Feel offended by other people’s ‘non-sociable’ personality or practice of silence?

Walk alone, live alone, eat alone and meditate alone. Cut off all connections ruthlessly. Hide yourself away. Do not build ashram. Do not hoard disciples. Do not mix. Do not associate.

– Swami Sivananda (excerpts from Concentration and Meditation)

Many friendly sociable good people who are interested in yoga and meditation practice, but somehow, they don’t really understand the core teachings and practice of yoga and meditation of silencing the mind, would feel very intimidated or offended by the teachings and practice of turning the mind inwards for self-introspection and silencing the mind, through the practice of seclusion and solitude (cutting off from all social interactions and connections), where the sociable friendly good people would feel very uncomfortable and intimidated being with those who do not engage in social interactive activity and conversation. They criticize people who observe silence, seclusion and solitude as being ‘unfriendly’, as their minds are being conditioned by certain ideas and standards to categorize people into ‘friendly people’ or ‘unfriendly people’ in the social world based on what they think is friendliness and unfriendliness.

Those who don’t talk much, or don’t engage in a social interactive conversation with other people, or don’t invade or interfere with other people’s way of life, thinking and behavior, who don’t comment or acknowledge about other people (whether it’s something good or bad), are being recognized as ‘unfriendly’ or ‘uncaring’ in the sociable society.

“People in a room do not talk to each other is so wrong.” This is the thinking and belief of the worldly minded people.

People attending a ‘silent meditation retreat/course’ complain about people in the retreat/course are so unfriendly because they don’t talk or interactive with one another?!

But what kind of bad actions have these people who are being perceived by friendly sociable good people as ‘unfriendly and uncaring people’ done to other people? Nothing. In fact, they are helping the world to have less conflict and have more peace by observing silence when they do not go around judging or expecting other people to be in certain ways that they think it should be. They do their own things and don’t invade or interfere with other people’s way of life and do not generate inconvenience for other people. That is already a great contribution to the society. We should be grateful and thankful to them.

The nature of those who observe silence appear to be ‘not fun’, non-concerning and non-engaging with other friendly sociable people who expect all human beings should be fun to hang out with, should be active in social interaction, to be talkative, to be engaging and connecting with other human beings physically and verbally, it’s not surprised that why people feel ‘wrong’, ‘awkward’, ‘unwelcome’, ‘disrespected’, ‘hurt’, ‘offended’, ‘intimidated’, ‘unconcerned’, ‘unnoticed’, ‘unacknowledged’, and so on, when they come in contact with those who observe silence. All these reactions of a disturbed state of the mind are coming from their own minds reacting towards something that they dislike and disagree with, and it’s nothing to do with whether other people are being ‘friendly’ to them, or not.

People would feel disturbed and offended by other people whom they think are not being ‘friendly’ enough towards them, as they expect friendly treatment from others the way that they think it should be. There’s an issue with themselves, not with other people. Other people have the freedom to be friendly or unfriendly towards anyone.

Because of most friendly sociable good people would feel greatly disturbed and offended by other people who observe silence of the mind, that’s why it’s better for yoga and meditation practitioners to retreat from the society to observe seclusion and solitude.

‘Friendliness’ in the path of yoga and meditation is nothing to do with accumulating friendships, constantly visiting each other to stay connecting, to be hanging out from time to time to do some social activities together, and get into worldly conversation of commentary, criticism, mocking, flirting, boasting, story telling, mourning, grumbling, debate and discussion, and so on. ‘Friendliness’ in Yoga is when the mind is being free from ill-thinking, ill-will, anger, hatred, jealousy, dissatisfaction, disappointment, fear, offensiveness, defensiveness, judgment, expectation, interference, invasion, violence or hostility towards all and everyone, free from discrimination of friends or not friends, superiority or inferiority that based on personal likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements.

When people don’t do anything that intentionally to hurt us, or disturb our peaceful life, or cause inconvenience to us, or interfere with our freedom of thinking, action and speech or way of life and conduct, that is what true friendliness is about.

When people in the society who think they are friendly people criticizing or mocking those whom they think are unfriendly people, then they don’t know the true meaning of friendliness, as themselves are being unfriendly, by having such ill-thinking and criticism towards other people whom they feel offended or intimidated by their silence of action and speech, and they interfere with other people’s freedom of actions, to act or not to act (whether to talk to another being, or not talking to anyone, where not talking to other people when there are people around expecting people should talk to one another is being perceived as unfriendly, offensive and wrong for the worldly friendly sociable good people.)

