Monday, December 22, 2008
Unfortunately I did not realize the utter hypocrisy of that letter until years later when I was on the receiving end of such foolishness….
In this relationship a different friend, (yes, I know, it’s a wonder I have any left), and I had come to a point where we were not talking more than the obligatory Namaste if we happened to meet at Temple.
One day, however, I got cornered. He looked as if he were about to cry and blurted out. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I treated you that way. I was wrong, will you ever be able to forgive me.”
Needless to say my ego was somewhat mollified by this display and at the same time I felt a bit sorry myself for all that had gone wrong between us. And then “it” happened. Actually, to this very day, I am still not sure what “it” was but “it” left me feeling more betrayed than I had before.
After the initial bearing of his soul he went on to explain how actually it was the circumstances surrounding the issue that was the actual problem. He was going through a particularly tough time and actually needed to vent and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But also, (and this is where the “it” happened), if I had not responded with such resentment to his outbursts then none of this would have gotten out of hand and perhaps I have some unresolved issues I need to work through…
He went from him “being completely at fault”, to my being the problem with my “unresolved issues” in about 4.7 seconds. By the time he walked away he had extracted an apology form me and I was almost in tears!
These two incidents combined convinced me that there is something about apologizing that I needed to figure out. Something more than the usual admonishment to make sure our apologies are sincere. We all “know” that our apologies should be sincere. Something was missing, I wasn’t getting it, and something needed to be addressed.
I took up residence at Barnes and Nobles; I hit the lecture circuit, as a participant, and annoyed the speakers with a barrage of questions. I contacted old school teachers and instructors back in India and was not making much headway. I then wrote to an old school chum, (I haven’t run out of them yet though I am going through them like a scythe through wheat), and laid my dilemma out.
He wrote back: “Andre, [actually he didn’t call me Andre but I am determined to keep that nickname in the past], where in the shastra, [Hindu scripture] do you find the word apology? It’s not there. The word used in the Shastra is forgiveness. You are wasting your time studying about apologies, concentrate on how to seek and ask for forgiveness.”
That changed my way of thinking entirely. Now that I was pointed in the right direction and I knew what to look for the beginnings of understanding began to dawn on me. I renewed my lease at Barnes and Nobles with a different paradigm in mind.
Then came the “Aha” experience. On one of my nomadic travels through Barnes & Nobles I happened upon a treasure of a book, “Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart”, by Robin Casarjian. After reading that book and coupling it with the philosophy I’d learned over the years it all made sense.
Don’t apologize as I did, to grab the moral high ground. Don’t apologize as a ploy to extract an apology from the other. Don’t apologize because you feel wronged, you want the other to know that you feel wronged and thus want them to feel guilty. Don’t apologize so that you can have a feeling of benevolence and being the “better man”. Don’t apologize to gain a sense of power over another. Don’t apologize to gain favorable public opinion. Don’t apologize to appease someone other than the person you have trespassed. Don’t apologize if, in actuality, you want and expect an apology in return. Don’t apologize without accepting full and complete responsibility and accountability for your actions. Don’t apologize if you cannot accept responsibility without attempting to qualify, rationalize or justify your actions.
So, should you apologize… for any of the above reasons I mentioned.
While a sincere apology is a step in the right direction we have to go farther if we want to create and sustain strong, committed and healthy relationships.
A Different Mindset:
Firstly let’s stop giving what we think the other person needs, that is the first problem. Let’s do away with the arrogant, insensitive mindset that got us into trouble in the first place. Let’s do away with the mentality that I am offering an apology and you’d better accept it. Let’s do away with the idea that because I apologized I am now off the hook.
Instead let’s ask for and seek forgiveness. Let us accept full accountability for our actions and behavior without rationalization or qualification. Let us seek forgiveness and then bear the consequences. What a novel idea!
With an apology we are closed off to being influenced by the other person. We are giving them only what we wish to give and no more regardless of their true needs. We make the mistake of trying to give them something. Instead we should try to receive. We should try to receive understanding. We should try to receive knowledge. We should try to receive wisdom. These attributes are what we require in order create and sustain healthy relationships.
