Come Home to Yourself
Wisdom for Life from the Parmarth Niketan Ashram
Written in a beautiful, simple and conversational style, Sadhviji covers the most pertinent issues affecting all of us-how to discover inner peace, find love, let go of anger, know your purpose, and connect with God, regardless of your religion. Born and educated in the US, Sadhviji has a PhD in psychology. She came to India approximately twenty-five years ago and has since lived at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, on the banks of the Ganga.
This book emerged from the satsangs held each evening after the sacred Ganga aarti at the Ashram, and will resonate deeply with everyone, whether you are old or young, rich or poor, religious or not, traditional or modern. It will touch you deeply, awaken your spirituality and connect you to your true self, allowing you to become the best version you can be.
Why do I think so negatively? How can I break out of negative patterns?
Negative thinking is a tragic pattern that many of us fall prey to. Sadly we do it because we've been programmed to do it. One part of it stems from our basic culture of education and discipline, which is a system based on punishments rather than rewards. The children who do well and behave are ignored, and the kids who cause problems are the ones who get all the attention. We constantly hear, 'You're stupid, you're bad, you're this, you're that,' and we internalize it.
The other part of it comes from the rest of the culture-media, politics, etc.-that is rooted in and founded upon convincing us that we are lacking something in our lives that they are going to fulfil. This is called marketing. If you already have everything, how am I going to sell you something? If you're already satisfied, you're not a very good customer, especially if what I'm selling is not something you need. I need you to feel that there is something missing in you, which my product is going to solve. Either you are too dark or too fair, your hair is too straight or too curly, you're too fat or too thin, you're wearing last year's model of jeans. This is how advertising works...
I feel anxiety in many situations. Is anxiety a bad thing?
First of all, it's important to remember that nothing we experience is bad. The only bad thing is thinking that what we feel is wrong, because then we end up separating ourselves from ourselves. We want to be good, we want to think and act in good ways, so the minute we label something inside of us as 'bad', we've cut ourselves off from it.
So when we examine anxiety, it is not 'bad' per se. However, what does it do? It makes our heart race. When we feel stressed and anxious, our heart rate rushes, our blood pressure goes up, all of our energy literally rushes to the extremities. It's our fight-or-flight response. We are biologically primed and ready in that moment to either fight or flee.
That response would be very useful if we were living in a cave and had to protect ourselves from tigers or bears or warring tribes, but it's not very helpful in the world we live in. We need that rush of adrenaline to be able to outrun a threat or to climb a tree. But we cannot live in a state of openness and expansion while simultaneously running or fighting. Either the world is something to be afraid of, or the world is something to be one with, but it can't be both.
Every minute that we feel anxiety, what our body is telling us on a physiological level is that this situation is dangerous. And that's not a healthy way to live. The question then becomes-how do we stop feeling anxious?
Every time you feel anxious, ask yourself: Is this really a situation where I want to separate myself from the world? And if not, then ask yourself how you can expand the way you think of yourself. Ground yourself in your breath. Try to experience a state of oneness with the people around you, rather than a sense of separation, because where there's oneness, there's no fear. Where there's fear, you feel separation. Anxiety takes us away from the truth of who we are. And on a spiritual path, we want to be closer to who we are.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a noun, not a verb. It is more who we are than just what we do seated on a cushion for a few minutes or hours each day. It is knowing and living as the True Self. It is not a complex, esoteric skill that only experts can perform, such as feats of gymnastics or long division without using paper.
Meditation is what gets us back in touch with who we really are, but without judgement or analysis. Meditation creates stillness in the mind so that we're able to genuinely live and experience the Truth of who we are. Our problems are not outside; they're inside. Our minds run around and repeat stories to us-stories that we've taken in from our culture, our life. Stories that we're too much of this, not enough of that, that we should be like this and not like that, and so on. It's that judging, commentating voice. We internalize that voice, and most of us hear it all day long on repeat. If we listened to our thoughts intently, we would notice that the vast majority of them are utterly useless and make little sense.
Then there comes in thoughts about who others are, who they should be, what they're doing, what they should be doing, and all of the judgement, yearning,longing, wishing and aversion that clog our minds. It's not who we are, it's just what our thinking mind has been habituated to doing mechanically.
Meditation gives us the experience of what it would be like if this weren't going on all the time. It's not a very complex skill, but the lack of complexity doesn't mean it's easy. This is because of the games that the mind plays. Don't think that unless you've got lots of free time to learn meditation, you won't succeed. If you're able to just breathe it out as it comes-whatever 'it' is that comes-and bring your awareness back to the breath, you are meditating, and it will ground you back in the truth of who you are.
Meditation brings us back into a place of real awareness-awareness without judgement and analysis, open-eyed witnessing of who we are and what's there when we remove the non-self from our identification. Through meditation, we are able to peel back layer after layer.