Book Club: Eknath Easwaran Meditation

Book Club November 24th Chapter 7
Chapter 7, Spiritual Companionship
Thank you to all who came and took part in this great discussion on Spiritual Companionship.  We spent the time discussing the many twists and turns in our lives that have led us to this group of like-minded and like hearted people.  And as was fitting for the time of year, we gave thanks for Sandra coming to Weatherford to give us a gathering place not just for Yoga, but a safe place for learning and growing in ways we needed but had not put into words.  As Eknath says on pg 190, “…an essential part of the spiritual life is coming together with those who are spiritually minded, those who want to promote our growth and who want us to promote theirs.”  Thank you Sandra!!
Along this same line, on page 190 he goes on to compare pursuing a spiritual life as to swimming upstream.  It is challenging and “we need friends, loyal companions”.  “…We have to do the swimming… but it is easier if we swim together with those who encourage us, set a strong pace and will not stop until they reach their destination.”
Spiritual growth requires that we live and interact with others. We can read about it but it requires putting it into action for real growth to occur.  This can create challenges as when close family and friends see change it can create uneasy feelings in them, resulting in teasing, or angry outbursts, yet as he says eventually “…everyone responds deeply to the growth of goodness and wisdom in a child, a partner or a parent.” Pg 192 He goes on to say that “rich relationships with a number of people constitute one of the great blessings on this earth.” (page 193)  It is when we withdraw unto ourselves that we become depressed, it is only in turning outward and being with others that we can turn away from the negative thoughts and forget about our problems.
Having a spiritual household means being mindful towards each other.  Spending time meditating together, saying our mantras before meals, using meal time as a pleasant visiting time with family and friends, and just generally tuning in to each other throughout the day.  On page 195 he says “…every meal should be a sacrament, in which we strengthen not only the body but the spirit too.”  We can use this time to share lovingly with those we care about, taking time with food preparation, and taking time to eat, savor and enjoy the food and the company.
Take time for recreation, it is important to keep the body moving and healthy.  It is also important have fun.  Join with family and friends to engage in things you all enjoy.  Or take a solitary walk repeating your mantra.  Get in touch with nature.  Get up and get moving and give thanks for being able to do so!
Chapter 8, The Mystics
Eknath states that Mystical literature “differs from other forms of writing in that as our understanding deepens, we draw more from it.”  He goes on to say that although it is very important to read these inspiring writings, it is important to use what we receive and put it into action.  “One contemporary thinker put it very well when he remarked that if we had to choose between uniting ourselves with God and hearing a lecture about it, most of us would hunt for a good seat.” (Pg 202) The believe that we can learn all we need to know from books is mistaken. We can and need to read inspirational literature and use it to lay the foundation for how we choose to live our lives.
He lists many sources of inspirational writings;  Saint Teresa of Avila,  Saint Teresa of Lisieux, The Upanishads, the gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the Bhagavad Gita.  All of these are inspirational and can be used to set the stage for a life lived more fully.  First though we must put the book down and live here and now in physical form, creating and maintaining meaningful relationships with others.  When the challenges occur if we can be more like Saint Teresa of Lisieux (Pg 209) She tells the story of a fellow nun in the convent around whom she felt great distress, there was not anything about this person she felt drawn toward.  Saint Teresa decided that instead of avoiding her, she would seek her out and smile at her.  One day the nun asked Saint Teresa what it was about her that she was so drawn to that in fact made her smile every time they met.  Sister Teresa wrote in her diary that night, that what she saw every time she met up with the other nun was Jesus.  She was able to look beyond and see the best in her.  Let’s all practice this with each other, now more than ever before.  When we feel encouraged to take sides, judge things as right and wrong, and focus on the physical trappings let’s pull back a bit, look beyond the obvious and find the pearls that are all around us.

We will plan to have Book Club again in the New Year. The book is yet to be determined. Enjoy your holiday season and practice grace, love and kindness to all!


Book Club: Eknath Easwaran: Meditation

Chapter 6 – Putting Others First

This concept sounds so simple.. is so simple… and yet we tend to over think which leads to hesitation, which leads to inaction.  We need to just do it… put others first.  What a great chapter to discuss the week before Thanksgiving!  Mr. Easwaran describes it as a “great secret’ (p. 165).   Examples given of putting others first include the making of a favorite dish or even going on a salt-free diet for a year with your grandson (true story)… the key seems to be having a positive outlook to go along with the action… compassion from the heart.  We must get over our own swollen concern for ourselves.  He likens this to a disease known as elephantiasis (badly swollen legs).  “Puffed up by our self-will, we look out at the world through the distorting medium of our likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, opinions and judgments.  We want everyone to behave as we think they should – the right way.  When, naturally enough, they not only behave their own way but expect us to do as they do, we get agitated.  And what we see through this agitation makes up our everyday reality.” (p. 167)  WOW…reality is distorted by agitation brought on from self-will!

