- The Facts:
The parable told in the Bhagavad Gita remind us of the eternal challenges that humans face and how to conquer our demons even if we'd rather do nothing.
- Reflect On:
How do you approach tackling the challenges life brings you? Do you find yourself being hard on yourself? Forgetting to be compassionate towards yourself?
The strength to face the challenges in our life always rewards us with a refinement and evolution of our soul regardless if we win or lose the battle.
We all strive to live our soul’s purpose, but sometimes our mind conflicts with our feelings and causes confusion. The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Hindu text that has an important teaching for those of us who experience this internal struggle. In this story, Arjuna the peaceful warrior is faced with a choice to act or not act in what he feels is a no-win situation for himself. If you have ever felt confusion or inner conflict holding you back, then the timeless wisdom in this story can bring clarity and relief.
Ahimsa is the principle of non-violence, which is a fundamental tenet of Hinduism. It is rooted in the belief that all lives, both human and non-human, are sacred. This is why on the eve of a great war, the choice between duty and non-violence leaves Arjuna in a state of inner conflict in this story. Being a peaceful warrior requires you to stand firmly in your spiritual path, dharma, but sometimes we don’t have the clarity to know what the best choice is. This requires an active fearlessness and non-attachment, which is embodied in the famous parable of Arjuna and Krishna’s discussion on the battlefield.
The story begins with a young prince, Arjuna, who realizes that the enemies he’ll be fighting in an upcoming battle are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers. He turns to his charioteer confessing his conflicting emotions and his fears. His charioteer is actually the eternally wise Krishna. Here Arjuna talks to Krishna about his confusion:
…it is not proper for us to kill our own kinsmen, the sons of Dhritarashtra. For how, Krishna, shall we be happy after killing our own relatives? If the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapon in hand, should kill me in battle, me weaponless and not defending myself, that would be better for me. – Bhagavad Gita
As he contemplates no action at all and allowing his enemies to kill him, he hopes to stay true to his dedication to non-violence (ahimsa), but Krishna recognizes this as a cop-out. Compassion is said to come in the form of a lamb and a lion. We must accept that we are not perfect. This humility allows each of us to evolve forward from the place that we stand, rather than jump to absolute ideals.
Though Arjuna has mentally justified that he is being fearless and selfless to let his enemies kill him unarmed, he is actually avoiding his own dharma and here Krishna reminds him of this:
One’s own duty, though defective, is better than another’s duty well performed. – Bhagavad Gita
This is a call to hone one’s own inner voice and stay true to it; trusting that there are no wrong choices, only lessons to be learned. Duty is usually associated with something we don’t want to do, but it can feel quite empowering once we accept our role in a situation. When I was in my 20s, I was passionate about the environment and saving the world, but I was broke. I had gone past being able to be picky about a job that would help me pay the bills or feed myself, so I begrudgingly took a job as a landscaper.
Swinging a pick-axe in the hot sun, I was given the task of putting irrigation lines in to grow plants and grass that should not have been planted in the arid climate of Arizona. Non-native, drought-tolerant plants waste precious water in the desert landscape. I was miserable while I worked and felt a bit self-righteous about my sustainability ideals. Angry at the universe that I should have to do such a lowly chore, I put my nose to the grindstone and woke up early every day to make ends meet.
If you have ever felt conflicted about your life path then you will understand this feeling. In acceptance of the task at hand comes a certain humility, self-compassion, a sense of service, mental liberation, and even empowerment. This is central to karma yoga, which teaches us not to be attached to the outcome of our work, but to do it as a form of devotion to our own inner evolution.
Your business is with action alone; not by any means with the fruit of action. Let not the fruit of action be your motive to action. Let not your attachment be fixed on inaction.Therefore, always perform action, which must be performed, without attachment. For a man, performing action without attachment attains the Supreme. – Krishna to Arjuna
Even the most mundane actions in our day-to-day life are the result of choices we have made. The parable of Arjuna’s indecision on the battlefield is an extreme expression of this common circumstance and that is why it holds such value for us today. With clarity of mind, or mindfulness, along with personal accountability and non-attachment to outcome, we can have the courage to face any battle. A situation can be terrifying and feel like life or death even if it is not. The strength to face the challenges in our life always rewards us with a refinement and evolution of our soul, regardless if we win or lose the battle.
