone else’s craziness, even if they are standing right next to you.
- However you discover it, if you find you are doing or thinking something wrong, or your position while doing it is wrong, stop and fix it. Don’t wait.
- If you find yourself psychologically in a bad "position": unfriendly, uncompassionate, unjoyous, inattentive, unsteadfast or not dedicated to your practice, then your practice is incorrect. Fix that.
I can keep going through the more books to find more of what I think of as these universal useful words, but I would like to see if any among you have other ideas to add. Suggestions about what might be included and what of my list could be taken out because they are not universal. (I took a few out already). What do you think of as a universal rule of how to act toward yourself and others?
Here is one more: Make mistakes.
I give credit for this to my friend Steve, who considers this a good and highly useful rule. He keeps these two words printed out to fill one 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper and framed on his dining room table. I think this one rule, Make Mistakes, could be practiced constantly and with little change of effort even--I mean my life is filled with opportunities to practice this-- but the trick, as always, is to know what is a mistake and what is not.
So we raised close to $700 for our Holiday Donation classes. I am amazed and delighted that these large projects will each get a good deal of help. Between Friday afternoon’s and Saturday morning’s classes, we had a lot of truly generous people in class this weekend. You all did a splendid thing, and you did it well. I never know what to expect for these events, but I feel brighter now because of such a splendid outcome. And delight of delights! Mary Scott brought us fantastic hot spiced cider for sipping after class. We all thank you too, Mary, for that particular skillful action, and your compassion for us thirsty yogis.
Be well, everyone.