The only way we can receive these gifts is by asking; asking for forgiveness. This is not rocket-science. By asking for forgiveness we allow the other to express and thereby mitigate the hurt we have inflicted.
An apology can imply: “I have apologized, now shut-up and get over it”. By asking for forgiveness we are in effect saying: “Tell me how I have wronged you. Tell me what I should do so that it does not happen again with you or anyone else”
Seeking forgiveness in this manner requires an enormous amount of personal strength and maturity.
Think of it. When we are wronged what is the first thing we do? We find the nearest ear and unload with a vengeance.
By practicing forgiveness we allow the other to give voice to their hurt and we come away with a greater understanding and deeper wisdom so as not to repeat our foolishness.
The difficulty is that the ability to ask for forgiveness requires a level of internal strength, maturity and security that is hard to come by. The following case history is instructive.
Several years ago when I was consulting for a Hindu temple in Sweden I was asked to mediate between the administration and the Temple’s disaffected youth.
To be continued…..
for more info: http://www.gitayoga.net/
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Should I Apologize?
I personally have given some of the most insincere apologies possible. I have also been the victim of such apologies as well. In coaching my clients one can imagine the number of times this issue has surfaced. “When should I apologize?” “How should I apologize?” And of course the most common of them all; “Why the h--- should I apologize?”
However, it wasn’t until I experienced the following, in my own character, that I decided to tackle this issue head on.
Many years ago my friend and I, with whom I had a very strong relationship up that point, had a terrible misunderstanding. As is all too often in such situations egos are inflamed, disappointment turns to disgust, disgust to hatred, hatred to anger. The situation deteriorated, we refused to talk to each other and resorted to maligning the other to our mutual friends. As things got progressively worse we began drifting toward the “point of no return” and neither of us wanted anything to do with the other.
After some time had passed I decided to write a letter of apology. I was seeing a coach at the time and was trying to “better” myself. In the spirit of trying to grow I agreed to write a letter of apology.
I spent a lot of time writing the letter. Being careful not to offend or cast blame, I wrote about how thankful I was of all the good times we had shared and so on. Then at the end of the letter I finished it off with this ridiculous statement. This is what I had considered to be the Grand Finale: The Apology.
I wrote: “I am sorry that I asked to share the taxi ride to Calcutta with you. Had I not been so strapped for cash that day we would not have met and all this pain and upset could have been avoided. I am sincerely sorry.”
Can you believe that? Moreover, I actually had the gall to send the letter. In retrospect I should have read it to my coach at the time, I am sure he would have slapped me across the face! Needless to say I didn’t get a response. God knows, I should have been shot for writing that drivel.
The problem with that letter is that I took absolutely no responsibility for my actions. Instead I insinuated, with that statement, that I was willing accede that we were both jerks and that while I was not going to blame him, I was certainly not going to take sole responsibility for my actions. We simply have shouldn’t struck up a friendship.
Unfortunately I did not realize the utter hypocrisy of that letter until years later when I was on the receiving end of such foolishness….
To be continued...
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
In 1999 I left India and moved to Norway. I was newly married, just starting a promising career and things were looking quite positive. I achieved an enviable running start in life when I rather suddenly encountered a brick wall.
Sitting among the shattered debris that remained of a once promising life, you can imagine the amount of soul-searching that takes place. I had been immensely proud and confident in my spiritual education and felt that the knowledge I had gained would help me navigate the stormy seas of life. I was right on both counts; I did receive an excellent education and the knowledge could help me throughout life; if only I could figure out how to apply it.
I sank into depression and antipathy and became little more than an automaton. I deliberately, and almost vengefully, rebelled against all that I had been taught while growing up. It was a time in my life of which I am not particularly proud. In any event a friend of mine recommended a book I read. It was a book by the Jesuit priest Anthony De Mello, “Awareness”.