There is nothing wrong, offensive or intimidating when people have no interest to engage in any ‘friendly’ and ‘caring’ conversation with us. But the expectation from us towards other people that all ‘normal’ and ‘good’ people must somehow be engaging in interactive conversation with us to show friendliness to us, is what make us feel offended, intimidated, or wrong, when we don’t receive the interaction the way that we expect it to be. We are the one who is intimidating and offending other people’s freedom of behavior. But we don’t see it this way.

If people truly love the world and want to build a peaceful harmony society, it’s not about expecting other people to conform to our own way of life, thinking, belief, culture and behavior that we think is the way it should be. But it’s to respect everyone to be different and allowing everyone to be different, without invading or interfering with other people’s way of life, thinking, belief and behavior that are different from ours.

It’s okay if people don’t want to be sociable with other people. It’s okay if people are not interested in engaging in some forms of interactive activities or conversation with us. It’s okay if people keep to themselves and are not interested to connect with anyone to live a quiet secluded life. At least they don’t do anything intentionally that would hurt or disturb our life or the environment. If we feel disturbed is because we are disturbed by our own mind reaction towards their behavior that we dislike and disagree with.

When people talk too much, or talk non-sense or subject that we aren’t interested in, especially when we want some quiet time to ourselves, or people want to know too many things that we prefer to keep to ourselves, we complain about them for being overly warm and too friendly and busybody.

When people don’t talk to us or interact with us, and don’t ask anything about us that we would like to share with other people, we also complain about them for being ‘cold’ and ‘unfriendly’ and ‘uncaring’.

Be free.

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Listen?

In the civilized cultured loving and caring society, people might take this word of ‘LISTEN’ to be “Someone or a voice needs to be heard or be listened, and people should being sympathetic in listening to someone else ‘agony’, or ‘difficulty’, or ‘misery’, or ‘unhappiness’, or ‘painful sorrow’, or ‘hurts’, or ‘broken heart’, or ‘suffering’, or ‘grumbling’, and etc.”

It’s normal for people to share each other’s life experiences, ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions, either we want to tell our stories or we want ourselves to be listened by others, as well as we want to be a listener to listen to other people’s stories, whether it’s something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘happy’ or ‘unhappy’. People like to connect and stay connect with other people by chatting regularly or catching-up once in a while to show that they care. And it would be seen as abnormal or inhuman or cold, if one doesn’t involve with such human social activities. We will feel lonely, isolated, abandoned, helpless, unworthy, unloved, not good enough, unhappy, depressed, disappointed, frustrated, or meaningless, if we think there’s nobody there to listen to us, or nobody wants to share with us.

People would think that as human beings, people should be caring and sympathetic to be there for other people when people need someone to be there to listen to what is troubling them. Caring people like to ask other people whom they think they might be ‘disturbed’, or ‘troubled’, or ‘hurt’ by something, “Do you want to talk about what is troubling/disturbing/hurting you? I’m here to listen. Maybe I can help you.” It’s selfish, uncaring, unthinkable, uncompassionate, inhuman, or wrong, if we don’t ask about other people’s ‘problems’, or ‘unhappiness’, or ‘painful sorrow’, or ‘suffering’, and etc. Or it’s ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ if one observes silence of thoughts, actions and speech.

No doubt that by expressing, or talking, or grumbling, or bitching about our ‘frustration’, ‘disappointment’, ‘dissatisfaction’, ‘troubles’, ‘problems’, ‘difficulties’, ‘misery’, ‘grief’, ‘hurts’, ‘painful sorrow’, ‘agony’, or ‘suffering’, and etc, to other people may or may not give certain degrees of momentary relief to the ‘suffering’ or ‘unhappy’ or ‘troubled’ minds, but it won’t help the minds to be free from what they think is their ‘suffering’ or ‘unhappiness’, even if the people who listen to them might try to give them some ‘advice’, or ‘guidance’, or ‘care’, or ‘comfort’ that they think might can relieve their ‘pain’ or ‘solve’ their problems.

