It’s tough, especially lately, not to go negative. This election season seems more contentious, more polarizing, and more in your Face(book) than ever. Opposing opinions feel like personal attacks. We fan the flames, and fail to feel compassion or sympathy for people who we’re sure are The Problem.
But fury, however righteous, doesn’t really feel good. I hate feeling anger. Anger (and hate) create more of the same. How do we digest it all cleanly, without becoming polluted by it? How do we conduct ourselves, as responsible citizens in a participatory democracy, and as public and private people? How do our actions, words, and thoughts impact our communities and ourselves?
When Yogi Hari came to my yoga teacher training, I really didn’t like him. I left early and drew a (hilarious!) cartoon of him playing his little harmonium. I thought he lived smugly in his bubble, and deigned to drop wisdom from on high onto us low and worldly peons. But, Katelyn spent some time at his Ashram in Fort Lauderdale, and she has his book, Sampoorna Yoga , which I’ve been reading. It’s mostly a long Q&A, and I think this passage addresses some of what we’re struggling with lately.
Question: How do you rid yourself of negative feelings and impressions that you are exposed to when you work all day with all kinds of people?
Answer: It is difficult if you do not have right association because there will be a continuous battle against all these forces. Those who are not yet awakened to what is right and wrong exist at an instinctive level, living a kind of animal existence. Right association, Satsanga, helps to develop discrimination and dispassion, which gives you the strength of mind to go in the direction that you know is right. If you understand the right direction but don’t have the strength of mind and will to follow through, you will suffer even more from all kinds of guilt and lose confidence in yourself.
In order to seek right association, you must first recognize your goal in life, your ideal. Then you will naturally associate with people who will help you reach that goal. These are very basic principles for success in life. You establish a noble goal that helps you to grow and evolve in every situation at every moment. The Scriptures state that this goal should be God-Realization, Perfection or whatever you want to call it. And if God is too far removed from your perception and your consciousness, then think in terms of improving yourself all the time, of evolving and growing to become a better person.
What does that mean? In society, growth and success mean securing a “good” job, earning a lot of money and recognition. But the Scriptures, the Saints, the Yogis and enlightened people tell you that the goal is to free yourself from all that is creating suffering and pain, which is the lower nature: lust, anger, greed, hatred, jealousy, envy and fear. How do you free yourself from it? By substituting the opposite qualities, like love, compassion, mercy, generosity, forgiveness, etc.
The Scriptures refer to the base animal instincts and undesirable traits in man as “the seven deadly sins,” not the “happy” sins because they are the cause of degradation and death. Yet still we do not examine and analyze this behavior, Instead, we revel in it. In ignorance, society views lust for wealth, power and pleasure as a virtue and failure to strive for the same, as a weakness or defect that necessitates a visit to a therapist. The whole world is involved in that “rat race.” Yet, at the end fo the rat race, you are still a rat, not the evolved divine, radiant being that you are in reality.
So right association will help you to develop right discrimination and dispassion. It will give you the support you need to walk the right path and to be regular in your S?dhan? so that you can continue to purify your mind, strengthen your will and develop love, compassion and tolerance. This is the antidote to all the negativity in the world.
Or maybe he’s just telling us to unfriend everyone who upsets us. Hell, I don’t know. But take the high road people, when you can, and remind yourself as often as necessary: love, love, love, and if you can’t say something nice, you don’t always have to say something. Failing all of that, there’s always time for a beer with your school of fishes.