In “Awareness” De Mello tells the story of a junior priest receiving guidance and support from a senior priest. The senior is quoting scripture, telling the young adherent how to enhance his prayers and to whom he should offer which prayers and at what times of day and so on. As I grew up in religious Hindu boarding schools for umpteen years this story began to resonate quite strongly with me. Finally the young priest looked the Father straight in the eye and said, “Sir, all that you say is entirely true but thoroughly useless.”
At that moment Gita-yoga was born.
Here I had all the spiritual knowledge and theoretical understanding to create and live a successful life and I had fallen flat on my face. I was galvanized, after having read that book, to take spiritual teachings, philosophy and principles turn it into practices that resonate fully, completely and immediately in modern life.
“and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and know the place for the first time”
- T.S. Eliot
This was the first time in my life, and it wouldn’t be the last but that is another post, that I had come full circle and saw with clarity where I had been, where I currently stood and where I needed to be.
I broke open all my boxes of books, re-read old articles I had written, listened to recordings of past seminars I had given, (http://www.gitayoga.net/) lectures, re-studied old texts and assignments of my teachers and set to figuring out a way to turn valid, spiritual principles into effective, tangible practices.
Commonly, though erroneously, referred to as the Bible of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita has always been among my favorite philosophical books. This was a natural and very easy starting point. How to make the Bhagavad-Gita relevant to those who are unable to spend 15 years trying to figure it all out?
I was rejuvenated to the point that I once again began giving lectures and coaching, (http://www.gitayoga.net/) throughout the Scandinavian countries. However, the difference is that I now focused specifically on principles taken only from the Bhagavad Gita and concentrated on finding ways my clients could implement those principles the very same day! If, after a lecture, seminar or coaching session, the participants or client did not leave with a clear idea of what they needed to do, specifically, the very next day then I had failed.
Not surprisingly I failed numerous times and in countless ways, and continue to do so even to this day! However, as I carried on refining my approach, studying, receiving feedback, researching, receiving more feedback a pattern or several patterns began to emerge. Now I all had to do was link what people wanted and needed to my realizations, understanding and experience. Presto! Gita Yoga.
The word Gita is of course in reference to the Bhagavad Gita. Yoga, as I assume we all know, means to connect or link. Gita Yoga very simply is about how to get the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita to make sense in our everyday reality.
Gita Yoga is based on four basic principles taken from the philosophy of the Gita. I will list the Sanskrit terms and English translations as well so that you may look them up at a later time.
1) Saucam – Purity To live with honour
2) Satyam – Truth To confront with maturity
3) Tapam – Self-mastery To achieve self-mastery
4) Daya – Compassion To conquer with love.
Saucam (Purity) - to live with honour:
This principle is for those of us who say “yes” when we really wanted to say “no”. Honourable living means that our actions, words and motives are all in alignment. To live with honour means, “to say what we mean and mean what we say”. This principle is based on the understanding that if our motives are less than transparent then we cannot speak with credibility. If our communication is out of sync with our motives and our motives are out of sync with our actions what kind of life are we creating for ourselves? A person who lives without honour is deceitful and lacks integrity thus causing harm to themselves, their relationships and the world at large.
To practice this principle is the easiest of the four, though no less significant, we must simply ask ourselves, “why”. We must examine or question our motives. When we question our motives we bring them light, when we bring them to light they become transparent and thus pure.
Satyam (Truth) - to confront with maturity:
As the first principles deals with our personal character development this, the second principle, deals with how we interact with others; specifically, how we communicate with them. We confront with maturity by dealing exclusively in truth. If we have not examined our motives, gained transparency and begun to live true to ourselves then how can we possibly interact with our loved ones on the basis of truth?
We must live with honour before we are able to confront the world with the compassion and courage of truth. We must know our own truth before we can relate to others in truth.
Confronting with maturity has two components:
1 The Art of Truthfulness
2 The Art of Listening
The Art of Truthfulness has three facets:
1 Honesty – This is the “what” you are saying. Our communications should be factual representations of our, now purified and transparent, motives.