To find the balance we seek and to learn compassion of the heart, we must deal with our ego.  Yes the “me,” “my,” “mine,” “myself,” and the big “I.”  The word ego, comes from the Latin for “I.”   (p.167)  We want to be served first, but this drive will not led to happiness. Check out the “little monkey” story! (p.169)  How many times do we get “caught” because we can’t let go of our own stuff!   We discussed the lyrics to a Rolling Stones song… You can’t always get what you want..try sometime…you just might find…you get what you need.  Be content… look outside your our own persona (term used for the face masks worn in ancient Greek and Roman plays.)  ” Our much valued personalities are usually just like these masks – rigid and inflexible”… not able to let go, just like the little monkey.  We work up a particular concept of who we are and strive to live it whatever the circumstances.(p.170)  When we stop trying to live up to an artificial image of ourselves, our real personality bursts forth – vivid, appealing, unique. (p. 171)  This will bring a continuous presence of joy because our consciousness will not be divided… we will be true to ourselves.

So…If we throw off our masks and ask…what do we want…look deep, remember you have no mask…just raw you. Mr. Easwaran says we are looking for peace of mind, lasting relationships and love. That this is the power of life itself.  He also quotes several others…”If you want to find your life, you have to lose it” – Jesus.  “I have the greatest ambition imaginable.  I want to make myself zero.” Gandhi
Saint Paul defines love…
“Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one.
Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense.
Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over others’ sins, but delights in the truth.
There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.
Love will never come to an end.”
That is a love powerful enough to dissolve our self-will, bring us peace of mind and lasting relationships. (pages 172-175)

We can learn to love and refrain from our self-centered ways… it comes down to our attention.  We must give thought to our steps.  Mr. Easwaran believes love can fairly well be summed up in a single word: patience.  “If we want relationships that deepen with the passage of time, relationships that help us grow, we have to remain loyal through the bad times as well as the good, to accept the differences as well as the congruency’s.  This is what we learn to do when we try patiently to put the other person first.” (pages 179-181)

Discussions then turned to Thanksgiving…Family…Mending Estrangements…Many opportunities for graceful yielding!
“Persevere in forgiveness…forgiving those who have wronged us, and ourselves for our wrongs of the past.  Choose to trust, rather than live in fear of the future.  Past and future, those twin burdens, fall away, and here, in the present moment, we are free to love unconditionally, wholly.” (pages 183-186)  We also decided that it never hurts to find something nice about everyone… your hair looks nice today, what cute shoes, they just hugged Grandma…it doesn’t matter what it is.  If you are truly having a problem with someone, find something positive and cling to it!  A positive thought is just a thought away.  Look to find sweetness and joy in putting others first.

Judy will be back next week to finish out our book study.  Thanks to all who came!  Happy Thanksgiving and remember to create your own symphony…with much love, Marcy Atchley

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to bravely await all occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.”
– William Henry Channing

Book Club: Meditation Eknath Easwaran

Book Club, Chapter 5  Training the Senses
Thank you to all who attended yesterday.  What a great discussion and wonderful insights.  It is so interesting to hear others experiences as we travel through this book together!
Living in physical form has its rewards and definitely its challenges as well.  This chapter is on the many ways we are challenged each day by our senses.
Eknath discusses on page 141 that like any other skill, training our senses takes practice and a desire to do so.  He says that once trained our senses become our “trusted servants” but untrained become our “oppressive masters”.  The challenge for many of us is first in becoming aware of what we are responding to when we automatically eat, or turn on the TV or check our e-mail.  For so many of us, we do things without much thought or awareness, it has become a habit.
He says that we begin by denying the body things that injure it.  (pg 142) When we eat foods that are not nutritious, we are impairing the body’s smooth functioning.  So many of these foods taste good, and we give in to the sense of taste.  He states that the “body’s needs should determine what we eat, not the appeal of the senses.” (pg 143)  The more aware we become the less appeal non-nutritious foods will have for us and the more it will bother us to watch as others harm their bodies.  He encourages us to start our children on healthier fare and not give in to ads for sugar filled cereals and other non-nutritious foods geared specifically to children through TV ads.
The next step is to eat only when hungry.  When we keep nuts and candies around the house, we pick as wander by, eating because it is there, not because we are hungry.  “Our attention is divided and we eat compulsively rather than from hunger.” (pg 145)  He then goes on to say that it is best if we overeat to skip the next meal, but rather than overeating try to stop eating when you are still a bit hungry.  (pg 148)  I thought this was rather timely with Thanksgiving coming up!
Our eating habits are so entrenched and there are so many temptations to distract us, he notes that it takes time as well as patience and persistence to prevail.  He discusses using your mantra, going for a brisk walk, and meditating as options to use rather than eating when we are upset, lonely or depressed. We all have to take personal responsibility.  We have choices and we alone are responsible for how we treat our bodies and our minds.
We need to be aware of the word we speak.  On page 159 he gives three gateways to check before speaking.  Are your words true, are they necessary and are they kind?  If the words do not meet all criteria they need not be spoken.  He goes on to say that not only are words misspoken destructive to the recipient…” they are terribly destructive to the consciousness of the person who uses them.”
We also need to be aware of what we watch on TV and at the movies.  Increasingly, we are watching more and more violence.  He notes that not only do we watch violence but we pay to do so.    Violence is seen by many as a possible solution to problems and more and more as a nation we are becoming insensitive to violence.  When we choose to become aware we become more selective in what we chose to watch, read and listen to.  On page 161 he states that “when we stimulate the sense unduly, vitality flows out through them like water from a leaky pail, leaving us drained physically, emotionally and spiritually.”  When we train our senses, we conserve our vital energy.  We mindfully choose what to surround ourselves with and we feel secure within ourselves.
On page 162 Eknath states that “When we learn to train our senses and master our desires, fewer and fewer of these waves (desires) rise up.  Gradually the mind becomes still so that we can discover our real identity.”
This is the goal for many of us as we continue to practice the ideas he gives us in this book.
Next week Book Club will meet on Saturday from 1-2:30.  Bring your lunch if you would like as we will meet right after meditation class.  Have a great week.

