- by Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati (Switzerland), From YogaMag November 2001
Starting the month of sincerity meant putting into practice what I had seen in the preceding three months about serenity, regularity and absence of vanity. It is not enough to have insights and understanding if the ideas do not become part of everyday life. If this training in the ITIES is to have any meaning, it definitely implies the sincerity to live according to a new understanding. Sincerity comes after absence of vanity, because sincerity is the hard work after lofty ideas.
But how to live sincerely? For me, it meant harmonizing thought, word and deed. To make thinking, speaking and acting one unity. The tool, the path is sincerity but the result also is sincerity. Sincerity is a constant effort to strive for and reach this unity of thought, word and deed, but once achieved, the resulting sensation and satisfaction is one of sincerity.
The mind looking for facility often encounters conflict. If thought, word and deed coincide and constitute one harmonious entity, then there is smoothness or flow. For instance, I want to write a letter and I do not do it because it is difficult or unpleasant. The result is uneasiness, conflict or even guilt. But if thought is followed by action, no matter what, without intervening thoughts, without prevarication, then there is no conflict, no waste of energy. Sincerity makes the action follow the preceding thought or word. Sincerity implies honesty because to think one thing and to do another is dishonest.
I became aware of the monkey mind, the image so often given in books on yoga or meditation. The mind is like a monkey jumping here and there. And while the mind jumps around, the gap between thought, word and deed grows. If the monkey mind were still, the letter would be written immediately. A synonym for sincerity is artlessness. The jumping of the mind is artful and crafty, but to harmonize thought, word and deed it takes 'only' a sincere will.
In order to stop the jumping mind and to unite thought, word and deed, it is necessary to know the thought, to control the word and to adapt the action. I saw that behind the thought there was a desire, and by using the SWAN theory, by writing down Strengths, Weaknesses, Ambitions and Needs, I could tell that the ambition was the desire behind each thought.
I also looked differently at the first sloka of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - 'Yoga anushasanam'. I quote now from a talk by Swamiji on 'Mind and Mind Management' in Aix-les-Bains, France, 1997: "The word yoga means awareness of the inner personality which is manifesting in the outer world. Anu means subtle, shasanam means to rule, to govern, to be in control of. Therefore, according to Patanjali, yoga is a form or method of governing the inner nature. It is a method of directing the inner nature harmoniously so that it can manifest externally."
I found here all the ingredients of sincerity: the will to know the desire behind each thought, the will to choose the right word and the will to act in harmony. This is of course difficult; it requires absolute honesty and no fear in the face of unpleasantness, of personal weaknesses and shortcomings, of age-old behaviour patterns. While trying to live in all sincerity I felt I was getting to the question of the attractions and repulsions underlying behaviour.
The letter that needs to be written, but still remains in the head and not on paper, is just one of many examples. Pleasant/unpleasant, good/bad, these pairs are a hindrance, an obstacle to sincerity; they come in between thought, word and deed. Yoga offers, of course, all the necessary tools to avoid the pitfall of opposites. So do the four main points for a yogic lifestyle recommended by Swamiji: practise a minimum of half an hour's sadhana every morning and evening, commune with nature, vibrate positively, and be aware of the internal as well as the external environment.
The result of the month of sincerity was to write down everyday desires, with the following aim: To become aware of desires; putting the resulting thoughts into words, in order to accept them without judging them; to check which accepted desire/thought I acted upon, which desire reappeared day after day, or which desire disappeared; if a desire persisted and there was no action following then there was conflict, either inner conflict or conflict with others.
The coming and going of desires, the fleeting nature and very often futility of desires was strengthening the sankalpa in a wonderful way.
The month of sincerity was a difficult month. The beginning was so very clear - harmonize thought, word and deed and you will live sincerely. But I was surprised to find myself among the SWAN theory and Patanjali. I felt I had missed the meaning of this month and gone astray. For the first time, I felt the need to check with what Swami Sivananda had said, and found reassuring confirmation: "Let your words agree with your thoughts. Let your actions agree with your words. Let there be harmony among your thoughts, words and actions."
To think, to speak, to act -
To know the time
To speak your thought
To act upon your word.
To know the wish
That willed the thought
Which spoken out
Will lead to action.
To find the unity of all,
To consciously create
The harmony of all - No more.
To know Thyself. Walk on, In all sincerity.
Continue reading article here: ITIES 4-6: Sincerity, Simplicity, Veracity (yogamag.net)
- by Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati (Switzerland), From YogaMag May 2002
After equanimity, which turned out to be an essential survival ITY, fixity meant giving equanimity a direction, and this direction is sankalpa.
I saw 'Child of the Himalaya' at the cinema. It is a wonderful example of fixity, where fixity is essential for survival. For if the village and the leader of the village are not 100% determined to get food for the winter, the village will not survive. I admired the intensity, and thought that fixity should be lived with that attitude of life and death, the goal set must be reached with that kind of intensity.
Is physical illness a distraction or a possibility to step out of everyday life and fix the mind on the goal? I realize that there are many ways the goal can be kept alive – action and working towards the goal is only one way.
