What We Can Learn from a Flower
We can find lessons in everything we do.
One of the lessons that I learned as a mechanic, many years ago, is very useful in being able to control the mind. The newer vehicles probably don’t require this anymore, but way back then, a car had to be periodically lubricated. The car was raised on a lift so you could see the places called greasing points. The old grease was dirty and so you had to put in new grease with a grease gun, that was squeezed similar to how a caulking gun works. As the fresh grease went in the old grease would come out through the other end. The old grease was very dirty.
Until you would see a little of the new, clean grease coming out, you keep squeezing. When you saw the clean grease coming out, it meant you had eliminated all the old grease. What did you do really? You simply replaced an old grease for a new grease. Yoga practices are just like that. You squeeze a new idea into the mind and the old idea goes away. Squeeze in new practices and the old practices go away. You don’t need to worry about how to stop an unhelpful habit such as smoking or overeating, or any habit that is not good for you. Just become very well-lubricated and life will become smooth, with no tension.
Asana, pranayama, meditation, prayer, and chanting all act as new grease. If you smoke, inject the lungs with fresh air and the nicotine will be squeezed out. Anyone who would want to stop smoking, doesn’t have to worry about how to stop smoking if you practice pranayama, daily: once in the morning, again in the evening, and if possible, once in the afternoon. Sit for ten to twenty minutes each time and you will charge your lungs with fresh oxygen and prana. Prana and oxygen are different.
Prana is what you call the vital force. Whenever you breathe in, you not only breathe in oxygen, but you also breathe in the vitality—the life force. With proper breathing, you can take in seven times more prana than what you normally take in through your lungs. Most people are only using one-seventh of their lungs. So, squeeze in fresh prana and oxygen and the nicotine will be burned out. Your body will no longer demand to have it. Also, spend a little time doing Hatha Yoga asanas. Slowly the tensions will be taken away. You will feel relaxed and more flexible. Remember, a flexible body depends upon having a flexible spine, so keep the spine flexible through Yoga. Remember, the spine is the most important part of the body.
If you are weak, and you say “I can’t do this or that thing,” people will describe you as spineless, and having no backbone. With a good back bone all the energy will flow well in the spine. When the spine stiffens, it is because it is blocked with all kinds of toxins. But if you clean the passages, throw out all the toxins, the rigidity and the tension go away. Those toxins have been put into our bodies through eating the wrong kinds of food. If you eat the wrong food, there will be lots of toxins. If there is too much cholesterol, it remains in the system and it forms uric acid. It collects in the joints—a little here and a little there.
Prevention is very important and that is one of the benefits of the Yoga practices. As far as the mind is concerned, the simplest practices can be found in the Yoga scriptures and in the scriptures of all the faiths. In them, you are asked not to kill, not to tell a lie, not to steal, and so on. They have been given to us so that we can live a selfless life and dedicated life, with a calm mind. It is only in human beings, that you see selfishness. You will never see that in a flower. Regardless of what you say about it, it remains the same. If I look in another direction, not at this flower by my side, it won’t become angry or jealous. Whether I see it or not, touch it or not, appreciate it or not, it knows its business is to just to be there, smiling at everybody. It doesn’t expect anything in return from me. That’s what the flower teaches us: not to expect anything in return. Only human beings want something in return, for every little thing.
Our children are trained to expect a reward for what they do. If a parent says, “Honey, could you go to the shop and get something for me?” “Okay mama, but can I have a candy for it?” If not for that candy, they won’t be happy to go. We constantly bribe our children to do this and that or to behave in a such and such a way. Everywhere, in every area of our lives, there is business. My favourite love story is an example. Once upon a time, there was a couple. They were very loving toward each other. One day, the husband went to the wife and said, “Honey, I love you.” After he said that, he was just looking at her and waiting—waiting for a certain reply of “Honey, I love you too.” He was waiting and waiting and he did not get that reply. Of course I’m exaggerating a little, when I say that immediately something started boiling in him and he drove to lawyer’s office and said, “That’s it, I’ve had enough of her!”
Why would he do that? Only because he didn’t hear the words of love coming back. It means that if you don’t love me, I won’t love you. In simple language, “Honey, I give you love, but if you don’t give me the same, I won’t give mine.” That kind of love, with an expectation, is nothing but business. If you really, really love somebody then have that love be like the love of a flower. Whether I look at it or not, it just loves me. If you say, “Honey, I love you” and if that “honey” replies, “That’s nice, but I don’t care that much for you anymore.” What should you do? You should tell her, “Oh, that’s okay. Maybe you will enjoy being with someone else more. I want you to be happy. If you think you will be happier by not loving me, fine. I still love you.”
If you truly love somebody, you will be helping that person to be happy. It is that kind of love that should happen in our lives. Real love is a one-way traffic. It consists of only giving, giving, and more giving. We should have this kind of relationship with everyone—our life partners, parents, friends, and even our business partners.
Our entire life should be all about giving, regardless of whether we are given anything in return. And it is possible to live a life like that. Don’t think it’s impossible. You might think that others will exploit you if you give so much. Maybe, in the beginning, they might exploit you to test you, to see if you are really living an unselfish life or not. And that is what you call sacrifice, dedication, and it’s what you read about in the scriptures.
When you see the crown of thorns on the head of Christ it really means sacrifice. All the great sages, saints, and prophets sacrificed their very lives for the sake of humanity. They never expected anything in return. They never said or did anything to get something in return. All the great spiritual masters, taught this lesson to their students. They never taught to accumulate a lot of students around them. They just said, “This is what I know, let me share it.”
Ordinarily, the mind doesn’t want to just give, because it has been trained to expect things. So, we have to re-train the mind. You have to apply your will, and that is one of the great benefits of a meditation practice. It helps you to develop willpower. Every time you sit for meditation you are directly trying to control the mind; you are exercising your mastery over that monkey mind. That’s what meditation is for—to calm and control the mind. A good meditation session is the best form of relaxation. If you become tired from your daily activities, don’t think that by going on a vacation you will relieve the physical and mental tension.
Many people think, “Oh, I’m tired, I must go for a vacation.” So you go for a vacation, and what do you do there? Are you relaxing? Many come back from a vacation even more tired! They put their body and mind into more stress by staying up all night and spending all the money that they earned. They come home and need another vacation.
A yogic vacation is one in which you charge yourself both physically and mentally every day. That means that the perfect vacation for the mind is meditation. You abuse the mind constantly, but you can relax the mind in meditation. Simply sit, don’t do anything. Even in the name of meditation you don’t need to be doing many, many things. Meditation is not really doing anything; it is undoing. People ask me, “Is Hinduism your religion,” and I say, “No, Undoism is my religion.” So let us develop good habits so that the bad habits will be undone. And, through the Yoga practices, let us prevent as much of the tension and stress in life as we can.