Sometimes, talking or complaining about what we think is our ‘problem’ to some other people actually creates further complication to the existing ‘problem’ and could generate some other unnecessary ‘problems’ to ourselves and other people. The listener of other people’s problems becomes a ‘problem maker’ or has a ‘problem’ in the end. We asked for advice from others, and someone was being very kind to listen to us and give us some advice and we took the advice, but when things didn’t turn out to be the way that we expect it to be, we blamed other people for giving us their ‘bad advice’, or we blamed ourselves for trusting the wrong person and taking the ‘bad advice’. This is due to most minds are impure, are not free from egoistic selfish desires, attachment, expectation and incorrect thinking.

In the path of yoga and meditation, we are learning to be a listener. It’s not so much about listening to other people’s ‘problems’ or ‘unhappiness’ to ‘share’ their ‘problems’ or ‘pain’, to say ‘nice things’ to comfort them, or to give them ‘good advice’ with the intention to help ‘solving’ their ‘problems’ (which is nothing wrong, but none can share, or solve, or take away another person’s ignorance and suffering), but it’s to learn how to open and quiet the mind to listen to the Dharma in here and now, and allow other people to also learn to listen to the Dharma, to be free from the root cause of all ‘problems’ and ‘unhappiness’. There’s no ‘problems’ that need to be solved at all.

People think that the person who is ‘troubled’ or ‘hurt’ needs a listener to listen to their ‘pain’, and this person will have less pain or no more pain, but in yoga, this person needs to be the listener, to know what is really going on in its own mind.

If one truly is ‘disturbed’, or ‘troubled’, or ‘hurt’ by something and they think that they need some help or guidance, instead of looking forward to talk and share about what they think is disturbing, or troubling, or hurting them, to be listened by some other people, to have someone there to share their disturbed feelings and thoughts, to get love and support from other people to feel better about themselves, one should learn how to be in solitude and silence, quiet the restless mind and try to LISTEN to the DHARMA.

If one TRULY LISTENS to the DHARMA that is here and now, with an open and quiet mind, one will realize or see the truth of the real cause of all their misery, trouble, problem, unhappiness, grief, painful sorrow, agony, or suffering. One doesn’t need to talk or complain about anything or doesn’t need anyone to be there to share or listen to one’s ‘problems’ or ‘suffering’, as there is none.

Being yoga teachers teaching yoga and meditation to others, is about teaching and guiding them on how to see and listen to Dharma, or how to perform self-inquiry to attain self-realization to be free from the cause of suffering – ignorance, egoism and impurities. This is wisdom and compassion. Or else, talking and listening to each other among the teachers and the students can easily turn into a scene of ‘corruption’ and ‘complication’, especially if the minds are not yet free from ignorance, egoism and impurities.

For example: The teacher is being ‘loving’ and ‘caring’ to share and listen to the ‘troubled’, or ‘heart broken’ and ‘vulnerable’ student’s ‘problems’ and disturbed ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’, and this ‘troubled’ or ‘heart broken’ and ‘vulnerable’ student feels a lot of affection, love and care from the teacher, and unwittingly ‘fall in love’ with the teacher. Or, the student becomes sensitive and suspicious towards what the teacher says and does, as the student would feel ‘disturbed’, ‘betrayed’, or ‘attacked’, when the teacher talks about the similar issues in front of other students as part of the teachings in general, but the student might think that the teacher is talking about him or her personally, and is exposing his or her personal issues, feelings and emotions that he or she doesn’t want to be exposed to any other people.

In yoga, the teachers don’t really need to know what are the students’ personal issues that they think they have. It doesn’t mean that the teachers don’t care about other people’s suffering. It’s because all issues derived from the same root of ignorance, egoism and impurities. The teachers just need to guide the students on how to free their minds from the root cause of all ‘problems’ and ‘suffering’ – ignorance, egoism and impurities, and allow the students to work their own way in their own pace and effort towards self-realization and liberation, without the need to ‘know’ or ‘listen’ to each individual’s different types of ‘issues’ that are ‘troubling’, or ‘disturbing’, or ‘hurting’ them.

When we attend a silent meditation retreat, there’s no talking or discussion with another person or teacher about what we think is our ‘problems’ or ‘suffering’, all we do is quieting the restless mind to allow the mind to see the truth of things as it is. It’s about knowing one’s mind and realizing the truth of suffering and rooting out the root cause of suffering. The past and the future doesn’t exist. No matter all our experiences from the past to the present were/are good or not good, happy or unhappy, pleasant or painful, deserving or undeserving, the only reality is the present moment, and even this present moment is impermanent. It’s about letting go egoism of all forms of attachment, identification, clinging, craving, aversion, desires, judgment and expectation, and thus be free from all sorts of impurities, and hence be free from suffering.

