Hey happy Saturday.
This week I did a deep dive into a couple of great books. I thought I’d share the focus of my attention and the broad net I’m casting for wisdom…
Joe Hirsch, my friend and long-time ThroughYourBody Mastery member, and I are co-leading a five week book study of Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul: the journey beyond yourself.
Michael’s book is an excellent map for the spiritual journey. I like The Untethered Soul because it distills the wisdom of eastern enlightenment in plain, simple English. Michael also gives excellent techniques for freeing ourselves from a demanding world, freeing ourselves from a fearful mind, and freeing ourselves from a troubled heart.
Last night we covered section three in The Untethered Soul, Freeing Yourself. Here’s a quote for Chapter 8:
The purpose of spiritual evolution is to remove the blockages is the cause your fear. The alternative is to protect your blockages so that you don’t have to feel fear. To do this, however, you will have to try to control everything in order to avoid your inner issues. It’s hard to understand how we decide that avoiding our inner issues is an intelligent thing to do, but everybody’s doing it. Everybody is saying, “I will do every single thing I can to keep my stuff. If you say anything that disturbs me, I will defend myself. I’ll yell at you and make you take it back. If you cause any disturbance inside of me, I will make you so sorry.” In other words, if somebody does something that stimulates fear, you think they did something wrong. You didn’t do everything you can to make sure they never do it again. First you defend yourself, and then you protect yourself. You do whatever you can to keep from feeling disturbance.
Eventually, you become wise enough to realize that you do not want that stuff inside of you. It doesn’t matter who stimulates it. It doesn’t matter what situation hits it. It doesn’t matter whether it makes sense, whether it seems fair or not. Unfortunately, most of us are not that wise. Were really not trying to be free of our stuff; were trying to justify keeping it.
What I like most about co-leading a book study group is the chance to immerse myself in the wisdom of the author, devouring not only his words, but following the bread crumbs to the sources that inspired him. In addition to reading the book, I’m listening to a ten-CD set of Michael’s lectures. Several times in those audio lectures Michael quotes the Bhagavad-Gita.
One of the Gita’s most effective methods of teaching is its portrait of the sage, the person who has completely let go. This portrait is among the finest in world literature.
Hearing these quick quotes from the Gita inspired me to do a survey of the qualities, characteristics, and attributes of the wise and free soul. My survey took me from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Tao to Ching to writers like Emerson, Thoreau, Rilke, and Hesse.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell
The wise man lets go of all
results, whether good or bad,
and is focused on the action alone.
Yoga is skill inaction.
He wise man whose insight is firm,
relinquishing the fruits of action,
is freed from the bondage of rebirth
and attains the place beyond sorrow.
When your understanding has passed
Beyond the thicket of delusions,
there is nothing you need to learn
from even the most sacred scripture.
Indifferent to scriptures, your mind
stands by itself, unmoving,
absorbed in deep meditation.
This is the essence of yoga.
I’m a huge fan of Stephen Mitchell’s translations. He has such a way of grasping the ancient wisdom and yet translating it into beautiful, poetic English. Here is one of my favorite passages from Stephen’s Tao Te Ching: A New English Translation
The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.
They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.
My final reading this week is a book by my friend I lovingly call Judge Susan. 20+ years ago when I was teaching massage therapy, Susan was my most unusual student. You see Susan was a practicing federal immigration judge by day and by night, she was training to be a massage therapist.
Susan has since retired from the bench and written a wise and deeply moving account of five Asylum cases that she heard while sitting on the bench. I never imagined I would read someone who tapped the spiritual dimensions of what it means to live with an open and passionate heart. Susan has achieved that and written a slim, but powerful book. Here are a couple of my favorite passages from Bench-Pressed: A Judge Recounts the Many Blessings and Heavy Lessons of Hearing Immigration Asylum Cases by Susan L. Yarbrough.
Immediately after I granted any asylum application and extended welcome and good wishes to the person who had been persecuted, I would rush out of the courtroom and into my office, lock the door, and cry for about a half hour. The two words that would always form underneath my tears were thank you—to the Creator for bringing me to that day, for ears to hear, and for a painful and heartbreaking job that nevertheless gave me the power to spare someone’s life. But it wasn’t until I retired from day-to-day physical hearing of the cases that I began to really hear and feel the sounds and echoes and the harmonics and overtones of the blessings they brought and are still bringing to my life.”
Besides the act of saying a heartfelt “I love you” to another sentient being, my greatest interpersonal pleasure in life has come from being able to into someone’s eyes while holding their face or their hands in my own hands and to say, “I am a better person because of you.”
It’s Labor Day here in the states. We get a long three-day holiday to rest, relax, and celebrate the efforts of our labors. Since waking up is the universal imperative of every human being, it’s also our greatest labor, our greatest labor of love.
What are you reading that is inspiring to wake-up and live your highest universal good? What are you reading that was teaching to live with a fierce, wide-open heart? Do let me know.
Have a fab Labor Day…
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