Character Building Workbook Series: Affection

Over the weekend and into next week we are going to think about affection, the third character trait in our Character Building Workbook Series.

 

affection | əˈfekSH(ə)n |

noun

1 a gentle feeling of fondness or liking

physical expressions of affection

2

a mental state; an emotion.

Synonyms: fondness, love, liking, tenderness, warmth, devotion, endearment, care, caring, attachment, friendship


Expressing affection is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Whether we are too young and lack experience or emotional trauma in our past has blocked our ability or desire to show affection, most of us have to work on our affectionate nature and learn how to express it in a healthy way. 

Showing affection does not have to include hugging every person you meet (that might not work well). Instead, try expressing this loving trait with understanding and practicing empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy will naturally lead us into affection and care since we can start to relate to another person, their current problems or their perspective on a given subject. Essentially, when we empathize we open up and begin to trust others. Feeling vulnerable with openness and having trust issues might be a signpost that we need to resolve something in our past. 

 

 

Practice:

Try to resolve past issues by writing them down on paper and burning the paper in a safe area using a metal trash can or cement fire pit. Gurudeva’s Vasana Daha Tantra is meant for anyone needing to release the sticky negative emotion that lingers in the sub of the subconscious mind.


An endearing or affectionate nature requires balance, and with training affection can be turned on when needed and muted when that is more appropriate. Sometimes the most effective way to show affection is just by smiling. Go ahead and start with family and friends, as that will be the easiest way to determine if you have a strong bond of closeness and understanding with people you were raised with. Spend quality time with family when you don’t have to, read body language to assess when someone is needing more affection and express love by offering to support their endeavors.   

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving.” Anatole France

 

Observe your state of mind around others. Do you reach actual eye contact during a conversation? Or are you multi-tasking and looking at your phone? Give the person speaking your full attention and give them what’s called psychological air. In this simple act you are saying with your body language, “You matter to me.” They can relax around you because they know you care about what they are going through and that you will love them, not judge them. Sometimes in a stressful situation that’s all people are looking for. Once we feel that we matter to someone else, we can release a great deal of tension and let down barriers of anxiety and finally relax around people we care about—it’s not always enough to know affection is already there, we need to express it.

 

*On an admin note, we are currently having trouble with the blog’s commenting system and everything should be running smoothly in a few days.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Here at the monastery the Ganapati Kulam is busy developing the next issue of Hinduism Today. One of the articles called “From the Agamas” now features Upanishads translated by Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan, an Indian philosopher, author and statesman. He was India’s first Vice President (1952–1962) and second President (1962–1967).

The following is a translation of the Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad—chapter 2, section 4—meaning “Of the Great Forest.”. This longest and most revered Upanishad features the dialogue between a great sage, Yajnavalkya, and his wife Maitreyi. Yajnavalkya has just reached a critical juncture in his life where he is about to leave home in the pursuit of truth, or Self-realization. Maitreyi shares his yearning for immortality, and so the parting dialogue between them turns into a deep session of “spiritual instruction” -- one of the meanings of the word Upanishad.

“Maitreyi,” said Yajnavalkya, “I am about to go forth from this state. Come, let me make a final settlement between you and Katyayani.” “My lord,” said Maitreyi, “if all the world’s wealth were mine, would I be immortal through those means?” “No,” replied Yajnavalkya, “Your life would be the same as that of the rich. Of immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth.” Maitreyi then asked, “Of what use then are money and material possessions to me? Please tell me, bhagavan, of the way that leads to immortality.”
“Ah, Maitreyi, you have always been dear to me, even more now that you have asked me about immortality. Come, sit down, I will explain to you. Reflect deeply on what I say.”

…The final article will be published in the months ahead

Character Building Workbook Series: Acceptance

Acceptance.

acceptance | kseptns |
noun
1 the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered:

2 the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group

3 agreement with or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation
willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation



This week we are going to focus on the Character Workbooks's second trait: Acceptance. We all know what it is to accept something physical like a gift or a handshake. Acceptance gets a little more complex when something unpleasant happens to us. At work we can receive a correction and hopefully accept it. Everyday we get thousands of inputs to our senses and sent into our brain that we more or less just accept. Acceptance is a part of our reality whether we cognize it or not. So what's there to talk about? Today's blog post is going to define how to accept that which we don't prefer.

