The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Was Given. ~ Ben Ralston

Via on Dec 13, 2012
Photograph: paulprescott.com

I was in an Ashram,

having my hedonistic, narcissistic, capitalist-conditioned mind blown open by a small group of people who dedicate their lives—completely—to the benefit of the world around them. A small group of Swamis.

Before I left I asked my favorite Swami for a piece of advice. Here’s what he said:

“Turn every moment into a Sadhana (spiritual practice) of some kind. For example, when I’m walking from the hall to the canteen I simply focus on my breath. Make every moment sacred. That is the only way to remain disciplined.”

The Sacred is in every moment. And if we find it—by paying attention to our breath, or the feel of the Earth beneath our feet, or the light in our child’s eyes—if we find it (by being present), we stay focused and disciplined.

When we find it we reconnect with an infinite wellspring of motivation, inspiration, and love.

But if we lose it we have lost ourselves.

Please spread the love by sharing this post with others? Tweet it, Facebook share button it, email it. Make it a moment of sacred practice!

And feel free to leave a comment—what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston almost joined the army when he was 18. When he was 32 he almost became a Swami. *** Now he is a healer, Reference Point Therapy teacher, and advanced Yoga instructor in the Sivananda tradition . His work as a healer acknowledges trauma as the underlying cause of almost all human problems, and resolves trauma at the causal level: gut-based survival instincts. The intention behind all his work is to empower others. *** Ben splits his time between his busy international practice, training therapists, and writing. As an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher he also runs retreats, usually on the beautiful Croatian coast. *** Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his new website with integrated blog! Yes, he's excited about that :)

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57 Responses to “The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Was Given. ~ Ben Ralston”

  1. Humored says:

    I'm sorry, but all that occurred was one hedonistic, capitalistic, narcissistic mindset was exchanged for another hedonistic, narcissistic, capitalistic mindset.

    At this point, I equate anyone "spiritual" or "yogic" with a heroin addict, doing anything they can to chase that narcotic "BLISS" dragon.

    Paying for that next "guru's" ashram (capitalism), thinking they're solely the most special thing in the universe, loving themselves FIRST (narcissism), indulging their own wants (not even NEEDS, but WANTS) above all else (hedonism)……

    And completely oblivious to the fact they haven't changed anything about what they're doing but the label, like a brand new pair of underwear that does exactly the same thing as the old brand (cluster B personality disorder, per the DSM).

    None of this impresses me any longer.

    It lacks truth and true conviction.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      You sound anything but humored, Humored.
      You sound cynical, jaded, judgemental, and lost.
      And most of what you write is a total projection. I didn't mention any "Guru's", The ashram where I stayed didn't have any aspiring Gurus.
      I didn't mention Bliss.
      If you want truth and conviction, you have to find it in yourself first my friend. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  2. samira says:

    I think it takes time to get there , breath is the life that we are trying to understand and our hearts always know the truth .
    we construct our own realities and there is no point in getting labelled in any way
    May all be well

  3. Sianna says:

    hmm… interesting.

    While reading this, (and especially the comment directly after), I sat back and thought about what advice I may have gotten and it wasn’t just from one person or one teacher. I have been an observer for as long as I can remember; as a child, from fear of others reactions, I suppose, to now, sometimes with incredulity (“how can someone think or act like that?” ;) I’m still working on the judgement aspect) but, thinking back, my friend (who was also a massage therapist/healer said to me “observe YOUR reaction in the situation” and “it’s okay to say “no” in a friendship” (ours), whether considered advice or not, it opened up a different world for me. And, when I look back at what advice you were given, it’s kind of the same. Observing = focusing on breath = taking a moment. AND observing one’s own reaction to that observation = focusing or being present.

    So, if we don’t stop once in awhile and “smell the roses”, observe what success or happiness we do have in our lives, say, we lose ourselves and continue in our endless chase/search for … meaning?