To one that is born, death is certain; and to one that dies, birth is certain. Therefore, you should not grieve about things that are unavoidable. – Krishna to Arjuna
Sometimes it is the fear itself that dies (or an ego death) on this journey. Each one of us is here at this time for something greater than we can know or understand. The world is filled with terrifying possibilities, and mistakes are easy to come by. Sometimes the fear of making the wrong choice is scarier than the choices themselves, yet we are all here to fail as much as we are here to succeed.
Anyone with great success can also boast many failures. In this process, we learn to be more compassionate to ourselves and to those who have wronged us with their own poor behavior. The journey of soul evolution continues regardless. We must always put one foot in front of the other, and the path will appear with each step.
In this path to final emancipation, nothing that is commenced becomes wasted effort; no obstacles exist; and even a little of this form of sacred duty protects one from great danger. – Krishna to Arjuna
Knowing that we are in line with our dharma, and on the path (not the right path or the wrong path, just on the path), we begin to liberate and empower ourselves. These ancient parables, like the one told in the Bhagavad Gita, are meant to remind us of the eternal challenges that humans face and how to conquer our demons, even if we’d rather do nothing. Arjuna contemplates not taking up arms in battle, but after speaking with Krishna he follows his dharma and fights.
Being a peaceful warrior does not mean that you should be without your sword, as you never know when you might be called to unsheathe it. You can stand fearlessly in whatever circumstance you may face, knowing that you are not alone on the journey to personal evolution.
15 Quotes From Alan Watts’ Book: ‘Out of Your Mind’
In the middle of yoga class the other day, sweaty, exhausted, and holding a pose for what seemed an eternity, my teacher reminded me of the wisdom of Alan Watts with a single quote that would ultimately make me forget about the physical discomfort I was in, and allow me to fully connect to the beauty of the moment at hand.
“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless,” she said.
The recitation reminded me in that moment that what I was feeling was not permanent, and I was choosing to be there to be enlivened, not lifeless. I wanted to feel, to sweat, to dig deeper mentally and physically. And so I let it happen, and suddenly the moment was exactly what I wanted it to be.
Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known for his interpretation and popularization of Asian philosophies for the Western minds. His more than 25 books and various articles spanned sensational subjects, including personal identity, higher consciousness, the true nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the pursuit of happiness without the desire for materialism.
Perhaps the most profound part of Watts was that he had the incredible ability of expressing complex thoughts in the simplest of ways.
Here is a glimpse into some of his most awakening quotes:
1. “Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”
2. “We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.”
3. “No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.”
4. “Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.”
5. “What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money … but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth … In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are ‘coins’ for real things.”
6. “The source of all light is in the eye.”
7. “Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.”
8. “Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”
9. “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
10. “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”
11. “What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.”
12. “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
13. “There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.”
14. “To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”
15. “Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
Navigating Difficult Emotions
- The Facts:
Day and night exist; so too do joy and sorrow, anger and sadness. Yin and Yang comprise our wholeness.
- Reflect On:
Consider that the night has as much to offer as daytime, and is just as necessary. What new version of wholeness can we be crafted into when we embrace and skillfully work through all of what we feel?
“Each of our feelings or attitudes, no matter how negative, can evoke compassion and lead to transformation. We then joyfully realize how every negative experience has positive, growth-fostering potential, how every liability is a resource, how every shadow trait has a kernel of value, how every disturbance or mistake can deepen our spiritual consciousness . . . there is an energy of light frozen in our confusion, a luminosity we can release, if only we do not give up our mining.”
—Dave Richo, Ph.D.
Positive emotions satisfy the immediate gratification style of modern culture. They pay dividends right away. We try to keep up with pleasure, joy, and bliss in their ever-more-enticing forms. Difficult emotions, however, take patience, and require delayed gratification. The result of this gratification is a deeper sense of fulfillment that can’t be gained by direct experience with positive emotion.
