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The Company We Keep

mahesh_0192We are strongly affected by the company we keep. Some people, environments and activities bring out our best qualities, and some have the opposite effect. Think about what happens to you when you spend time doing things that you know affect you negatively. Do you find yourself falling into old, possibly unhealthy, habits? Does your mind become agitated? How well do you sleep and what kind of dreams do you have? Compare that with the experience of spending time in nature or with people who love and support you. Feel the difference.

Our minds are deeply affected by the people with whom we associate. If we regularly associate with people who are aware only of the gross body and physical pleasures, our minds will grasp their thoughts and will become deeply imprinted by them. As a result the mind accepts everything received by the senses as real, and the Self, which is beyond the senses, is rejected; neither truth nor love is experienced. On the other hand, one who engages in satsang develops higher consciousness and gradually eliminates the fruits of ignorance such as mental worries, pain and depression.

Why are we attracted to situations we know are not good for us? If we’re lonely, bored or depressed, we want a break; it’s quite natural to want to get out of suffering. In book 2 the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes the afflictions all humans are born into. The fundamental affliction is ignorance of our true nature.

In this state of ignorance, it is quite natural to be attached to external objects which provide any kind of pleasure since one has lost inner peace and happiness due to the bondage of the soul in ignorance and egoism.

At the time of failure, when depression sets in, don’t desert your devotion to your spiritual aim. Then you will succeed.

We keep hoping that life will get better, but our habits keep us spinning on the rotating wheel of vasana-karma-samskara (desire-action-imprint on the mind). We want something, take action to get it (even if the action is only in our thoughts), and this, over time, creates a habit that is likely to repeat – and so it goes, round and round. We’re always looking for experiences that will bring us happiness, avoiding those we find painful. Attraction and aversion are like the the two antennae of our ordinary consciousness: I like this, I don’t like that; this looks like pleasure, that looks like pain . Unfortunately what looks like pleasure doesn’t always turn out that way.

You are in bondage by your own consciousness and you can be free by your own consciousness. It’s only a matter of turning the angle of the mind.

Switch the mind or learn by burning the fingers that fire is hot.

In our attempts to make positive choices, we take a few steps forward and then fall into our old patterns. What then? Get up and keep moving forward. Babaji tells us: Face, fight and finish. The fight is against our conditioned habits that are holding us back. The key thing is not to give up.

Desires can be overcome by controlling them; we have to put a limit on desires. By limiting our desires they will change.

In one of the ancient yoga texts, it is said that there are four gates or doorways to liberation: self-control (meditation), contentment, self-inquiry, and seeking the company of spiritually minded people. Being in the presence of people who radiate peace, compassion, love and truth, we feel nourished. In the company of such people we are inspired, and our own seeds of peace sprout.

It can help to spend time in a community of spiritual seekers, but know also that there are wise and loving people in every walk of life. And remember: The person you spend the most time with is you, so keep supporting yourself in developing the very qualities you want to be surrounded by.

A person who is aware of developing positive qualities is a real yogi.

If we continue to develop positive qualities, our lives will change, and the light in us will shine out to others.

– contributed by Sharada

all text in italics from writings by Baba Hari Dass


Sharada Filkow, a student of classical ashtanga yoga since the early 70s, is one of the founding members of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, where she has lived for many years, serving as a karma yogi, teacher and mentor.