Detach and Surrender

When we are confronted with difficult experiences we have to keep detachment and surrender in mind or else we are going to attach and hold on to them, thus making our sadhana that much more difficult. There is a letting go that occurs when awareness has a chance to put reason and logic in front of emotion and accept what is happening.

Ever notice how we can easily let small things in life go? Let's say someone spills a drink in the kitchen and your first reaction is to grab a towel and help clean it up, easy right? That experience doesn't really go through your mind all day and night because you were detached. In a sense, you were able to set emotion aside and logically mend the situation based on past experience. We've all spilled something before and after a while we develop a habit of cleaning those situations up. It's the situations in life that we aren't secure in that really cause us grief, and when a solution isn't immediately obvious we can react with emotion--often making the situation worse. Acceptance isn't really possible when ego takes over and demands attention. In a way our frustration and anger are saying, "This shouldn't be happening, at least not to me."

Clinging to ego with emotion is fuel for the fire. Our basic wish to be respected can take any situation out of control, often upsetting the other person--who isn't thinking at all about your self-worth. Miscommunication breeds misunderstanding and a race to see who can dominate takes us out of being two-thirds within and into the toil of our lower nature. Encounter this enough times with the same person and trust is broken down to catastrophic levels.

Let's put things in perspective and change the way we react to hardship: Own it.

Embracing Stress Through Ownership

To detach in the heat of the moment not only takes intellectual understanding and practice, but it requires a new paradigm of ownership for everything that happens to us. If it is our karma getting dealt then so be it. Once we take ownership of a situation we can then take responsibility and find a solution. Until that happens it's the other person's fault and nothing gets resolved.


But what if we surrendered to what is happening and accepted it as our karma? Or even better, what if we could look forward to challenges knowing that it progresses our souls evolution? Breathe. When we breathe deeply we get a chance to center ourselves. Stepping back for a moment and breathing can let your emotion subside just long enough tp bring you up into reason and logic. It's not enough to know the teachings and understand how karma works, we have to practice in-the-moment detachment in order to get better at handling stress. Notice that's not dealing with stress but handling it. Anytime we feel like we have to deal with something we aren't really accepting it fully. Dealing with stress isn't the same as handling it effectively.


The Week Ahead

For this week, when experiencing situations that do not work out as you had hoped, step back, breathe and detach in order to let go of your expectations and accept the actual outcome. Own up to it, be responsible and start producing a solution instead of blaming others.

Comment below with your commitment for accepting what happens this week!

The Power of Nature

Henry David Thoreau spent two years of his life alone in nature. He left society, built his own shack from lumber and grew his own food. His reflections have been archived in his short book, Walden, and can be accessed by anyone thanks to the internet.

The profundity of his realizations aren't solely that he himself had them but also because of who he was. Thoreau's education level--being a Harvard graduate with a masters--was far beyond what most people imagine a woodsman to be. His renunciation for a short time, sheer handyman ability and spontaneous farming mission is nothing short of mysteriously divine. An avid follower of the Vedas, Thoreau credited Eastern wisdom of the Hindu to be supreme.

Since our word of the week is Abstemious, Thoreau comes to mind as a man who cultivated a massive amount of moderation in his life. He says of his time alone in the woods,

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."

The awe and fascination that nature can deliver is something we all need to observe and experience at some point in our incarnation. Nature can be thought of as the honey produced by the honeycomb of creation. If we are to fully understand why we should even be moderate, then we must explore the deeper caverns that life has to offer.

I suppose these mushrooms that glow in the dark have spurred some sort of awe in myself. Such a fragile creature of life has come from something that has died. In this way we see a full circle and can step away from the myopic day to day of everyday life. As the monastics enter our short retreat from the world, we suggest you also retreat and use the weekend to get away from it all and, as Thoreau would say, "Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations."