If people think they have ‘issues’ that involve other people whether in a relationship, or in a family, or in the workplace, or in the community, people should try to talk directly to the person/people involved to find the best solution. By talking or bitching or complaining behind people’s back to a third party doesn’t help, even though one might get some sympathy, agreement and supports from the third party who doesn’t really know what is going on. People who are truly practicing yoga and meditation should stay away from such worldly activities.

We think and believe that “I have ‘serious’ problems in my life that are really difficult to deal with, that are more important than anything else. I deserve some sympathy and love and care and support from other people. If not, I’ll feel depressed and hopeless and I think I want to ‘hurt’ myself to end my suffering.” It’s the ego that thinks ‘my problems and suffering’ are bigger and more important than anyone else problems and suffering. If we practice yoga and meditation, we allow the mind to be opened and we will see that what we think is our ‘serious’ life problems are truly nothing being compared to many other people’s suffering in the world. We’ll start to let go what was troubling us that we thought we couldn’t let go before. And this is the beginning of compassion.

If people couldn’t understand this teaching, or if people don’t agree with this teaching, that’s their freedom of thinking and belief.

Practice yoga of self-inquiry and self-realization, and be free.

Renouncing worldly social activities

All physical activities should be completely suspended, all attachments should be ruthlessly cut asunder completely for five or six years, if you want to practice Dhyana Yoga, if you want to realise God through concentration of mind. Newspaper-reading and correspondence with friends and relatives should be completely stopped; as they cause distraction of mind and strengthen the world-idea. Seclusion for a period of five or six years is indispensable.
– Swami Sivananda 

 

The practice of renouncing worldly social activities, as well as seclusion and solitude, is contradicted with the conditioned thinking and belief of the worldly minded sociable community where most people have strong attachment or clinging towards family and friends, worldly identities and social activities.

There’s no need justification for oneself and about one’s yoga practice, when one is practicing yoga and has the correct understanding of the mind and the mind stuffs. There will be criticism and condemn coming from the worldly minded people who are conditioned to think and behave in certain ways, whom also expect other people should also think and behave in certain ways, to be socially and culturally accepted in the society.

In certain social culture, having a friend or some friends come together to engage in conversation consisting of gossip, complain, mourn, criticism, condemn and back-biting is seemed to be a totally normal and acceptable behavior. But those who choose to stay away from such social interactions and conversations, and stay away from people who like to engage in such activities would be criticized for being unfriendly and impolite. In certain family bring up, acting to be agreeable and speaking lies to say nice things in front of others while they have bitterness, ill-thinking and ill-will towards others, but they want to complain and criticize and speak bad about others behind their backs is being recognized as a form of cultural politeness and socially acceptable behavior. But this is not yoga practice.

Those who practice seclusion and solitude and renouncing social activities, they minimize social activities and contacts with other human beings as much as possible including family and friends, as they can generate great distraction, polluting one’s mind with worldly ideas and attachments, pull one away from one’s yoga practice and disrupt one’s regular practice routine by taking up one’s time, space and energy for yoga practice, if one doesn’t have strong self-discipline and certain degree of non-attachment. This would be criticized by the passionate worldly minded sociable community as anti-social, cold, selfish, uncaring and unfriendly, which are being seen as abnormal, or wrong, or inappropriate, or unacceptable behavior to them. And hence, only those who are bold and have strong affirmation in their yoga and meditation practice for self-realization can take up the practice of renunciation, seclusion and solitude. All the others are just clinging onto the worldly names and forms and be happy with what the minds think and believe as worldly achievements, while doing some forms of yoga practice as part of their life activities to relieve stress, to be healthier and to feel better. There’s nothing wrong with that.

In yoga, it’s a noble act to benefit the society by focusing one’s life existence, time and energy for conquering one’s impure and outgoing mind, to be free from ignorance and the by-products of ignorance, so that one can truly benefit and care for the society. Those who take seriously in this practice, they don’t talk much. They don’t mingle. They don’t spread further negativity or impurities into the society through social talking and mingling. They don’t commit actions of gossips, criticism, condemn, back-biting, boasting, flirting, teasing, telling lies, hypocrisy, finger-pointing, blames, complaints, grumble, mourn, and etc. They don’t encourage or support others to engage in such activities by keeping themselves away from such activities or conversations.

