WHO IS THE PERSON YOU THINK YOU ARE, & DO YOU ASPIRE TO IMPROVE? and TALKING & PRAYING TO KRISHNA BY OURSELVES AND IN A GROUP
WHO IS THE PERSON YOU THINK YOU ARE, AND DO YOU ASPIRE TO IMPROVE?; NATURE VERSUS NURTURE, OR KARMA VERSUS FREE WILL?: At this point in my life I am doing my best to really understand what is true and what we can all do to be the best person possible, both on the human and spiritual level.
I know what it is like to either focus on the spiritual in theory while neglecting the material, as well as those whose total emphasis is on material progress, often at the cost of the environment and any possibility of spiritual growth and factoring God into their lives—and everything in-between. I have personal experience and life is full of teachers who model that which is to be avoided, and a few who model the ideal in various arenas, to varying degrees.
Spiritual growth isn’t about denying our material needs, and material life can’t be perfected without a relationship to God. We have to become masters of ourselves and our attitude and in creating a positive self-image that is realistic and full of promise, and incorporate this in relationship to making spiritual progress.
Many people have a very low opinion of themselves—almost everyone who comes for counseling—or they can hide this fact by showing an inflated sense of whom they actually are. In my view our character is everything, or how we walk our talk, or live what we speak and profess as our ideal.
LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE AND OUR SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITY: Living spiritual practice means that we experience how Krishna consciousness works in our personal lives. It means knowing what we’re inspired by, and that we’re able to both determine and admit where we fall short—otherwise, how can we be helped? Then we have to believe, or pray to develop the faith, that we can change for the better—because we aren’t our past or poor opinion of ourselves—and are valuable and lovable as souls—spiritual positive self-esteem.
Knowing that we need help and encouragement, and being willing to ask—and pray—for it, is a big step in a successful and joyful life. As it is commonly said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” We need to gradually take 100 % responsibility for our lives and yet be open to Krishna’s guidance and see the results of our endeavors as feedback. We both endeavor and pray. We act as if everything depends on us, while knowing that everything depends on the Lord’s mercy.
Our spiritual responsibility is to act with, or pray to act with, faith, devotion, determination, and confidence without attachment to the results, which we know come from Krishna. Practice with prayer makes perfect. Whatever results come we see as, and offer to, Krishna—if we do so we obtain, in Krishna’s words, “unadulterated peace” [BG 5.12]. “In all activities just depend upon Me and work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me.” [BG 18.57]
[ A note written a week later from publishing this: I find it fascinating to understand why certain blogs are favored over others. It remains a mystery to me. I think that sometimes I am misunderstood as favoring a casual approach to bhakti. I am not. I am promoting pure devotional service, being fully engaged in our bhakti practices, and aspiring for the highest stages of prema. However, speaking from my long experience and observation of others, I am stressing that devotees shouldn't neglect or repress their physical/emotional requirements in the name of spiritual advancement. I have seen too many devotees leave on account of this extreme position.
Thus when I write, I also speak with a certain caution, that although we should stretch ourselves, we should be careful not to break, or go beyond our limits, and this requires considerable maturity--and sometimes we may even attract a certain disease to force us to slow down and also do our personal inner work or fulfill our mission and service to our Gurus and Shri Chaitanya. As I mentioned in other blogs, giving and receiving must go on simultaneously, or we will often "burn out."
We are recommended to be "active listeners or readers" and not just be passive, but do our best to understand what is being said, and also ask questions to help us go deeper. As I have often said I share so much of my personal story so you can better understand my thinking. Every speaker and writer has a certain angle of vision and perspective from their life experience and personality as well as their level of spiritual advancement. I find this very helpful to understanding what is being presented. ]
WAITING FOR ETERNITY WE FORGET TO LIVE TODAY: When I was a new devotee I often reflected that within a few years that special flower airplane would take me back to Godhead, and so I had no worries. Ten years later I realized my thinking was wishful and I had to deal with living in the world. Gaudiya Vaishnavism, or living with a consciousness or remembrance of Krishna, isn’t life denying but life affirming. In the beginning we may be overly anxious to get out of the material world to the extent that aren't able to be present and aware of our life lessons and what is required for the long haul of a life time of service.
For those who came to this path of bhakti in great distress, having bottomed out materially, our personal necessities take a while to embrace because we are able to put them on hold to facilitate our spiritual practices, and then we may continue to be more more comfortable denying, than facing, them. In such a condition we relish hearing how bad the material world is, which confirms that we aren’t crazy for experiencing our distress, frustration, or depression in what appears to be a pointless, miserable world. However, there are two side to sharing our spiritual lives--one is the shortcomings of material life, and two, the bliss of devotional service and chanting the holy name. Both are important and have to be embraced in a balanced, mature way, depending on our stage of life.
What do you believe about your self
and what do you actually have faith in—
that is so much a part of you
it’s invisible, hidden, yet constant
like the air you breathe?
You hardly perceive it
but it’s your sense of self
that gives you a life attitude
like the scent of your body
which life, people and dogs can smell.
It follows you everywhere
like your shadow
determining how you think
what you give energy to by attention.
Coloring your outlook
it’s what you project onto life
WHAT DO YOU REALLY LIVE FOR TODAY, AND WHAT PURPOSE ARE YOU WILLING TO GIVE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE FOR? Part 1 & 2
Part 1: I wrote about the topic last night, and this morning during my reading and chanting, I gained insight and some clarity. One point is that within a problem is always the solution, if we don’t try too hard. Sometimes we have to let the answer come in its own time and take the time to be quiet, calm, relaxed, and wait with positive expectancy.
