By Michael Ketterhagen
“… describ[ing] God as our inner guide, protector, provider and eternal companion … open[s] ourselves to her unconditional love and guidance.”
-Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, commenting on Yoga Sutra 2.1
“All life is suffering [pain].
There is a cause of suffering.
Suffering can be stopped.
Following the 8-fold path will stop suffering ”
--Siddhartha Gauta ma Buddha, The Four Noble Truths
“That, [namely, disturbing, stupefying and distracting mental activities]
can be controlled through practice and non-attachment.”
-Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 1.12
Our Spiritually-Practical Pain Reliever
Pain and suffering are a constant in most people’s lives today, so says the Buddha. Christianity calls sin the source of this pain and suffering.
In my journey to eliminate pain and suffering in my life, I learned that moving my pain and suffering to the spiritual level is a profound medicinal pain-killer. We all have physical pain from time to time, but it is the mental pain and suffering, which manifests physically in our bodies as physical pain, that really causes us humans most of our suffering. Sometimes we bury the suffering and try to numb it with certain pain killers, like food, alcohol, sugar, drugs or we just deny that we are in emotional turmoil.
It was when I considered the pain and suffering of my self-hatred and loneliness as part of my spiritual journey that I became aware that “tapas” (self-discipline) was the pain-killing practice I needed.
If you remember from an earlier blog, I mentioned that the yoga tradition (actually all spiritual-religious traditions) saw self-discipline (“tapas”) as the first step onto the spiritual journey. Yoga also says that “abhyasa” (practice) and “vairagya” (non-attachment) quells the “disturbing, stupefying and distracting mental” thought patterns. Those “roaming tendencies of the mind” cause us lots of pain and suffering.
My deep, unconscious unhappiness about myself and my lack of forgiveness toward myself because of past harmful words, thoughts and actions, took away the internal joy that I was supposed to feel because of my commitment to God and the “doing-good” life. Although I experienced much respect and love from many people, I still felt a deep sense of loneliness. My deep, unconscious mental patterns (“samskaras” and “vasanas”) were directing my mind into disturbing, stupefying, and distracting mental activities. These “samkaras” and “vasanas” then manifested as negative emotions and physical illness.
These mental thought patterns led to suffering of which I was often not even aware until I started to do positive “tapas.” I was not very successful in controlling the painful thought-patterns by punishing myself with severe austere practices and negative self-criticism. Only when I started to practice positive “tapas,” like relaxation through breath awareness and pranic awareness, did I notice a real diminishment of my physical suffering and mental anguish. Only when I started to say to myself how wonderful and loving I am and how peaceful and calm I am, did I notice joy creeping back into my mind and my actions.
Fear seemed to diminish as well. I began to not be offended by external criticism. I no longer felt attached to my mental impression (my “vasanas”) of needing to look perfect. I saw all of the events of my life as the loving, gentle nudging of my “eternal companion”, the Divine Mother, bringing me closer and closer to myself and my true purpose in life—to love others and help with the building of the presence/kingdom/queendom of God on earth.
I had found the perfect spiritual pain-reliever.
I pray to the divinity in you!