April 3, 2015 Good Friday & Beginning of Passover (and a full lunar eclipse coming!) I have been deeply contemplating the concept of self-care recently. A friend called it out for me, that many of us have a warped sense that caring for ourselves, wishing ourselves happiness and health, is somehow selfish and less virtuous than caring for others. During my morning meditation I have been going through a loving-kindness meditation “May I be happy and peaceful; May I be healthy and strong; May I be protected from inner and outer harm; May I be at ease in myself.” I attempt to take in the words and meaning and observe my reaction to them. Oddly, I found that the one I have the most resistence to is “May I be healthy”. My reaction is something like “I don't deserve to live in a balanced state of contentment for all the 'sins' I have committed in the past”.
Please don't mistake my words as being religious or attached to any one order. My experience is that we are One. Whether you call it God, Awareness, Universal Consciousness or simply the organizing principle of the Universe that we can observe through physics, it is all the same. And, yet, while many of us have an experience of this state of belonging, of oneness, it cannot truly be put into words because it is beyond words.
I watched a video of Swami Dayananda, a Vedantin monk, yesterday in which he addressed the practices of surrender and shraddha. Shraddha is most often translated as faith or trust, but Swami Dayananda said that there is no translation for this word but it means, “lack of guilt”.
"Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse." - Wikepedia
We are human, and thus we are fallible. We will all do things or not do things that will cause pain to ourselves and others. The best we can do, is to develop what the Bhagavad Gita describes as “skill in action”. We consciously observe the results of our actions or inactions and develop discrimination so that we do less and less harm to ourselves and others.
What does it mean then to have “lack of guilt”? Swami Dayananda went on to describe that guilt is incedental to our true form. Our true self is limitless, self-effulgent, love, compassion and kindness. When that true nature is blocked, when we feel like we are helpless, warped, fearful, vindictive beings then we feel guilty because some part of us knows that this is not our true nature.
Going back to my own contemplation of guilt around wanting health for myself. I observe that it comes from a place of feeling like there is a limited amount of health to go around. As if my health would take away from someone else's health (you can insert any other word here!). But, if I experience the truth, that there is an unlimited amount of health, that in fact, my health is helping uncover the light of health for others, then I have no guilt for my desire for health.
Vrksasana, tree pose, is a balancing standing pose. Like a living tree, it asks us to find deep roots into the earth for stability and sustenance as well as fearless courage to expand our branches and leaves, allowing the energy of the sun and air to fill us. Don't feel guilty because you have trouble balancing, use a wall or a chair! They are there to support you. Don't feel guilty if this pose feels easy for you! Stay in the pose longer and explore the conditions. Really not feeling up to standing today? No problem, do the pose laying on your back with your foot on a wall. Take support for your outer bent leg so that your pelvis stays level on the floor.
Y.S. I.33 maitri karuna mudita upkeksanam punyapunya visayanam bhavanatascitta prasadaam
Through the cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favorably disposed, serene and benevolent