    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Insightful as they are.
      You're right. It's all about awareness. Have you read the wonderful book I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj? I think you'll like it :)

    • Humored says:

      I fully agree.
      There has been an aggrandizement of the chase (ego led diversion. A pure symptom of cluster b personality disorder) rather than an ACTUAL grounding in reality, the TRUE meaning of the "now", or, in buddhist terms, "to be present".

      And judgment, or the concluding of a decision based upon the relevant data one has available to them, via observation and experience, is fine.

      A cluster b personality disorder is incapable of accepting criticism of ANY type, hence the demonization of "judgement", or "Judging".

      We are allowed to make decisions and determinations, and those may change as more data is presented, as long as it is considered in a rational, pragmatic, and through the use of critical thinking, something else that has been demonized.

      I agree with your statement whole heartedly.

      • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

        With respect, there is a great difference between judgement (discernment), and judgementalism (being excessively critical).
        The former is a sign of intelligence, perhaps even compassion.
        The latter is a sign of fear – it is a reactive behavior that masks an underlying pain.

  4. Humored says:

    "You sound anything but humored, Humored.
    You sound cynical, jaded, judgemental, and lost.
    And most of what you write is a total projection. I didn't mention any "Guru's", The ashram where I stayed didn't have any aspiring Gurus.
    I didn't mention Bliss.
    If you want truth and conviction, you have to find it in yourself first my friend. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

    "With respect, there is a great difference between judgement (discernment), and judgementalism (being excessively critical).
    The former is a sign of intelligence, perhaps even compassion.
    The latter is a sign of fear – it is a reactive behavior that masks an underlying pain."

    Be that as it may, those supposedly following spiritual paths (yoga, buddhism, etc) have conflated the two, and are:

    "And completely oblivious to the fact they haven't changed anything about what they're doing but the label, like a brand new pair of underwear that does exactly the same thing as the old brand (cluster B personality disorder, per the DSM)."

    I leave this here.

    • Padma Kadag says:

      Humored…You have recognized a very legitimate "trap" of those who believe to be on some kind of path. I am not familiar with the "cluster b" aspect of your argument but certainly your concerns about narcissism and the donning of just another "label" is very Buddhist and the Buddha has taught about those very "trappings".

      • Humored says:

        I am aware, Padma, I am aware.
        Unfortunately those that need be aware, are anything but.

        Cluster B personalities are classified as "ego diseases" or "ego disorders"

        And it is these same disorders that are cautioned against in all buddhist, hindi, yogic, or TRUE spiritual teachings.

        It is also these same disorders that have infected all of the above, celebrating them, aggrandizing them, making them something to be revered, rather than worked against.

        I've watched and experienced this occur, repeatedly.

        "learn from your history, lest y be doomed to repeat it…"

        Or something of that nature.

        Humanity has lost the ability to learn, it seems.

        Also, group, or "guided" meditations are nothing but group hypnosis, led by someone to see what they instruct you to see.

        Meditation is, was, and always meant to be a SOLITARY affair.

        It is practices such as these, as well as all the posts that say "you are special", "eliminate what does not SERVE YOU", "Love YOURSELF FIRST", etc, that also feed into this "trap", as you put it.

        We did not begin to loathe ourselves until we were TOLD we loathed ourselves.
        Like a prescription medication for "restless legs syndrome" (did anyone even know that existed, until a drug was made for it?) our own well being has been SOLD to us.
        http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-narcissis
        http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/30312181/ns/today-b

        From above:

        "The rise in narcissism is accelerating, with scores rising faster in the 2000s than in previous decades. By 2006, 1 out of 4 college students agreed with the majority of the items on a standard measure of narcissistic traits. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the more severe, clinically diagnosed version of the trait, is also far more common than once thought. Nearly 1 out of 10 of Americans in their twenties, and 1 out of 16 of those of all ages, has experienced the symptoms of NPD. Even these shocking numbers are just the tip of the iceberg; lurking underneath is the narcissistic culture that has drawn in many more. The narcissism epidemic has spread to the culture as a whole, affecting both narcissistic and less self-centered people."