2 Pleasantness – This is the “how” you say it. If our speech and language is crass, uncultured, insensitive and arrogant we will come to be known as crass, uncultured, insensitive and arrogant. Who listens and pays attention to such persons, let alone take them seriously.
3 Benevolence – This is the “why” you are saying it. If you harbour feelings of ill-will toward another it is highly unlikely that what you say of, or to, the other person will hardly be to their benefit. Once again we see the importance of examining, acknowledging and clearing our motives.
This is the Art of Truthfulness. Communications on this level is profound and extremely powerful, ask Mahatma Gandhi.
The Art of Listening has six sub-components:
I will not list or go into the Art of Listening here because that discussion is a post in and of itself. However, the overall principle in the Art of Listening is to ask a question. A person who has the courage to ask a question is extremely rare to find these days. Most of us fear to ask questions, not so much because we do not want to appear foolish, no. Most of us fear to ask a question because we are afraid the answer may cause us to change.
It is change that we fear. We do not want to receive new knowledge that may interrupt our comfortable life patterns, or worse, dismantle our belief system. The courage necessary to ask questions; the personal strength and internal security necessary to ask questions is quite hard to come by. This is the essence of the Art of Listening.
Tapa (Self-mastery) - to achieve self-mastery.
In this principle we turn our focus back on our selves. To achieve Self-mastery is key in creating, sustaining and nourishing relationships. If we have not mastered our actions, habits, communication and thoughts we are setting ourselves, and our relationships, up for disaster.
We achieve mastery on three levels:
Body – (Our Actions)
Word – (Our communication)
Mind – (Our Motives)
We gain mastery over our actions by regulating our daily habits; eating, sleeping, recreation, work and so on.
We gain mastery over our communication by practicing the Arts of Truthfulness and Listening.
We gain mastery over our motives by identifying and acknowledging them.
When we have gained total self-mastery our relationships will rest on solid foundations. This principle is critical in developing and living the final and fourth principle of Gita-yoga.
Daya (Compassion) - to conquer with love
I use the word conquer deliberately. Christ, Gandhi and King all conquered with love. Love is defined quite nicely in the Bhagavad Gita. Love means knowledge. Love means that you will seek out the truth no matter where it will lead.
To love a person means to understand and acknowledge the unique and individual wants, drives and motives of another person. To conquer them is to then address those wants, drives and motives according to their uniqueness.
However, in order to truly and deeply understand another person we must have the maturity, courage and personal security to ask questions. Without the ability to ask and listen we will be unable to nourish relationships.
These are the four principles of Gita Yoga. There will be more detailed posts following that goes into each principle in-depth but this will have to suffice for now. You can listen in on my daily Tele-seminars, topics and schedule are posted at www.gitayoga.net, and hear firsthand about Gita Yoga. The Tele-seminars are free. E-coaching is also available.
So that is Gita-yoga, in a nutshell, I hope you are inspired to pick up a Gita and check it out some time
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Happiness: A Difficult Choice (Part Two)
It all about alignment.
We now know what the problem is, what happiness is and now we must go about achieving, attaining, experiencing happiness.
One of my favourite sayings, by philosopher Chardin, “We are spiritual beings having human experience”, gets to the heart of the matter. As earlier mentioned we are spiritual beings yet we exist in a material reality. Both realities must be taken into account. To go through life as a so-called spiritualist without taking into account the reality us would cause much distress both to ourselves and loved. To be solely and exclusively absorbed in our material reality we leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.
In order to strike this balance we must, believe it or not, begin on the spiritual level.
I tell my coaching clients, (http://www.coachgray.net/), to do two things:
1) Know yourself
2) Do something about it
Know Your True Self
Twice a day, once in the morning before they get out of bed and in the evening before they close their eyes for the final, to take stock of themselves. This means to ask oneself what do you truly want in your life. Are you in the right career? Is your personal life the life you want it to be? What do you want to change, regardless of whether or not you think it is possible?