Character Building Workbook Series: Abstemious

Character Building Workbook--Expanding Our Virtues

The monastery published the Character Building Workbook in 2015 as "a tool to help children and adults build, transform and improve their character." The workbook guides seekers toward goals of self-restraint, self-reliance, productivity and to have an overall sense of strength in character. To teach virtue is sometimes regarded as impossible, and whether it can be taught or is remembered is a deep philosophical matter in and of itself. Whatever the truth may be, Eastern sages and wisemen of history such as saint Avayar, Tirumular, Tiruvalluvar, and Western philosophers and Stoics such as Socrates, Plato and Epictetus, have all tried their best to, if at all possible, teach what they regarded as virtue in character and action.

A new series on our Monastery blog will be to take the sixty-four character traits and expand on them, one by one, and see if we can get a better understanding of our magnificent and complex virtuous soul nature. We begin with the first trait: Abstemious.

abstemious
adjective
not self-indulgent, especially when eating and drinking

Synonyms: self-denying, temperate, abstinent, moderate, self-disciplined, restrained, self-restrained


Abstemiousness is a quality that spiritual seekers must have. There is no denying that without some form of restriction yogis, swamis and sadhaka of the Hindu faith would not be able to bring eternal truths down to our normal plane of reality. Whether it be with foods that we all know we shouldn't be eating in excess, or activities that bog us down and make our lives miserable--self-denial and restriction often make us much more effective human beings at the same time making us more receptive to the shakti of a temple deity.

In our search through life we end up seeking some sort of wholeness or some completeness that either rebuilds us after losing our way or we simply just get older and more mature--usually that means the age we stop partying and start to realize we have to do something with our lives and actually make something of ourselves. In other words, we become aware that we are consciousness as we get older and living inside an excessive world starts to just feel bad. Our highest potential and soul nature often wants to avoid indulgent behavior, but that doesn't mean it comes naturally. Abstemious does not mean you become perfect, it means you sacrifice that which is easy for that which is hard. Over time we can expect change but this isn't an overnight experience. In the words of my guru Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, we want progress not perfection.


A Word on Not Succeeding

What happens when your attempt at being abstemious doesn't work? Historically great souls do not avoid failures, pitfalls and distractions, what they do is overcome them over time. Anticipating failure can be a powerful tool to keep you from entering despair and frustration as you take a few steps towards your goal, and a few backwards. No boxer has ever entered a ring expecting a perfect match and to never be hit. He trains for the hit, anticipates challenge and is determined to get back up when it happens, not if it happens. Progress not perfection.

Where Does Abstemious Lead?

Using moderation in an effort to clear the subconscious and uphold a higher moral standard means we are on the path of self-denial and sacrifice. We give up those things that are no longer any use to us and to our goals. This takes constant effort, and to retrain the mind and body will often require being attentive to our weaknesses and keeping our guru informed every step of the way. The waking hours isn't enough either; as we know from Gurudeva's teaching, our sleep and dreams must also be a place of purity if want to completely own up to the duty we have as seekers on the path.

Aristotle's teaching on the subject is truly timeless, "For moral virtue or excellence is closely concerned with pleasure and pain. It is pleasure that moves us to do what is base, and pain that moves us to refrain from what is noble. And therefore, as Plato says, man needs to be so trained from his youth up as to find pleasure and pain in the right objects. This is what sound education means."

The Tirukkural's chapter on virtuous conduct is no less relevant,
"Virtuous conduct leads a man to eminent greatness. Therefore, it should be guarded as more precious than life itself."

We end with the Workbook's assignment for the weeks ahead: For the next two weeks, when tempted to eat or drink too much, restrain that desire by using your willpower, eating and drinking a reasonable amount.

Get the Workbook and comment below if you like this content

Connect with us on:
YouTube
Facebook

Subscribe to RSS Feed
Audio Video Slideshows Images Publications Web pages