        Like a disease, narcissism is caused by certain factors, spreads through particular channels, appears as various symptoms, and might be halted by preventive measures and cures. Narcissism is a psychocultural affliction rather than a physical disease, but the model fits remarkably well. We have structured the book according to this model, explaining the epidemic's diagnosis, root causes, symptoms, and prognosis."

        And

        "In fact, narcissism causes almost all of the things that Americans hoped high self-esteem would prevent, including aggression, materialism, lack of caring for others, and shallow values. In trying to build a society that celebrates high self-esteem, self-expression, and "loving yourself," Americans have inadvertently created more narcissists — and a culture that brings out the narcissistic behavior in all of us. This book chronicles American culture's journey from self-admiration, which seemed so good, to the corrosive narcissism that threatens to infect us all."

        What buddhism, yoga, hinduism, all the spiritual paths, were meant to work against, have actually been absorbed into those same spiritual paths.

        Infection, spreading like a virus, a disease, that all are oblivious to, because it has become an accepted norm.

        I thank you, Padma, for your comment, and your ability to see beyond the rhetoric.

        • Padma Kadag says:

          Humored…thanks for the detailed response…You are right. To say, "I am on the path" begins the first trap. It appears you do some reading and thank you for your suggestions. I might suggest to you to read some Longchenpa, particularly, "The Chöying Dzod, The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena"

  5. om om om says:

    om bolo sat guru sivananda maharaja ki jai!
    om bolo sri guru vishnu devananda maharaja ki jai!
    om tat sat

  6. matthias.staber says:

    my heart lama (wangdor rinpoche) told me this piece of advice right the first time we met:

    “when you believe in your thoughts, you are in samsara”

    thats a life long one I guess…

    and the best one that my dharmabrother aaron got from H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche after asking him about loneliness (relationship wise, the wish to be with someone special) and dharmapractice.

    H.H. said something like:

    I dont know much about love relationships as I am an ordained monk, but I do know that we are never alone, because we are connected with everything.

    and concerning dharma practice – one dedicates him/herself completely.

    especially the second part is like a wakeup call every week or two. it is so hard and so demanding, can you imagine to dedicate yourself completely to dharma? thats though to say the least.

    hope you enjoy

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you Matthias. I can imagine the second part, because at one point I wanted to be an ordained monk (Swami). I'm not cut out for that though, and instead I now find myself married with a child. Which is not less difficult! But very different…
      Apparently St Paul advised us to: "pray without ceasing." To me that's the same advice as the Swami told me, and "dedicating oneself completely".
      And I think its the only way, which is why I wrote the above article – to share what I learnt.
      Love
      Ben

  7. DTKB says:

    There is relatively new support (and ongoing research) out there for people who are recovering from interactions with Psychopaths/Sociopaths/Narcissists/Anti-Social Personality Disorder, Cluster b, Axis II, etc. (the experts can't even agree about what to call it). Nonetheless, education is important, as well as learning about healthy boundaries, and healthy healing. Two great web resources: http://www.aftermath-surviving-psychopathy.org/ http://www.lovefraud.com/
    I received the gift of learning more about those things as well as discernment vs. judgmentalism.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thankyou DTKB.
      I'd categorize all the interactions you refer to as abuse. And there is a way to heal abuse – it's what I specialize in really in my work with clients – that is highly effective. It not only heals the abuse trauma, but it also strengthens boundaries – because actually, the reason we attract abuse to us is that we have poor boundaries. Abusers are attracted to people with poor boundaries.
      With love
      Ben

      • CatCamp says:

        "Abusers are attracted to people with poor boundaries."
        Indeed. I am well underway in recovering from the trauma of being romantically involved with an alcoholic sociopath (love fraud, to be sure). I recently woke up to the fact that the lesson at hand was indeed boundaries. Now, how to develop/hone them?

  8. She Knits says:

    The two best pieces of advice I ever received were "Stop thinking so much, you'll hurt your brain" and "EVERY time on the brakes, check the rear view mirror."