This is not merely to ask ourselves these questions, become discouraged and then slip into depression. That is the negative side of this practice. The proactive aspect is to mentally create the life, career, relationship we want right there in bed, in our mind’s eye. This is what it is to recognize, acknowledge and allow our true spiritual nature to be validated. Remember, the soul, if it weren’t for the body of matter, would be free. Think in those terms. If you were uninhibited by financial, societal or other restraint what would your life be like? That is what it means to begin to give voice to our spiritual nature.
This should be done, ideally, twice a day, certainly no less than every morning. Engaging in this practice for five minutes each morning creates a powerful driving force over time.
Now let’s tackle our material reality.
Do Something About It!
We want to experience happiness, which can only truly be achieved when there is spiritual validation, yet our material reality is in upheaval. Bills are piling up, the car has broken down, and our spouse wants a divorce. How, in this situation, can we possibly experience happiness?
The book “In Search of Meaning”, by renowned psychologist Victor Frankl, is one I highly recommend. A Nazi death camp survivor, Victor Frankl describes how he was able to find a level of serenity and freedom that even the guards did not possess. He describes that he did not of course “find” this level of personal freedom in the camps. He was able to come to the realization that the freedom, serenity and joy he wanted he brought to the camps with him! I do no justice to his book, in my description, but I figure that if he is able to experience, “serenity, freedom and joy”, in the situation into which he was cast, then we should certainly be able to do so in our lives.
While we must deal the bills, the car and our wayward spouse, the key is to also do something about making your spiritual reality your material reality. This is not new information and because it is not new, or the latest in popular psychology, we do not take this to heart. Simply developing these two practices into a habit will profoundly change our lives and increase our experience of happiness.
There are never enough hours in a day, we know that, but whatever action you can take to align your spiritual reality with your material reality, no matter how small, will enable you to experience happiness. This the very definition of happiness; when there is an alignment between our spiritual selves and our material reality. More than an alignment there is a seamless connection between, our material reality is the manifestation of our spiritual selves.
Yes, it takes courage to choose happiness. It takes courage to follow your heart. It takes courage to stand up for yourself and who you are. It takes courage to live your life as you see fit. It takes courage throw off the shackles that are that society, religion, family and friends would have us wear. This courage is only possible when we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who we are on a spiritual level. The power and subsequent courage obtain with self-knowledge enables us to align our spiritual self with our material reality.
The choice of happiness is a difficult choice but it is yours to make and yours alone; choose well.
You can listen in to our daily Tele-seminars free at http://www.coachgray.net/. Personal life coaching by e-mail is also available.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Happiness: A Difficult Choice (Part 1)
Happiness is indeed a choice. However, the problem is twofold. 1) We don’t know what happiness is. 2) We don’t know who we are or what we need. Knowing who we are is pivotal in gaining both the knowledge, wisdom and finally the courage to choose happiness.
For the sake of this discussion I will take for granted that we agree on the existence of a soul or spirit that inhabits the material body. I will take this for granted for the simple reason that to delve into that topic would require an entirely different and far lengthier post.
The presence of the soul in the body, call it spirit, consciousness, the anti-material particle or whatever, is key in choosing happiness. All religions recognize the existence of the soul and science, while confounded in trying to measure or quantify the quality of the soul, is hard-pressed to deny that there is something more to life than the mere interaction of chemical compounds.
Even the most die-hard Big Bang theorists will agree the Big Bang theory is merely the best scientific theory, to date, that attempts to explain the phenomena of life and creation. It is recognized as merely a theory which must be proven, just like this theory of the soul thank you very much! So once again let’s take for granted the existence of the soul for the moment and move forward.
The soul and body are different; spirit and matter respectively. As described in Vedic thought the soul has three fundamental qualities that matter does not have.
Eternality differentiates the soul from matter in that matter, all matter, deteriorates over time. The soul exists unchanged forever. Matter does not have this quality. Matter decays, deteriorates, changes form and even its chemical properties.