Through the lens of Chinese medicine, our positive emotions are considered Yang (positive and quick) and confer Yang power. Our negative, dark, or difficult emotions are Yin. They take longer to release their nectar, as we slow down to meet them. We might have to look like outcasts for a time to reap their hidden, subtler power. These Yin experiences deliver a quieter, inner power, gradually.
A balance of Yin and Yang power is crucial. If we over-feast on Yang emotions, we can burn out and fall into an exhausted or depressive state once we can’t keep up with all the excitement. This corresponds with the modern epidemic of adrenal exhaustion. If we over-feast on negative emotions and ignore the lighter side of life, we can also end up in the pits. Sojourns into grief don’t count because they often deliver great rewards.
When Yin and Yang are in balance and healthy they mutually support one another. When we find balance between Yin and Yang emotions, we can reap the benefits of both positive and negative states. It’s not difficult to see the benefit of happiness, joy, positivity, exuberance, and inspiration—all Yang experiences. More difficult is to glean the good reasons to embrace our dark and difficult states.
When we understand, even if just intellectually at first, why and how difficult states are absolutely crucial to our well-being, this gives us incentive to stay present and open to them and override our knee-jerk tendency to shut down and go away when they surface. What’s more, when we attune to and are patient with what’s difficult, that darkness transforms us little by little into more light, a light we cannot attain from Yang states alone. Only by staying with what’s dark can we create more love and light from what seems rotten and miserable.
So, this writing is dedicated to understanding the unique benefits that come from our difficult feelings and why it’s a good idea to stay close to them, when they visit.
Just like beauty and the beast, beneath the ugly exterior of our difficult emotions is a tender core of inspiration, soulfulness, and renewal. They return us to what really matters by revealing and empowering what we care about. If we sit with these feelings long enough, which is to welcome and let them have their way with us (at least in good part), we can reap their hidden riches (note: this is often not the case for mental illness, such as anxiety and depression).
Paradoxically, this process of staying close to difficulty eventually fills us up, quenching us with fulfillment. I’m convinced that if we don’t milk and allow ourselves to be transformed by these emotions, we live fractured lives. And as a result, we fracture the lives of others, including the Earth.
In being with painful feelings and letting them change us, they recede. The more we allow ourselves to be changed by them, the more they dissolve. In fact, they recede in proportion to how much we allow them to change us, as if their purpose were to get us to pay attention, to surrender, and to transform. From being with and working through our anger, sadness, fear, remorse, and envy, we develop genuine compassion, courage, creativity, inspiration, meaning, purpose, empathy, and greater love—qualities I call our finer jewels of being human.
We don’t transform difficult emotions as much as they transform us. For this we must surrender and become vulnerable; we must have the faith and courage, humility and strength, to be changed in ways not in our control, shaped by the wild ways of nature expressed through our emotions. This way we get to become more than what we can control, or even imagine. So, if you want to live a passionate life close to nature, give way to your heart and its storms of wild wisdom come to revolutionize you.
To be changed by difficulty, we have to be vulnerable, pliant, brave, and strong enough to weather the shape-shifting of our sense of self. This requires having a strong enough core sense of self, our functional ego, one that can handle the adjustments, or in some cases, the dismantling of our sense of self. For this reason, the support of loved ones, and a therapist, is virtually essential, or at least makes the journey more productive and smoother.
Our dark, uncomfortable, or downright terrifying emotions are the other side of love. They are love’s underbelly, the deeper regions of our heart. In fact, we can often sense when someone has not entered this sacred chamber inside themselves and met their life-renewing shadow because they are generally uncomfortable around the emotional struggles of others.
The Way Out is Through
While offering nuanced suggestions for precisely how to navigate our difficult emotions is beyond the scope of this article (I offer more of that here), I want to briefly speak to the popular adage, “Don’t wallow in negative emotions.” Ironically, this might be an outsider’s perspective, coined and perpetuated by folks who haven’t entered their shadow in a significant way. For, when we do, we learn that we don’t really have much say for how long we are beset by life’s downturns.
