This article is graciously provided for republication by the author, Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann), German by birth, naturalized British, originally studying Theology, her university studies soon expanded to Education, Psychology, Philosophy and Art and Design (Ceramics). Different teaching jobs (in colleges and universities) in various countries followed. At the center of her studies (as well as her teaching) was always the subject of 'Self-awareness'.
The human Being is longing to Belong. If scientists are right, and the first matrixes of how we understand and live in the world are shaped and laid down in the womb of our mothers, then this is inherently human; we all have the desire to belong. Now this can be to one person, to one family, to one community or a shared idea. But to stand alone... without this basic drive is very unusual to say the least.
In practice it means, as children we need a functioning family, where we belong; as teenagers we form groups where we feel we belong, as adults we find a partner where we feel safe and belong and with whom we want to build a place of belonging. For some people the place of belonging can be a spot on the earth, where there is a certain energy; for others the sense of belonging is found in a shared idea, and it needs no location, not even personal involvement - yet it still gives the feeling of belonging; and so it goes on in an infinite variety of situations. The funny thing is... LIFE IS CHANGE, but we expect our 'place of belonging' to remain the same forever... and ever.
When this basic need, which is much more than finding a place for shelter, is shaken up, not met, or gets disturbed or disrupted... there is a sense of displacement, there is suffering. Sometimes this is caused by death or illness, sometimes it's caused by economic circumstances... sometimes this is caused by human behaviour or all sorts of interaction.
However, the underlying problem is mostly the same... we lose our foundations, we lose our perspective, our physical or emotional ground (and sometimes this can have devastating consequences).
Then we try to regain that ground and that is where the real problem starts. For some this point starts when they are small children (coming from dis-functioning homes,) for some it starts when a parent dies, for some it starts when the wife or husband leaves, for some it starts when the child dies, when the job is lost and/or many other causes. I say: here the real problem starts, for many... because our human condition tries to look for solutions outside of ourselves; and more - we do so, by using solutions that rest on information from the society around us (in most cases in the present world, the consumer society); or solutions suggested in our minds from previously acquired habits and patterns and we project from those - imaginary solutions (which of course can never bring fulfilment).
With that we miss the opportunity for real change and growth, even the opportunity to find real or new happiness, or even joy. People look into the Past and remember: ah I felt better when I had a new car, a new lover, went on a holiday, bought a new house went to a different place that made me feel real good; found a new wife etc. etc. It means our mind goes back to previous patterns of how to fill the hole we experience. This cannot be a solution...
a) Because bandages hide a wound or the scar, but healing comes from within, from a different level.
b) Because the previous experience was in a previous setup. Life constantly changes. Now life is different.
The problem is, we identify with our past, our past wishes, wants and perceptions, our experiences, our psychological make-up and needs... and project that on the present moment in time. So we end up putting bandages on a situation, but never heal the underlying wound. We repeat feelings, actions, mistakes... and thus instead of using the situations that have arisen in our life to learn from, or even see them as an opportunity, a gift to grow and change - we hark back to the past. The result is grief, doubt and repeat suffering. How can we break this vicious circle?
We have to find a new place of belonging. And that is not in the outside world, but within us. The wisdom teachings from around the world refer to it as "finding your centre", or even "centering". I used to be a ceramic artist, and although most of the time I used only my hands... sometimes I used what is called a potter's wheel. A lump of clay (earth) is put in the middle of a vast spinning turn-table (wheel) and the hands guide it, while the wheel rotates... until the particles are all lined up perfectly in the centre... now the material is in its "truth", in its centre, is centred. Then from that core stability, that place of belonging... that place of "Truth"... all manner of shapes can emerge, in balance and peace.
The analogy teaches us, to start doing work on ourselves, to start integrating our personality, and then we will find the stability, the centre in ourselves; our own Truth, our own place of belonging. Once we have found that, we can stand alone!
Now take this thought one step further, because when we can stand alone, without needs (of place, family, people) we are whole. In fact we have become all-one, meaning we are in truth, empowered and can relate to places, people, partners, children... from a very different place; without need... but with love, with giving, with sharing; without need - we can be there for others, to give! We still belong alright, but belonging now has taken a different shape, it has moved to a different level. A level where we are "not needy!" In that state we exist without need, in the contrary, whatever we are given is good (by life or people), is enough, there is no suffering (it might sound strange, but it is the core of many wisdom teachings). All well and good, but how do we get to that level? The first thing is to start to look into one's self; hence self-awareness and self-inquiry are the crucial attitudes to cultivate. For example: your husband has left. Instead of getting filled with self-doubt: "oh I wasn't good enough;" and/or anger of being left, or doubt about your ability to choose the right husband, or feeling insecure economically etc. etc... Start to ask yourself: what is it that I miss in my life, what has that person (or situation) given me? And if your straight answer is "Love" Then ask yourself... the deeper question: what is love? What is it really that would fulfill me... make me whole? Don't go to the superficial answers, to that conditioned you who has become used to a perfect house, a beautiful car and a good bank account - or even the perfect companion. Again I urge you to go deeper... look at what you would help you to become whole, so you neither need nor want on the mundane level of existence!
What you feel you need depends on who you think are? Realizing that, ask deeper: who are you really? Again, do not be satisfied with the superficial answers of giving your name, your job, your role in society or life? Aren't all these just learned, acquired and put upon you by the circumstances of your life so far? Contemplate deeper, what drives you, what motivates you - where do those patterns come from? Who are you really; underneath these... Eventually and hopefully you will see that you are life-force itself , which took a certain form, to unfold as your past story... Now can you let go of that story... and at this junction of NOW - begin a new story one build on returning to the awareness of the life-force that is expressing through you? Then you are incredibly rich, you need nothing... because life-force is all there is; then enjoy and be whatever comes across your life... and learn and grow to increasing wisdom from it. A friend of mine said: the whole world exists as your play-ground, as a school-ground in which to learn and play! But yes we can only see that, once we have freed ourselves from the prison of our habitual patterns, of our imagined "personal needs". Once we can see that, then we belong to life... not to a backyard, or a flat or a hand full of people we call "our" family! Then all people are our family, we belong everywhere!
That is the path of Yoga.
How do we get into that state? I might be boring, but the only answer I know of is contemplation and meditation. In what way? By shutting off the mind that constantly interprets the world around us, even our feelings, our customs and then makes us into slaves, which have to repeat these patterns constantly; chewing them over and over like a cow in the meadow. Be brave! One of my friends said: yoga is a path for the courageous; meaning the one who can face him/herself. Because it's not what is out there in the world; it's not what the world or destiny does to you that you are suffering from, but from how your mind reacts to those things/events.
Therefore, look at your mind, clean your mind, still your mind... or better said: free your mind!
Meditation! You see when you approach the state of meditation, that mind, which suffers is silent. There is no suffering... the energy spent on that suffering, worrying mind... can be spent on healing the body if necessary, or on balancing your emotions, or on something else that is more exciting than either, which is: that energy comes up with creative new solutions to live your life anew, from your core, according to your purpose of existence, appropriately new... to where you are now, with happiness, with joy. Now I hear you say:
BUT, I come from a broken home, I have never experienced mother's love, my baby is sick, my teenage son is on drugs, and my husband just left me... how can it help me if I meditate? Well, it will calm your breath, it will calm your mind... so you can stand back and look at each of these issues - and then from a clear calm vision do what needs to be done. It's as simple as that!
Then as life progresses and slowly your perspective of the outer turmoil improves, your meditation will take you deeper, to discover an inner strength and joy that comes from that place where you really belong! That, which is you... your center... the infinite energy of Life, Love and Light as Swami Rama and others called it.