Book Club Notes: Meditation Eknath Easwaran

Book Club November 3, 2012  Chapter 4
Thanks everyone for coming and THANK YOU TOMI for the delicious vegetable soup, that we all enjoyed before we started our discussion.  As Tomi pointed out as this chapter was on One-Pointed Attention, it would likely be wise to eat first and then start our book discussion.  That worked well, and we did visit as we ate, and someone pointed out we had it down to two things at a time, which overall is a big improvement from what we usually do throughout the day.  Old habits are a challenge to identify and then to change!
What a great chapter once again.  This chapter on One-Pointed Attention or doing one thing at a time was very interesting.  Ekhart Tolle quoted a Zen master who was asked “what is the meaning of Zen?”  The Zen master said “doing one thing at a time”.  The questioner went on to ask “and then what?”  That is so often what our minds ask, if we are not busy all the time with thoughts and activities, surely we are missing something in life, what else could I be doing?
Eknath says that “If we want to live in freedom, we must have complete mastery over our thoughts.” Pg 116 This is not the case for most of us, instead as he states “our thoughts think us”. Pg 116 We are not in charge, we are “not the master here”. Pg 117 Our minds go where they choose and we follow along.  He gives examples of this as when a song lyric goes through your head and you can’t make it stop, you forget someone’s name perseverate on this the rest of the day, hoping it will come to you.  We also tend to remember and replay in our minds something that went wrong, and about which we feel badly.  As Eknath says these thoughts “haunt” us , keeping us “far from the light and joy of day.” Pg 117 We can choose to bring our minds into focus, or let them scatter wherever they may go, like light, which when focused is intense, yet when it is left to shine our through many cracks and openings become diffuse and goes in all directions.
We can train our minds by using meditation and by refraining from doing more than one thing at a time.  Here is the challenge, the more we work to fight distractions, the more attention we pay to them and they increase.  Instead we need to give mindful attention to our mantra, our prayer or our task at hand.
This takes discipline and self honesty.  The payoff is that when one’s mind is focused we have more energy, we are more efficient, more engaged and “opportunities worthy of our concentration come along”. Pg 122
Divided attention can lead to exhaustion and we feel very little satisfaction in what we do.  The choice is ours to make, but first we have to be aware of what our minds are doing.  Once we start to pay mindful attention to one thing at a time, we “grow new eyes and new ears.” Pg 125 We start to see and understand things in new and deeper ways.    We discussed how it is that some people like to have music on while they read or study, while for others this is very distracting.  Eknath feels that to do both is a disservice to each.  If you are reading, read, if you are listening to music listen to music, if you are driving the car, drive the car, this is not the time for visiting, or for music.  He summed up what Buddha said “when you are walking, walk.  When you are standing, stand.  When you are sitting, sit.  Don’t wobble.” Pg 132
“One-pointed attention averts mistakes and costly accidents.”  He also notes that “your senses are keener, your emotions more stable, your intellect more lucid, your sensitivity to the needs of others heightened.” Pg 140 When we unify our minds, we plunge deeper and deeper into that reality and move ever closer to the Lord.” Pg 140
Next week we will meet on Sunday, which is a change from what I said last week.  There is a training going on most of Saturday.  So we will meet at 4PM at our new location.  I look forward to seeing you there and hearing your thoughts on Chapter 5, Training the Senses!
Have a great week.