Some Reflections on Two Words Spoken by My Teacher
By Sewa Singh Khalsa, Washington, USA
When I was a young man I was blessed with unimaginably great good fortune. My spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan, approved of my proposal of marriage to a woman who would, for the rest of my life, challenge me endlessly to the very core of my being. Looking back, I can see so clearly that the fate of the marriage was surely a hideous thing. However, by the Grace of God and Guru, I had the second, and even more unlikely good fortune, to be exposed to the technology that would guide our lives away from the fate of certain destruction, to the sweet happiness of our actual destiny.
I remember hearing for the first time Yogiji’s words regarding the yoga of how to be a man. I hadn’t the faintest clue what he was talking about, yet that first bit of technology has served me literally every day of my life. My marriage would have ended thirty-five years ago without it. He said two words: “Don’t react.”
My mind immediately raced with reactive thoughts. “Why not react?” “React to who, to what?” “When can I react?” “What do you mean by react?” “Who are you to tell me not to react?” He might as well have said, “Stop existing” or “Turn into a moth.” It just didn’t compute, yet I knew very deeply that my irritation and annoyance were clear signals that I needed to understand this technology. I knew I had been reactive all my life; I had built it into my identity, made excuses for it, and indulged in the endless pleasure and pain of it. It was time to move beyond it.
What does “Don’t react” mean? Well, it certainly does not mean ignore. No, please do not misunderstand that these words give a man the license to withdraw. That, in fact, would be the opposite of this wisdom shared by Yogiji. I now understand that “Don’t react” is an abbreviation for, “Don’t react to content, but you must respond to energy!” Men often are focused on the intellectual while being detached from and oblivious to subtle energy in communication.
Here’s a typical example of this limitation. A woman tells a man that she doesn’t care that he forgot her birthday. In her stomach she feels tension; in her chest she feels an aching. The man reacts to the words, rather than responding to the woman’s internal constellation of energy. If he is subtle and empathetic he can be aware of the feelings that the woman is experiencing, but he has not been trained to be so. He forgets the incident, yet the woman carries the feelings for days. He never responds to the energy, but is confused by the difficulties in the relationship. The woman can’t imagine how the man can be so unaware; the man is puzzled by the woman’s change in behavior.
It is not enough to be intellectually aware. Yoga and meditation develop our sensitivity to the flow of energy in our own bodies and the space around our bodies, and the subtle energy of other people. An honorable man uses that sensitivity to support and create loving communication.
Sexual union creates a merging of the subtle aspects of the human awareness and deepens empathy. A man, who engages in that union but is unwilling to acknowledge the subtle and lasting energetic connections it creates, will be perceived by his partner as distant and out of touch, if not cruel. Regardless of the intellectual content of the communication, if a man does not acknowledge the subtle energetic components of a woman’s expression, he will have lost a precious opportunity to be supportive and inspiring.
In our thirty-seven years of marriage, never once has life been improved by argument around the content of a particular communication. However, in every single instance where attention was paid to the vibration of the communication, rather than content, life was elevated. Simply put, “Don’t react” is the sacred formula that saved two people from their past injuries, sorrows, and limitations. Try this for yourself. Don’t react to insults, don’t react to flattery, don’t react to challenges, don’t react to being ignored, don’t react to threats, don’t react to praise, don’t react to rejection, don’t react ever. Instead, respond with humor, respond with warmth, respond with compassion, respond with strength, respond with steadiness, respond with understanding, respond with empathy, respond with love, respond with your heart, and respond with sincerity in your highest consciousness.
“Man never reacts to environments, circumstances, and pressures. Man accepts the challenge and makes his own way.”
Sewa Singh lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife, Sewa Kaur, and their son, Hargobind Singh, who is at school in India. Sewa Singh and Kaur have been students of Yogi Bhajan for almost 4 decades. They ran Herb Technology, formulating herbal products based on Yogi Bhajan’s recipes for many years. Sewa Singh can sometimes be found teaching youth about relationships at Summer Solstice Celebrations. Sewa Singh and Kaur are both accomplished visual artists and you can see some of their artwork at www.sikhphotos.com