    So true, on so many levels :)

    Namaste

  9. She Knits says:

    Heehee, "every time you step on the brakes…" Another lesson in being present and mindful. Reread before posting!

  10. dave says:

    @ Humored
    Is it ok if I tackle a 22 km hike to the top of the Drakensburg, and revel in the sunset, all the while congratulating myself for making the effort? Can I be overjoyed in the space around me, and feel like in this stillness, where all I hear is my own breath, I see the presence of God? Or do I rather worry about what type of personality disorder I exhibit by bringing God, attainment and myself into the same equation…? Can I study hard and feel great that I did something of my own volition, for my own purposes and imparted a sense of meaning into my life through the achievement of a goal I set myself? Or is there too many I's in that sentence? And should I concern myself with the fact that somebody else displays a great sense of learning on matters that enable him to toot his own cyberhorn in response to somebody relating a moment of insight garnered from the simple process of WORKING for it?
    You seem very clear on the failings of an experience that had nothing to with you, without actually contributing much of any relevance to the discourse, or sharing something that you experienced on your path. And you can do that, you know? Have a path, a purpose, a quest to call your own. If that is narcissism, then I am proud to be one (see what I did there…).
    Careful of not criticising your own reflection…

    Ps: G#d$mn, I'm glad I don't have to stress every time I attend a yoga class, or climb a mountain, or focus my attention on myself, or feel like going to India, or be proud of my University marks or…

    Namaste, my narcissilly brother.

  11. FullnessInEmptiness says:

    Funny you can't see something that doesn't exist within you. I've lived in an ashram and do yoga and know clusters of people that do the same from the same ashram in India and I've never seen more outreach to the poor and those in need on a global scale than those that have a focus on what it is that we may call finding the "Divine" within ourselves. You can't experience your own true nature and not feel connection to all other beings and the Universe at large. It's not possible. To see narcissism and all that you have said here (can't say I could read most of it it )says it all. Truth is simple. But not easy. The complexity of your argument answers the argument. If you can't put your Truth in a sentence then you are in samsara chasing your own projections.
    May the Peace of God be upon you. And Love fill you. Namaste.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Yup. Simplicity is simply where it's at. And as you say so nicely, you can't experience truth and not want to be of service.

    • dave says:

      Exactly why I'm a school teacher at a rural school at the foot of said Drakensberg :) And by rural, in South Africa, it means you pretty much work in a tin shack. Its easy finding the divine within, but even easier finding it in some seriously joyful kids living in serious poverty, but living like they live in paradise. It puts things into context.
      Namaste

  12. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Amen. And hallelujah too, while I'm at it :)

  13. [...] a comment—what's the best advice you've ever been given? … Continue reading here: The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Was Given ~ Ben Ralston | elephant … ← Jovan Belcher Allegedly Murdered Kasandra Perkins Over Paternity … 7 Ingredients [...]

  14. Humored says:

    All I have to say is "Wow"
    Not only does this display of commenting make precisely the point I was making, but the other humoruos factor is that it's all been done after removing my ability to comment further.

    • Humored says:

      Narcissists want attention. check.
      Narcissists LOVE to tear down others for their own benefit. Check.
      Narcissists love to talk about THEMSELVES. Check
      Narcissists ONLY surround themselves with people that AGREE with them. CHECK.

      Does the Dalai Lama or did Gandhi rave on about THEIR accomplishments?

      NO. They spoke/speak as though they were/are secondary.

      They, as the buddha always illustrated, were SECONDARY to the people they were/are teaching.

      The buddha didn't talk about "Oh yeah. Sat under that bodhi tree. Knocked that enlightenment thing right out. Yeah….."

      But there is no end to nearly ANYONE in the spiritual hipster spirituality scene talking about their precious trip to india, or how they mediated for hours, or some guru or another.

      Private special club, and all that.

      Nice.