We in fact must endure periods of what seems like wallowing and obsessing because we don’t have control over these states, nor do we have to. Nor do we have to fit in to the horse and pony show of modern living, rife with sickness, dysfunction, and obsessed with productivity and positivity. Other times, however, we will be able to snap out of a funk. In these cases we have at least some say in mitigating difficult states, apart from how they might ultimately benefit us.
We experience emotion in two primary ways. The first is in response to troubling environmental factors, events, or circumstances. In these cases, it’s usually safe to heed emotional signals at face value. Another way is to experience difficult emotions due to an imbalanced physiology such as illness (including mental illness) or another stressor. In these instances, it’s better not to listen to the voice or message of emotion and its distorted reasoning, or at least not take their perceived impact and significance to heart. For example, if you’re in a spat with your partner and irritated because you need to eat, get to sleep, be alone, or just chill out, it’s often wiser to just focus on taking care of yourself and not get into it with someone else. We might also need to grab the reins of our mind and control our negative thinking, which is absolutely appropriate during rough times—especially, for example, when we are looping negative thoughts.
All these self-help actions help “skim the surface” of feeling bad, which is to clear the superficial and temporary stress that contributes to circumstantial emotional flareups. After we self-care this way, our troubles usually seem smaller and less painful. Whatever emotional charge or realization left after skimming this top layer of stress, we can embrace and more confidently take to heart. To not self-care to relieve everyday stress is to suffer unnecessarily.
Exercise, appropriate diet, and how supported we feel. all significantly influence our physiological state and therefore the duration and intensity of difficult emotional states.
The idea is to try to stay close to, and be with, our core emotional responses to real life events and to manage and discharge the extra energy these emotions generate due to mental obsession and physiological imbalance. For example, I might feel sad that I lost my girlfriend. I might feel extra sad if I lie on the couch all day and don’t force myself to get up and take a walk, eat something, or talk to friend. We have control over the latter, and not the former. In fact, we might not want to control our grief too much (so it can work on and change us), unless it’s unnecessarily physiologically generated and/or exacerbated by too much inactivity and stagnation.
To get in touch with our core emotions, we can activate and express them (Yang), or slow down and gently embrace them (Yin). This is where the jewels are—if we dig, or better, let ourselves be unearthed! Taking a break from digging and feeling tough feelings, however, is also crucial. This is healthy denial, when we focus on other things to give ourselves a break and so we can return to the inner work refreshed and with clearer perspective.
Lying around feeling sad all day might be helped by taking a walk, venting and being heard by a friend, or getting out to get out of our own head. Feeling angry for hours might be appropriately curbed by going for a run, pounding on some pillows, or finding genuine cause for laughter. But longer stints of grief, for example, might stay with us for months or years. Often, we don’t have much say in this. We can therefore surrender and be changed into what we can’t imagine by this wild wisdom of our deeper hearts.
An unfortunate alternative to embracing our difficult feeling states is turning to drugs, addiction, and excess avoidance, which usually create more suffering. What’s more, we miss out on the nourishing qualities hidden in challenging emotions—our finer jewels of being human—which we harvest by embracing them. Handled skillfully and with support, difficult times can be immense opportunities for growth, finding meaning and purpose in life, and reckoning with our demons. How we approach and handle difficulty is just as important, if not more so, than how we deal with easy times.
Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., MA, is Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. Weber’s latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or Twitter, where he can also be contacted for life-coaching and medical consultations.
Using Human Intention To Help Manifest The Physical World Into Being
- The Facts:
Many people believe that human intention has a direct impact on physical material reality. Quantum mechanics has played it's role in this belief. This article presents tips on how you can use your intention to better your life.
- Reflect On:
Do you want to change the world. Do you want to change your-self? Perhaps both are intertwined.