Awareness differentiates the soul from matter in a most obvious way; consciousness. I know this brings up the Artificial Intelligence question and of Sonny in “I, Robot”, and while I liked the movie as well let’s not go there for the moment. It is this consciousness or awareness that gives “life” to matter.
Joy, a quality that requires sentience, consciousness or awareness, is not to be found in the realm of matter. Matter, bereft of spirit, is devoid of joy.
Now that we know the difference between matter and spirit we have come half way. Now we must come to know what Joy is. All human beings are essentially the same in terms of our physiological make up. However at the same time every human being, no matter how similar to another, is specifically and tangibly unique. So to with the soul, all souls share the same constitutional make up but are specifically and uniquely different.
Joy is attained when the soul experiences and exists true to its individual and constitutional nature. The constitutional nature of each individual soul is not for me to say. The journey of self-discovery is a highly personal one. As a personal coach I assist others as best I can but the uncovering the unique and constitutional nature of an individual soul is a personal undertaking. This is why I mentioned earlier that it takes knowledge, wisdom and courage to choose happiness.
Let’s recap. The body and soul are different; the qualities of the soul are eternality, awareness and joy; and joy is the realization and experience of one’s constitutional spiritual nature and uniqueness.
For simplicity’s sake let’s substitute the word happiness for joy going forward. Joy would be the proper translation from the original Sanskrit but in English the word happiness would do just as well. Besides I couldn’t very well title the article “The Choice of Joy”, sounds like the title of a badly written romance novel.
The Two Pleasurable Experiences:
Now there is one last bit of information we must know before we begin choosing happiness/joy. We are souls inhabiting a body of matter. As the soul experiences happiness; the body experiences gratification. Happiness and Gratification are two very different experiences, which in turn lead to very different consequences.
Gratification is based upon our external reality. Social standing, material possessions, power, relationships etc, all have sway in our external reality. We get gratification from driving nice cars, living in the best of houses, achieving status among our peers etc. However, the problem here is that because all of these things are based in our external reality, over which we have comparatively little control, when they are taken away we are distressed. The nature of gratification, as pleasurable as it is, is that it is not truly within our control. Gratification brings with it an underlying though undetected hint of anxiousness as we fear to lose the source or cause of our gratification.
Happiness is based upon our internal, spiritual maturity. Our external reality can and will, most definitely, vacillate from one extreme to another. Our internal reality, based solely on the level of our spiritual maturity, will not fluctuate, cannot be taken away and is not subject to the upheaval that may be our external reality.
Pain and Torture
This is not to say that our external reality has no impact whatsoever on our spiritual well-being and vice-versa. Only persons as spiritually elevated as Christ can endure an abominable external reality yet remain spiritually centered. Adverse external circumstances, such as dire financial straits, can certainly negatively impact our spiritual well-being.
Conversely, spiritual desolation negatively affects our external reality, no matter how affluent, powerful and successful we may be. The saying, “money does not buy happiness” comes from this principle. If we are spiritually under-developed we can gain no joy despite being surrounded by the tools of gratification.
Balance must be struck. We are spiritual beings in a material reality. We have to grow, mature and succeed equally in both realms in order to be stable, fulfilled and happy individuals. Let’s look at it this way, “money does not buy happiness; but it does buy gratification.” All we must remember is that gratification has a down side; it is beyond our control and subject to the inconstancy and inconsistency of the world and reality around us.
This is the easy. The problem is that we have never been taught to identify happiness and we have not the courage to choose happiness. You see, that was easy. I guess we'd better go on to the hard part.
The Hard Part
Now that we know who we are, what happiness is and “where” to “find” it we can go about doing so. (I put where and find in quotations because we are, in essence, the embodiment of happiness. It is like asking you to find your sight. You don’t find sight, you experience it. Anyway, I digress.)
To be continued - Happiness: A Difficult Choice (Part Two)
You can listen in to our daily Tele-seminars free at http://www.coachgray.net/. Personal life coaching by e-mail is also available.