A walk in the beautiful autumn forest is an almost magical way of keeping the mind steady; surrounded by so much beauty, no mind would possibly want to wander away from it. Everyday interactions are not a hindrance to keeping the mind fixed; it is a matter of will and practice, of training the witness. There are days of total non-fixity, indulging in daydreaming, turning one thought over and over again, giving it various forms and expressions. There is almost a battle between this thought, with its underlying fear/desire, and fixity, with its underlying goal and faith in the sankalpa. Even though fixity is lost, the battle revealed different facets of the desire for recognition and success and the fear of rejection and failure.
Fixity is also a test of sincerity and veracity. Absolute honesty about what one wants – the SWAN theory is a great help here – and acting in utter sincerity all the time towards that aim.
Sometimes I wish I were Sita with her mind always fixed on Rama. Unwavering one-pointedness, unwavering faith under all circumstances is fixity. I have seen how difficult it is, and how all depends on faith: faith in guru and God, faith in the sankalpa, faith in (maybe) a short-term goal which is not in conflict with the sankalpa, faith in oneself and one's ability to reach the goal – with the help of guru and God. Sita represents and lives all these aspects of faith.
Besides sankalpa and faith, I am adding a third item, which is an important element to fixity, namely, patience. I needed patience on a day when almost everything went wrong or in a roundabout way. There was a lot of postponing, delaying, making new arrangements that could not have been imagined beforehand. Fixity implies also enormous flexibility and adaptability in order to juggle circumstances to suit the goal.
Clarity, courage, patience and faith are the main ingredients of fixity. Serenity is an attitude, a discipline; equanimity is the outward expression of it; regularity is the discipline of uniting a set structure with adaptability; fixity is the outward expression of this discipline towards one goal. At one moment in the practice of fixity, there is the need to let go, and to resume in all humility the principle of 'Thy will be done'.
One question keeps coming up: Why are some thoughts and desires so persistent, why is the mind fixed on them, why are there obsessions while on the other hand a consciously set goal is so difficult to keep? Is it the strength of some samskaras, is it the strength of desire, is it the weakness of the will at the moment of setting the goal? Maybe the only aim that can be attained with fixity is the aim to serve; maybe all other resolves and goals must be linked to the aim of service.
I am trying to balance action and non-action. It is getting hard to manage inner turmoil with the everyday activity. Arjuna is fixity in action, Sita is fixity in inaction; both know when to let go and surrender without losing the aim.
I had a yoga class with two drug addicts. One came completely stressed and out of breath and the other one twenty minutes late. At the end of yoga nidra, both said: “Why can't we be like that all the time?” While talking of the need for stress and tension, of the need to inhale and exhale, and of the need to manage both relaxation and tension, I was reminded again of fixity. What is needed is the knowledge of when to act and when to let go. Talking to the two young people, I saw how difficult it is. They are avoiding the challenge of changing from tension to relaxation by opting for one state only – through the help of drugs.
Incredible fatigue of fixity, I feel exhausted by this ITY. Is it possible with a conscious effort in fixity to solve mental patterns? Can fixity be a tool to deal with one's SWAN (strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and needs)?
I can see that patience and letting go are part of fixity, but they are not the same as resignation. Resignation has no faith and is therefore the total opposite of letting go. In order to have fixity, faith must be kept alive.
I am aware how fixity is the external expression of regularity, balancing a structure, a set frame with adaptability to unforeseen events and situations. It is more difficult as other people are concerned, while regularity was much more a personal discipline. Fixity in action with a well tuned mind and time management turns everyday life into a pleasant flowing stream, for oneself and the others involved.
In a way I am relieved that fixity is over. It was a difficult time, it showed me how unfixed my mind was, how much discipline I needed to stick to a set period and how much faith in myself, in guru, God, in life or destiny. The traps of distraction and prevarication are ever present and require a most vigilant mind and honesty.
There were five distinct periods: (i) an initial time of effort which was tiring, (ii) days which seemed to flow along with the sankalpa, fulfilling and enacting smoothly and effortlessly the goals set, (iii) a time of resignation, of giving up, (iv) a time of falling prey to distraction, and (v) a period when the initial motivation and one-pointedness had to be kept alive in order to live fixity.
Also the difference between the first six ITIES (serenity, regularity, absence of vanity, sincerity, simplicity, veracity) and the second set of ITIES (equanimity, fixity, non-irritability, adaptability, humility, tenacity) is becoming very clear. There is even less chance of cheating, as the outside world and life throws the result back at me – mercilessly. The interaction with the outside world is no doubt an added challenge.
I feel that whatever sankalpa or set goal relates to the act of giving makes fixity much easier to practise. The greater context of giving is necessary in order to maintain fixity. Acting without expectation, giving without expectation, without wanting any results, has been the key to fixity.
Continue reading article here: ITIES 7–9: Equanimity, Fixity, Non-Irritability (yogamag.net)
- by Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati (Switzerland), From YogaMag May 2002
Fatigue and the impatience that may result from fatigue are great threats to equanimity. Awareness of mental and/or physical fatigue helps to restore equanimity either by overcoming the fatigue or by bearing calmly with the situation.