For example, leaves fall in autumn on their natural internal schedule. The bulbs flower in the late winter when it is their time. The baby in the womb is born when it’s ready. Every one of us has our own process of becoming, acting or just being.
Part of a successful life is just finding one’s natural direction, and being able to accept what is now, not thinking we can force outcomes by our will. We still endeavor, but in our own way. For me, “my way,” is gentle determination after having decided on a goal.
I’m not an official warrior, and yet, I find the energy and fixed purpose of the warrior attractive, perhaps because in the past I was such a timid, tepid, tentative, indifferent person. This nature has appeared to be a problem to be struggled against, but now it seems to hold the key to accomplishing my life’s work!
I am attracted to the hero’s quest to obtain the sacred object or save the world, or superheroes that continually save the day. How can I use this inspiration according to my nature? What about your nature--how can you use this to help your spiritual life?
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMBINING “HORIZONTAL” GROWTH WITH “VERTICAL” GROWTH and THE POWER OF LOVE TO REVEAL OUR OCCUPATION
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMBINING “HORIZONTAL” GROWTH WITH “VERTICAL,” OR SPIRITUAL, GROWTH: Much of what I write about could be called “horizontal” growth, or tools, thinking processes, angles of vision, or making the mind our friend, that while in of themselves are not counted as bhakti, they're essential for it, and to me, inseparable for remaining, or becoming, an enthusiastic devotee, and happy human being—the spiritual and material sides of life. Horizontal growth means in the broadest sense being a balanced person strongly influenced by the mode of goodness, where our physical, emotional, mental, and intellectual requirements are naturally addressed, but in such a way as to be made favorable for bhakti practices.
To put this in devotee lingo, we could say this is within the purpose of the socio-religious system of Varnasrama, but to me, without the baggage. Without getting into the details, formally designating a person as this or that varna appears counter-productive in today’s world. However, we can serve its purpose by helping devotees discover and deal with their life issues, become balanced and happy human beings, and find an occupation, and possibly a mate, that compliments their natural proclivities, all within the context of spiritual advancement.
Many devotees struggle from not addressing their past or personal life issues which bleed into their spiritual lives and can make it difficult to avoid making aparadhas or offenses to others and in fully absorbing themselves in sadhana, which is the ultimate healing method. In such a condition we have a divided mind and our out of integrity and in conflict with ourselves.
Some say to me, “You only need to chant Hare Krishna!”
Sure, if you can chant purely without distraction, and are happy in the process—go for it. I am all for that, and see the purpose of personal growth work as total absorption in the spiritual life.
GREAT LIFE REVERSES CAN REVEAL GOD'S GRACE AND SHOW WHAT WE MOST NEED, WHAT WE CHERISH, GREATLY VALUE, AND OUR HIDDEN STRENGTHS
HOW CAN WE USE OUR SORROW, PAIN OR GREAT LIFE REVERSES TO INVOKE GOD'S GRACE THAT IS HIDDEN BEHIND IT: To be human is to experience pain, betrayal, disappointment, and various kinds of suffering. We may ask, "Why me?" To which I would reply, "Why not you?" We all have our litany lists of wrongs done to us or to those we love. What do we do with this list?
One natural tendency is that we would rather avoid pain than to experience happiness, so in the face of pain, violence, or loss, we tend to either repress it or be angry or resentful about it. I have experienced both of these reactions to life situations. Unfortunately, such reactions are only helpful in the short term, but do little to help us grow as a person, and self-improvement, and ultimately spiritual awakening are, to me, the purpose of life. Otherwise, we have a pointless dog eat dog world, with death being the end of everything.
Could there be some benefit, even great benefit in these experiences? Some will be angry just at my asking this question, and yet, if we don't ask it, we can remain ever in reaction to the past, and keep playing it out in relationship to others.
We also find that even what everyone else thinks is good fortune or an ideal situation can be interpreted by the person in the middle of it as a terrible or awful experience. So while we have all heard this before, the simple yet powerful truth is that our attitude is really what gives meaning to the events of our lives or a statement we hear. This means that we can change our feelings about an experience by changing the meaning we give it, or by using it as a way to improve our lives.
Poems share what we feel
during a particular time
or mood of the day
from a breeze on our face.
We can label it
as good or harsh,
bitter cold or stimulating,
scented or a repelling stench.
We give wings to our experience
using word pictures to communicate
the magic of connecting to
the possibilities of the spirit.
We can invest life in our words
the nuances and flavors of being
what’s ordinarily inexpressible
incredible beyond reason.
THE PAST CAN BE A GOOD PLACE TO LEARN, BUT IT'S A LOUSY PLACE TO LIVE and THE BLESSINGS OF SORROW AND DIFFICULTIES
THE PAST CAN BE A GOOD PLACE TO LEARN, BUT IT'S A LOUSY PLACE TO LIVE: One of the reasons I share my past growing up and my various struggles on account of it, is to show that we have to make peace with our history so we can move on, often through some type of healing, forgiveness, or various kinds of personal work, often with professional help. In spite of how horrendous our past might be, it doesn't have to define us or have negative power over our lives.
There are two extremes, one is to repress or not deal with our past and stay in reaction to it, and the other is to let it define and limit us by keeping us a tied down victim. We want to identify ourselves as a lovable part of Krishna, not as an incest survivor, child of an alcoholic, or what have you. Some people wear their past trauma like a badge of honor. At the same time, while spiritual advancement is the ultimate solution to all our problems, where we gradually realize and humbly identify ourselves as an effulgent soul beyond material designations or clinical diagnosis, it can be helpful to "name" our type of conditioning since we often identify with it as who we are and suffer accordingly. The way out is through! We aren't our life story, and yet within that story are keys to rise above it. Every negative situation carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater gain.