When shit goes down, and you don’t know where to go and what to do with whatever is troubling you, try simply changing your environment for a little while. This is what came to me on my run. One of my dear teachers, Jaisri, would tell me to just go walk outside, to connect with nature which is regulated by the principle of harmony. I guess that’s what Wallace Stevens meant when he said, “Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.”
I guess that’s what I’m thinking about: Truth. Or at least truth as translated into what I believe at that moment. Because I think, and I’m sure you’d maybe agree with me here, that sometimes what we believe is true and what is True with a capitol T isn’t always the same thing. That’s because beliefs are constantly changing. For example, I used to believe that if I ate watermelon seeds, I’d grow a watermelon in my belly. Sure, I was 4 years old but that belief changed. I don’t worry about watermelon belly anymore but I still worry. Some things that I believe are true are True and others aren’t. The important thing, I think, is to understand there is a difference.
Yoga philosophy teaches us that our beliefs are a part of us but are changeable and therefore not the best representation of our True Self. Beliefs are just beliefs. Once we place our awareness above our perceived beliefs, and this includes worries, then we raise our consciousness to see something broader. We then escape the trap of thinking that things have to be all black and white, this way or that, right or wrong. We can see past our own rigid ideology (a schema of beliefs) and in so doing invite others to do the same. I believe this rise above ideology, to a paradoxical place where both sets of beliefs can be right, or to a place that is ultimately more important if either is right, is what harmony really means.
As I write, at this very moment, I’m looking next to me at the Zen painting hanging on my wall that I bought in Korea, where a monk with his giant calligraphy brush painted the symbol for harmony. I think I really understand this painting for the first time.
To raise our consciousness like this, to exit our old beliefs, the engines that make us worry, means we need to take a vacation from our own mind, from the way we’ve been previously thinking. Not that we have to change very radically. Just see a different something different. Like Hafiz says, we’ve gotta change rooms in our minds for a day. When you don’t know where to go, change your environment. Go on a walk. Get into nature. Jump into a yoga class and get out of those worry landscapes, those fear landscapes, and connect, even in a small way, with that part of you that is Harmony, that is the rue part of yourself.
One of my dear family members, a German scholar, loves to quote a Prussian general speaking to another general as he looks over a devastated battle field, “the situation is hopeless but not serious.” Thanks, Alan.
All the Hemispheres by Hafiz
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadow and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of