Dealing with one's own needs and desires and those of others sometimes requires a lot of juggling. If there is no balance, no compromise, then equanimity is threatened. The result may be anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.
Reaction to pressure in the form of 'mobbing' is a tremendous challenge to equanimity. Being a witness is a way out. But although there is an outward equanimity, calmness and control towards the other person, inner turmoil and hurt may persist for much longer. On the other hand, there is a reaction to support, trust and kindness. Feeling flattered is pride, is identification and not equanimity. Equanimity refers to a balanced attitude in the face of positive and negative situations. Discernment should determine any reaction to a situation. As soon as judgement creeps in, equanimity is at stake.
I was giving a language class and in the room next door a saxophone rehearsal for a concert that same evening was taking place. I had to juggle the discontent of the students, my own fatigue due to having to speak loudly, the nervousness of the young musicians before their concert and the organizers who were ill at ease. Being aware of the time factor (the situation would not last forever, but only for thirty minutes) and the fact that there was nothing that could be done to help me stay calm, I found the prayer that had helped already with absence of vanity was also very useful here:
The provoking habit of a teenager is to leave the school bag in the middle of the hall, once or twice a day. There is about a metre of distance between the habitual bag-dropping spot and the room of the teenager. My reactions vary from anything between ignoring to verbal insult – none express equanimity. Kicking the bag into the room is no solution either as even the gentlest push with the foot betrays a lack of equanimity. Repetition is the test here that equanimity has to pass, being again and again faced with the same situation.
TV is a very good test of equanimity. With the constant onslaught of information one could easily be taken through the whole gamut of emotions within a very short period of time. From devastating news to suspense to comedy TV is a mirror of everyday life and the attitude in both situations should be that of the observer. But identification with TV can be as strong as it is with everyday life situations.
Lack of organization, bad time and mind management, feeling guilty as a result, all lead to loss of equanimity. Projections, worries for the future as well as clinging to memories and the past lead to loss of equanimity. Physical pain is a challenge to equanimity, and the instant solution of medication is an attempt to avoid the challenge.
Success and failure are but two sides of the same coin and equanimity does not make a difference. Equanimity requires the awareness and patience to give emotions the time they need to be expressed, quietened or dealt with. Equanimity is the golden middle path, avoiding ups and downs and all the shades and variations in between. It is the attitude of the impartial witness, concerned yet not moved, acting without reacting. It is the expression of all the six previous ITIES (serenity, regularity, absence of vanity, sincerity, simplicity, veracity) and if their lesson had been learnt well, then equanimity could be child's play. It shows the necessity of being constantly aware and of being constantly aware of all ITIES.
For me equanimity is a difficult ITY, but this month has helped me see the importance of integrating all ITIES simultaneously. Serenity is a wonderful ITY to promote equanimity, so are absence of vanity and simplicity. I found equanimity to be a very clear expression of the witness attitude and it provides deep satisfaction and peace not only for oneself but also for those who are in contact with us.
Continue reading article here: http://www.yogamag.net/archives/2002/cmay02/ities3.shtml
- By Sw Yogatirthananda Saraswati, From YogaMag (Nov 2001)
After the hard month of sincerity I was looking forward to an easy time with simplicity. In regard to the previous ITIES simplicity meant not to complicate or overdo the study and practice of the ITIES. Simplicity implies spontaneity.
Simplicity in regard to life itself meant a simple yogic lifestyle - I use italics as it is such a wide concept. I think I do lead a simple life, trying to do with the minimum of consumer goods required in Western Europe and by a teenage son.
I do consider myself a simple-minded person. My interaction with people is spontaneous and honest. If it gets complicated, I withdraw. So with this view of myself and the lifestyle I lead, I was very confident about the month of simplicity.
Yet, as I soon found out, the test was not to be simple, as comes easily to my nature, but the challenge was to live up to the reactions of others. Simplicity in our society is equal to stupidity. It takes great humility to accept the mockery and sneers with which simplicity is met in the world today. Scheming and doing things in a twisted way is the more accepted way of interacting. At work, I realized that simple, unpretentious interaction is considered as silly or even stupid behaviour. Gossip, behind-the-back plotting and manoeuvring are the tricks and methods that are accepted, highly regarded and rewarded.
The test for me therefore was to keep on being simple, and above all to accept in all humility the judgement of others. Not wanting fortune or fame, or career or a smart car is an attitude that is considered by many as downright stupid. I got hurt, laughed at in many ways, taken advantage of without even noticing because I did not know the game that was being played, or if I did, I refused to play it.
So, the month of simplicity was anything but easy. It was the first time I had to defend quietly an ITY in the face of the social environment I live in. It was a painful experience and an incredible challenge to humility. I could see that for others a month of simplicity might be completely different, might imply giving up ambitions, cutting down on luxuries, relating more frankly with friends and colleagues.
For me it meant upholding an idea, an ITY, I believe in. Of course, this is based on the values and priorities I have set in my life. Simplicity is one of these values, and at the same time living simply gives me space and time to work on other values. Simplicity is an incredible energy-saving and stress-preventing ITY.
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