The idea that we actually manifest the physical world into being in every moment based on our thoughts used to be the stuff of fairy tales for most people. There was a sense that old sayings like ‘As ye think, so shall ye be,’ and ‘Everything is possible for him who believes,’ were considered to have some mysterious wisdom, but few really took them to be direct conditions of reality itself.
A little over a decade ago, however, many started to take the subject more seriously. The popularity of a movie and book entitled ‘The Secret,’ which brags 28+ million copies in print translated into 52 languages, was an important contributor to the popularization of the idea that we can manifest the things we want in our lives through the power of intention.
Has Our Belief Subsided?
I have observed over the past decade, at least in terms of the people and communities I am in contact with, that the belief and optimism in the power of intention has waned somewhat. While some people have gone forward and made the power of intention the centerpiece of their life’s activities, many who once tried to engage in such practices have since become disillusioned by the idea, a consequence of failed attempts, or have simply forgotten about it and returned their focus to strictly material processes to try and get what they want out of life.
Are you familiar with the idea? Have you made some attempts at manifesting through intention in the past, and have since shifted away from the practice? Let’s read on.
To manifesting through intention is first to overcome what seems to be a logical paradox; as we try to visualize what we want (a new car, lover, etc.), we have to somehow ‘feel good’ about the whole matter, as though we are not actually lacking what we want. As The Secret feature speaker Joe Vitale says,
It’s really important that you feel good. Because this feeling good is what goes out as a signal into the universe and starts to attract more of itself to you. So the more you can feel good, the more you will attract the things that help you feel good and that will keep bringing you up higher and higher.
But how are we supposed to feel good about what we are lacking? Even those who have been highly successful at manifesting through intention have a devil of a time explaining how they are having positive feelings in relation to the exercise of bringing towards them something they don’t have enough of or don’t have any of.
In some writings on the subject, the ‘wanting’ of something as an intention does not bring to us the thing itself but only the continued ‘wanting’ of it. We are told that the proper mindset is to feel grateful for what we ‘want’, as though we already have it. But the fact is that we don’t have it! Otherwise we wouldn’t be asking for it. How do we get around this paradox?
The Real Secret: Become ‘Service To Others’
I believe the secret to overcoming this paradox is in understanding that there are mainly two types of people in the world: those who are oriented towards service to self, and those that are oriented towards service to others.
Those who are fundamentally ‘service to self’ see themselves as separate from the rest of humanity, they see the world’s resources as scarce, and they feel they have to compete with others to get what they want. In this state of fear, manifesting from intention becomes very difficult, because their fear of lack will always be more powerful than their ‘belief’ that they can get what they want.
Those who are fundamentally ‘service to others’ see all of humanity as connected, the world’s resources as unlimited, and in getting what they want they actually inspire others to get what they want. My favorite book on the subject, ‘The Science of Getting Rich,’ written in 1910 by Wallace D. Wattles, says it this way:
You are to become a creator, not a competitor; you are going to get what you want, but in such a way that when you get it every other man will have more than he has now.
In choosing to manifest through intention in our lives this way, we can actually see our lives as modeling and inspiring others who are actively seeking their own desired manifestations. So it’s really a win-win mentality between ourselves and others. There are no ‘limits’ to what can be manifested. Wattles says that no matter how many people actively intend abundance, the material universe is compelled to bring it into being.
People who have a true service to others mentality serve others with a confidence that they will be served themselves, by universal design. When serving others authentically, there is love and lightness, and a genuine sense that we ‘have’ to give, and so we naturally feel gratitude for our own abundance. What we want is already a part of us, since we are connected to all things–so there’s no longer a contradiction in being grateful for what we want. This gratitude really embodies the amorphous ‘feel good’ of Joe Vitale, or the ‘higher vibration’ of so many other commentators.
If you have tried and given up on the process of manifesting through intention, it might be helpful to check if your intentions were always grounded in fear-based egocentric desire, as mine were in my earlier failed attempts to manifest. If you can make the move to orient your life to be in service of others—a monumental shift to be sure—you will see that manifesting through intention will become more natural, enjoyable, and ultimately successful.
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