Those whose minds are tamed, purified, one-pointed, undistracted and free from worldly passionate desires after underwent intense disciplines and restrictions, can then mix freely into the society and perform selfless actions to serve the worldly community without egoism, attachment and identification, while being undisturbed, or unaffected, or uninfluenced, or undetermined by the worldly activities, actions and the fruit of actions.

The worldly minded sociable community including many of those who think they love yoga, who practice or teach yoga, they might not be able to appreciate or understand the great value of renunciation nor will they have any interest in this practice. In fact, they criticize and condemn others who uphold renunciation, seclusion and solitude.

For most people, it’s possible for them to cut off from the society for a short period of time, as they know they will be back into the society very soon, but it’s impossible for them to be cutting off from family and friends and social activities for a prolonged period of time to allow the mind to have the prolonged period of being free from stimulation, to be quiet, to be in silence. The mind will resist and give itself many ‘rational reasons’ not to practice renunciation, seclusion and solitude.

Renunciation, seclusion and solitude can be developed through gradual process for most people who have strong attachment towards worldly identities, social activities, family ties and friendships. Such like attending short and long silent meditation retreats from time to time, giving themselves and their family and friends a ‘rational reason’ that “I will be away or won’t be in contact with the society, family and friends for some time.” and “It’s totally okay if I don’t mingle, don’t talk, don’t read news or books, don’t look at others, don’t mind about others or the world, and don’t interact or associate with anyone, as I am in such a setting for it.” Some people will start to appreciate such a great relief from being away from worldly social activities and relationships, but for many others, their minds are like fish out of water. There is no guarantee that after attending some silent retreats one will develop detachment and non-attachment towards worldly names and forms which is what yoga and meditation practice is all about.

Om shanti.

P/S : We can’t and won’t run yoga retreats when family and friends are visiting us. When we are running retreats, we don’t accept any family or social visits as it disrupts the retreats. Personally, when I am not running yoga retreats or teaching classes or writing about yoga, I retreat from the social world as much as possible.

 

Solitude and Silence…

Silent retreat.

A period of solitude and silence to allow one to love oneself unconditionally.

Spend time with oneself, turning inward, quieting the mind, moving away from worldly passionate desires, clinging and cravings, to know oneself, to love oneself.

Though immerse in solitude and silence, one is not lonely or bored. In fact, one is full of peace and joy being independent on any external impermanent names and forms to be happy, confident and meaningful.

When one loves oneself, one will appreciate all the love, appreciation and companionship from other beings, but one doesn’t dependent on the love, appreciation and companionship from others to be happy, or confident, or meaningful, or not. One also will love others without any attachment or expectation, as one doesn’t need to depend on love, or appreciation, or companionship from others to be happy, confident and meaningful.

This is different from ego-centred love. Ego-centred love is when one only loves what one’s ego desires, likes and wants, but don’t know how to love oneself, or others. In this case, one loves oneself and others unconditionally.

If one doesn’t love oneself, one is always looking, clinging and craving for love, appreciation and companionship from others to escape loneliness or boredom, or to be happy, confident and meaningful. One also will not know how to love others, as one will have attachment, clinging, craving and expectation towards others, as one is dependent on the love, appreciation and companionship from others to be happy, confident and meaningful. One will be dissatisfied and unhappy when the love, appreciation or companionship that one craves for is not available.

May all be free.

Silent Retreat…

Silent retreat.

A period of renunciation.

Retreat from worldly affairs, social activities, personal duties and responsibilities, and from other beings.

To perform the greatest duty and responsibility of mankind.

To focus on oneself.

To take care the well-being of oneself.

To find peace within, to make peace with oneself and others.

Some don’t like it. It’s normal.

Some have fear and anxiety towards the idea and practice of silence. It’s normal too.

Some have high expectation from it. It’s okay.

Some runaway from it. It’s okay too.

Some fall in love with it. Not surprise either.

Some neither like nor dislike it. It’s just another experience.

Whatever it is, it’s the mind.

Attending one or many silent retreat(s) doesn’t guarantee anything.

The mind can be even more restless and turbulent for being restrained in silent retreat.

Confronting impurities in our own mind can be quite unpleasant.

It’s like try to clean up a long time blocked drainage system.

As we begin the cleaning process, more unpleasant stuffs being released and come up to the surface during the process.

Keep cleaning up the existing blockage little by little, and stop building up more blockage.

Fear not.

Be bold.

Be indifferent.

Be determined.

May all be free, be peaceful, be happy through silencing one’s very own restless mind.