Practice requires us to actually practice. And because this practice is internal, there is no place where practice is not appropriate. And yet, we decide when and where and how to practice. More insidious than this willfulness is our tendency to misunderstand what practice is.
From the standpoint of the three gunas, our understanding of sādhana is determined by which quality is dominant at a given time. If we are tamasic, we resist facing the truth and see surrender as losing. People wedded to hate never surrender. If we are rajasic, we will say we are working, but our work will always entail fighting and struggling, and surrendering will still look like losing. When sattva is the dominant quality, clarity and discernment rule our sādhana, and we understand that surrender is truly freeing.
Without understanding the gunas, we fail to see what shapes our sādhana, and fail to see the crucial difference between questioning and wrestling on the one hand, and struggling and fighting on the other. Whatever we are facing, we begin by questioning it and ourselves, and then proceed to wrestling with what we find. Too often, though, we then turn to resistance. At first we may feel sure of what we are doing, but we are deluding ourselves that we are practicing, because all we are doing is being in our heads, struggling and fighting with no resolution and no desire for resolution. By doing this, we perpetuate the shrunken self.
We do not ask whom or what we are fighting. The answer is so simple: no one. We have merely created a dialogue between our shrunken self and our shrunken self. As I have said before, if you really listen, you will hear that the competing voices in your mental dialogues are really only one voice chiding itself. So how do we get out of this? We have to stop struggling. True wrestling, the kind that advances us down the path, comes only through asking questions that will reveal our wrong understanding for what it actually is: just a combination of thought constructs that will never be us.
If we believe our wrong understanding is correct, then whether we are challenged outwardly or inwardly we will resist letting any new knowledge seep in. Our resistance can take the form of silence, which we believe gives us the moral high ground. This may mean lying low—remaining invisible until whatever we are resisting all blows over. That is one way not to learn the lesson. We might also tell ourselves, “It is not safe to open my mouth”. But the reality is that we are protecting our shrunken identity from any blows that may in fact reveal the truth about it.
So the question we must continually ask ourselves is this: What do I want to accomplish? What is my motivation?
If my motivation is informed by hate, then whether I shut my mouth or open it, I will be cruel. When I speak, I will be cruel. When I don’t speak, I will be cruel. When I question, I will be fighting, but calling it wrestling. In these circumstances we are not clear at all, but believe we are totally realistic and reasonable.
When we believe we have something to protect, we will become fearful. In sādhana, our wrong understanding leads us to protect exactly the thing we want to let go of. This fourchotomy shows the confusion that results.
|Directed / certain / clear-sighted||Abandoning reason / reckless|
Questioning and willingly listening to the answer is not fighting. Always ask the next question. Be honest in facing your experience. Are you afraid that if you tell yourself the truth about your experience you’re going to get in trouble with you?
If we believe that complaining and fighting is what caring looks like, then once we have resolution, we will believe we won’t be connected or have caring relationships anymore. We will not be invested in resolution; we will work to avoid resolution. We then believe that we are doing people a favor by resisting.
|Oppositional (unteachable / no need to listen)||Agreeable|
|Autonomous / Independent||Dependent|
We are capable of seeing the truth and accepting that truth without a fight. But we tend to believe that in order to remain autonomous we have to fight and resist. So we never move forward. According to the shrunken self, tools to resolve are tools to end it all. And because we hold onto this belief we have a difficult time, which only perpetuates our fighting against life and the very people who could free us.
|Wrestling / questioning||Gullible / impressionable|
Wrestling is different from fighting. When we wrestle, we have shraddha, faith that is questioning. What are we questioning? We should be questioning what the lesson is for us, where our attachments are, what our resistance to growing is. Student and teacher should be on the same team. The student should not be fighting the teacher. Only this way can the student get clear about where she is and what she has to let go of.
When we are non-attached, we are able to surrender and win rather than fight and lose. In sādhana, surrender means accepting truth and removing our wrong understanding. We are then working with our teacher. Surrendering is a critical part of practice. We stand firm by surrendering.
Baba explained, over and over again, the real meaning of surrender and where surrender leads:
Only the one who is constantly absorbed in the inner Self will be able to dwell in the divine state of love all the time. If you are alienated from the inner Self, then the question of experiencing divine love could never even arise. First, through intense, deep meditation you should get into the state which is beyond differences and duality. Once you have begun to go into that state, and can stay there and come out without suffering any loss, then that inner divine love will begin to pour out through you and you will not see people around you as different, antagonistic, hostile individuals. You will see your own self in everyone around you.
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