By Hari Bhajan Kaur
The fleecy cotton of my sweats hugs my body, absorbing the moisture from the shower. I slide onto my sheepskin, tuck my left foot into my groin and extend my right leg straight in front. “Oh, am I stiff. Musta been that chocolate cake I ate yesterday.”
My left hand wraps around my ankle and the right around my big toe. “I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already. I’ve got to call Katie and see if she can watch the dogs while we’re in Oregon.”
I stretch my nose to my knee. “I really should be making a packing list or calling to rent a car instead of doing my sadhana (daily spiritual practice).”
There is a voice that wakes you up at one in the morning with urgent questions like, “Did you forget to buy raisins?” or “Where the heck did I put my glasses?” It has many names—the strategic mind, the monkey mind, the gremlin. It is diligent in carrying out its job—to keep you and every detail of your life in order—bills, work, cars, home, friends, family. It is at work constantly in the service of your needs—your need to do it right, your need to do it on time, your need to make everyone happy. The gremlin has pride in its work and feels rewarded when you return safe at night, having survived another day in the human jungle.
Disaster is surely around the corner should you choose to place the strategic mind in the role of second fiddle, a mere consultant, rather than the program planner for all you do. Socks will be mismatched, children will have dirty faces, and the garbage will definitely not be put out. More importantly, you may start getting a few new ideas about what kind of work you’d like to do, or who the people are you truly want in your world, or actually living your own life instead of someone else’s idea of your life.
The primary need of the strategic mind is that you listen to it above all others, that you not drift off on your own and start tuning into those subtle, less insistent voices like imagination, intuition, longing. That could be dangerous. You could get hurt.
Sparrows track across the roof. Garbage trucks clank in the alley. “I’ve got to call Mom and Dad to make sure we’re all set for the family dinner on Saturday.” The phone rings downstairs. I hear it all as if through a mist.
I change legs, breathe deep, and continue the stretch. “We’ll have to get to the airport by 7:30 for our flight. I know they say two hours but I don’t want to risk being late.”
Both legs now. Inhale, exhale. “We just have to plan ahead and be prepared to wait, that’s all.”
We are a population of strategizers. We want to know what we will be doing tomorrow, next week, and in 20 years; who we will be doing it with; and where we will be doing it. We set it up time after time to fit our picture of perfection, and more often than not the hand of the Unknown whacks it down and we’re upset. How could this happen to me? This must be a mistake. I’ll just start over again. I just didn’t do it right the first time.
The monkey mind is persevering. It has a million methods, tricks, and rationales to keep you occupied for the rest of your life. There is only one place to truly escape from the pounding of the gottas, musts, and shoulds. It is a place of receptivity where time stops and, as in a camera lens, the picture before you is brilliant and clear. You know exactly who you are and what you are to do next. It is a place where you are fully present and, at the same time, an unseen hand is guiding you—a place where the finite touches the infinite, and nothing can be planned. It is the space between your thoughts, the quiet you dwell in during meditation.
This place is stillness.
The gentle morning light, pale pink carpet, and jasmine scent of the altar candle envelop me. “I’ll have plenty of time on Thursday to pack, and Aura will do the laundry when she comes tomorrow.”
My breath pours into the pockets of my lungs and out again. Down the inside of my leg the muscles pulse as they lengthen. “Maybe I don’t have to take all my vitamins with me; the air and water are so healthy there.”
Perspiration gathers in my pores and cools the skin on my bare arms. “I can already taste those morning walks in the woods, long sun-drenched days, chilly starlit nights.”
The many roads to stillness all contain one essential ingredient: paying attention. Attention to what draws you and what is drawn to you. Attention to your environments. Attention to who is in your field of vision and how they affect you. Attention to what you ask for and what you receive. Attention to your values and what you hold sacred. The paradox is that to pay attention you must have stillness, and to have stillness you must pay attention. Therein lies the battle waged in your consciousness between “What Is” and “What Could Be”—neither right, neither wrong—each vying for your favor. Therein lie the mystery and the mastery of being truly alive and present to the dance of spirit in human form.
Spine straight, legs crossed, eyes closed, my body is quiet.“It’s always challenging to travel but it works out.”
The vibrations rise from my solar plexus, course through my heart, and vibrate at the throat. “I’ll miss the dogs, my writing class on Tuesday. But they’ll be here when I get back.”
I draw deeper inside, turning down into silence. “Yes, things always work out just fine.”
Through the consistent practice of meditation a receptive environment is created that provides for a communication beyond words with the Infinite. In this stillness your psyche acts as a magnet, attracting information that guides your soul and affects everything around you. You will begin to experience less self-doubt and more flow throughout your day. As your practice of stillness deepens you will have the ability to access stillness spontaneously, effortlessly. At some point, stillness ceases to be a practice, and you move through life in a consistent state of awareness and serenity. You are stillness.
I open my eyes; turn off the CD player; and raise my arms high in the air, twisting and stretching my spine. I fold my blanket and place the meditation pillow on top. The dogs scratch on the door, ready for a walk.
The clock reads 7:15 a.m.
The day begins.
Hari Bhajan Kaur Khalsa is a life coach, writer, and poet. She has practiced Kundalini Yoga and meditation for 40 years and is a minister of Sikh Dharma. She lives in Los Angeles with her hubbie and assorted critters.
[Published in Aquarian Times, Spring 2003]