There once was a great spiritual master who was preparing to leave his village to meditate in isolation in the mountains for some time. The master said he would take someone with him to assist with the journey. Many of his devoted students hoped that the saint would choose them for the special trip. But to everyone’s surprise, the master chose the most unlikely person in the village to accompany him: the obnoxious chai boy who ran the local tea stall.
As the master and the boy prepared to leave for the trip, the baffled students approached their teacher. “Master,” they asked, “why did you choose this annoying boy over all of us who have been devoted to you for so many years?”
The master smiled and quietly answered: “This boy is my teacher. He teaches me humility, patience and compassion. Through him, I learn to see God everywhere.”
A traditional Tibetan shrine has an offering on it to feed hungry ghosts, the lost, roaming spirits of the universe, unable to meet the riches of this moment. This gesture is practiced as a sober reminder of what we could be, yet where we choose not to go. When we align with our dharma through understanding righteous action and our soul purpose, we train ourselves to find spacious possibility when faced with dense constriction.
It is a natural, human reaction to experience stress, resistance and constriction when we are faced with people and situations that push our buttons. We usually blame or judge others for their behaviour, making ourselves feel separate and even temporarily better than them. We distance ourselves from the circumstance, feeling somehow more clever than even Nature itself. Our ego, for the moment, has had an injection of self-serving, limited power that tells us we are good. Yet soon, we will experience a similar situation with a similarly irritating person and we will need yet again to judge, blame and take a similar shot of a temporary ego-high to disconnect from the moment and find relief. Yet we have found no lasting escape from challenging people and situations.
Because we tend to experience life through the lens of our limited ego that only knows to divide, separate and categorize, we are conditioned to see things as happening “to” us until we learn otherwise. When we experience something we consider to be bad, we tend to feel against it, as though it were an attack on our very being. We can feel, however unconsciously, that life is punishing us in some way, because we are unloved. These twisted roots of perception run deep in the human psyche. We fight what is rather than seeing the present moment as a consequence of our own karmic tendencies, lovingly offering us all we need to learn to evolve to the next stages in our unique soul journey.
From a spiritual perspective, all that we experience is a result of our own state of consciousness. Painful experiences are the fruit of distorted perceptions and our own cloudy consciousness. As we release the distorted lens of our ego-mind and refine our ability to perceive what is, our true, natural state, being one with pure consciousness, begins to expand. Our actions then arise from clarity and we let go of the experience of pain. Rather than our life being a consequence of distortions, which create more distortions, we begin to experience life as an expansive opportunity for deeper awakening and joy. With openness and ease, we meet all of life as it is, rather than reacting to situations, seeing them as against us.
Meeting challenging experiences with presence is an opportunity to put our spiritual practices to the test. We do not need to seek out painful behaviour from others, but it is healthy to practice receiving the moment as it is. There is room within this moment for it all: our feelings, our response, the other person. We can see how they, and we, are like the hungry ghost howling on the Tibetan shrine, feeling disconnected from love. Through understanding our similar human tendencies, separation subsides. We can rest within a broad knowing that all is held within a vast expanse of pure consciousness. Challenging situations can be like the chai boy, who turns out to actually be a gift from the universe that helps us awaken into freedom and joy
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Confessions) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.