Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tower of Babel - the Art of Communication

I am reading a book I can recommend to you: America Veda, by Phillip Goldberg. I haven't finished it so I may have a different opinion by the time I'm done, but I doubt it. It traces the history of Indian teachings in America. It's informative, well-written, and inspiring for the fact that the eastern teachings are so well suited to life in the 21st century and offer such promise of harmony and peace in our conflict-ridden world.

Reading about the various teachings and teachers I am struck with wonder of how many points of view and emphases there exist on what otherwise are basic key points: in this case around metaphysics and the idea that all creation is a manifestation of divinity. Now, I don't particularly want to talk about metaphysics here, but rather, the amazing diversity of points of view that can exist around what is generally perceive to be an experience of Oneness that, well, for lack of other words, one imagines would be the same for every One!

Again, putting aside whether Oneness is One for every One (a matter hardly worth debating!), the point remains. How is it we humans ever get anything done or haven't already destroyed ourselves given what seems to be an endless  variety of opinions on even the most mundane matters. (Does the mundane matter? Is the mundane matter? Well, see what I mean?)

Now that I've tricked you into thinking I'm not going to talk about metaphysics, guess what? I imagine that the only way we humans can survive ourselves is because of our Self. Beyond the endless stream of words and infinite varieties of human experience there does in fact, must in fact, exist a level of connection underyling the human experience. This underlayment, like the silence out which words come, like the evanescent sunlight and the crystal clear water which bring forth life, must surely give us a level of certitude, trust, and stability that encourages us to interact even when we are uncertain of the results or the dependability of those we cooperate with.

My teacher, Swami Kriyananda, wrote a book, Do it Now! It is out of print and was upgrade and replaced by a newer version called Living Wisely, Living Well. Both are excellent but the older version I had all but memorized by repetition (it had 365 wise sayings). Among my favorite groups of daily counsel was the advice to listen, feel, and notice the silence and the space between words; the space between activities; between breaths; and so on. Meditation essentially helps us find that "space between our thoughts." I have found that the more I contact and seek that space (whether in meditation or in outward activity) the more I can trust that the right outcome will follow. This brings to me calmness, confidence, and solution-oriented ideas when I need them.

The Tower of Babel is the Tower of Ego affirmation. It's the experience of being in a crowded room of people and everyone talking at the same time. That's the crowded marketplace of human egos competing, vying for supremacy, attention, survival, and fulfillment of seething desires; we see it on the oversized stage of politics: everyone shouting at each other, spinning and nuancing every word to their own advantage or to the disadvantage of the other "guy."

The secret of success and happiness begins with listening. Listening means to "feel," to "sense," to be aware, and to develop the art and habit of looking for reality by tuning into intuition which hovers in a silent space just "above" us. It means shunning or calming the tendency to react to words and appearances, to imaginings, to speculation, to fears and to countless "what if" scenarios. It means to be receptive to and to accept "what is" rather than to substitute one's mental machinations for reality.

To be a listener and to live intuitively means to live on a subtler plane of feeling, sensitivity, awareness and consciousness. There's no point getting overly metaphysical about it: just start by listening. And when no one's talking, listen to your own stream of thoughts. Don't buy into the marketplace of your own opinions, desires, and fears. The yogis say practice the inward response of "Neti, neti." "Not this, not that," translated literally. But this means "don't buy in." Remain aloof or a little apart from your own reactive tendencies. Hear yourself think or talk or watch how you behave.

Yes, I think the only way life is bearable is similar to how we need sleep every night lest daytime life become hopelessly burdensome. The soul needs the refreshment that comes from the "listening" and from the "spacious" mind which exists in the blue skies of quietude that exist all around us. The talking mind is the ego mind: dissecting, weighing, counting, measuring, computing the odds and placing bets.

I say to my Self, "You don't mind, do you?" I ask my Self this question as a "re-mind-er to "mind" my own "Self."

In order to develop this trait, it is best to start slowly, one mind at a time. Let the talking mind talk for a while and then ask it to "shut up" (whether your mouth or your talking mind) and "listen." Listen not just with your ears, but your body, your senses, your heart, and your higher Self. Together these act as a kind of crystal radio set, provided they are are synchronized with each other.

After some practice you can go the next level which is to be both mind-ful (listening) and talking or acting more or less at the same time. When I give a talk at a class, for example, I try to pay attention in a calm, inner feeling sort of way as I am speaking. I am not analyzing what I imagine are the listeners' response but I keep my "inner ear" attuned. In this way I will be more likely to say things that will be in tune with their needs and the whispered counsel of their own higher Self.

So, let's come down from the Tower of Babel where everyone is shouting all at once. Walk calmly amidst the crowd of your thoughts or the cacaphony of outer sounds and listen. Don't judge just BE. In that space you will be everyone's Friend and your own best Friend. You'll be amazed how much better you communicate even in difficult situations.

Like the railroad crossings used to say: "Stop, look, listen!"


Nayaswami Hriman