PYS II:33 Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam “When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think the opposite.”
We all communicate in a variety of ways throughout our day with differing levels of awareness; seldom do we think about our tone of voice, choice of words or facial expressions as we speak. Related to this is our individual and ongoing internal dialogue that we each possess. These are stories we tell ourselves that are so ingrained and habitual that we often don’t even notice their content, the tone of voice, or the complexity of why we communicate in that way. Normally we don’t take the time to ask if these stories are true, if they are fostering goodness, or if they are even necessary, and certainly we don’t often take pause to ask ourselves if we would communicate in this way with another being. Whether we realise it or not, this internal dialogue is like a soundtrack that colours every aspect of our lives, from the inside out.
When we feel insecure, fearful and self-critical, it is easy to get tied into a negative loop about the world around us, and we often spend time remembering the suffering and bad things that have happened to fuel the cycle of negativity. It becomes more and more difficult to break this cycle, and many people may be harmed as collateral damage along the way. Why do we do this? After all, it isolates us and leads to more insecurity and self-loathing.
It may not make sense, but most of the time, we do this to protect ourselves from the fear of exposure in opening up to others and the risk of being hurt. Especially in these moments, what we really crave is the reconnection with others; we need help remembering goodness.
Remembrance is a powerful, magical skill. The more we can remember the good things that others have done, the more we may start to engage in acts of goodness ourselves. These kind and good deeds make us compete again after being severed or broken; they reconnect us to the positive cycle of communicating both internally and externally. When we remember goodness, we experience goodness, and this reinforces our own good intention and actions. We must all try our best to remember goodness, because if we don’t, it won’t be around any more.*
We all make mistakes and most of us can point out what mistakes others have made. If we only remember only the bad things though, there will be only bad things in our lives. It is our choice to become aware of what we remember, and actively remember the good things we and others have done.
To remember means to make a member again, to put back together; to make whole.
There once was a woman who lived a long time ago. She mastered remembering. Her name was Isis. Her name was literally Is, Is, because she was ever-present and eternal. Her husband, Osiris, was dis-membered by his jealous brother, Set. He was severed, chopped up, and scattered into the universe.
Isis pur herself to work, engaged in a project of remembering Osiris. She travelled the world looking for his scattered parts, and one by one, she found all his pieces and put him back together again. Osiris was her God, and Isis, the “Is” of the universe; our earth mother, existence itself.
We all have the power to make each other complete through goodness. The yoga and meditation practice all aim to help us to observe the stories we tell ourselves and others. The choice is ours to embark on our own projects of remembering goodness so that we may act and speak from a kind heart. In this way we become lighter, happier and more connected.
*Thanks to Sharon Gannon for her inspiring Dharma Talk, December 31, 2014.