      Thank you for illustrating my point for me. This is like watching "Mean Girls" ;-)

      This is the most balatant display of egos I have seen on such a "spiritually" inclined site.

  15. Humored says:

    And I mean that in all due repect.

    If no one points this out, you will NEVER see it.

    "Funny you can't see something that doesn't exist within you."

    To which I say: "The finger pointing outward should always point at themselves, FIRST."

    I've done my introspection, and, and have made it my mission to abolish all the narcissism prevalent in "hispter spirituality"

    I again direct you to the following:
    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/30312181/ns/today-b

    .

  16. Humored says:

    And yes, I am "humored"

    I am humored how non-abusive reference comments can be deleted, and in how if the commenting does not agree with fluff, no matter how RESPECTFUL, and NON-POINTED it may be, the IP is blocked, and the ability to comment is eiminated.

    Truly spiritual people accept and consider ideas that may differ from their own

    • elephantjournal says:

      Hi Hector, Yes, we have blocked you several times now and have communicated this to you by email in the past, due to your decision to continuously berate others in comments on the site and on Facebook. Peace brother! Instead of stewing in your anger at the person who wronged you and dumping it all over the place, might be time to look inward and find some peace. Our decision to block you is due to your refusal to comply with our (very lenient) guidelines, and we will continue to block you as long as it continues. Disagreement is wonderful & grist for the mill—it's how we learn. Constant spam, insults, etc. as we've discussed will not be allowed. ~ Kate

      • Humored says:

        Kate,
        What will you do? Block every IP from every computer in the world?
        You cannot.
        You allow blog posts that let others attack people that cannot defend themselves. I just read one where a woman attacked her husband whom was divorcing her, and she sent the link to family members, and he came back and responded as to how she was putting up a one sided view, how he had not found anyone else, but was just sick of HER, and was very respectful.
        Everyone IGNORED his comments and just kept blowing smoke up the writer's butt.
        This is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, also known as "Spiritual Materialism" or "Self Cherishing".
        You delete links that show descriptions of narcissistic personality disorder, because you know the similarity of it to your and most of EJs behavior.
        You allow ganging up and berating, but do not allow defense against this.
        You, hilariously, spout how Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche is your idol, ironically, as he was against ALL YOU DO.
        It's in the FIRST CHAPTER of "cutting through spiritual materialism".
        I will respond to your comment, from another computer.
        I will KEEP responding, until you are EQUAL in your handling of ALL comments, not coddling your own narcissism.
        Attempting to have the last word only gave you a temporary reprieve.
        As I said, you can't block every computer, especially public ones, as you just did.

  17. Humored says:

    The best, impartial, and most astute commenting was from Padma and DTKB.

    In my opinion, the rest has been from the "cult of personality".

    And I guarantee all of these comments, because I differ with that very same cult, will also be deleted, and this IP blocked.

  18. dave says:

    Wow, I'm sorry for being proud of what I do and happy with my life…? And I'm no hipster, everybody knows the bands I like and my ankles don't show when I wear long pants. But whatever dude or lady, you do yours, I'll do mine.
    Peace.

  19. Pat says:

    Everything comes at the appointed time

  20. James says:

    Simple, but powerful advice. Thanks, Ben.

  21. [...] The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Was Given. ~ Ben Ralston [...]

  22. chang says:

    how do i find an ashram?

    • Louise Brooks says:

      Chang

      You do not need an ashram. Don't buy in to the hype about blissing out in India. It is never necessary to travel to far off lands to "seek ancient wisdom". As the above poster "Humored" says you don't need a self-appointed guru or incense soaked ashram to figure things out. Beware of the poison of narcissism that often seeps in your pores when signing up for a "spiritual journey", yoga teacher training in a warm climate on the beach, and new-age nonsense that tells you that YOU are important in the cosmos. It is all magical thinking like all religious belief systems that set out to posit that humans are front and centre in this great cosmos and that we live forever. It is all just a ruse to make you feel safe.

      • Humored says:

        Thank you, Louise, though I am careful not to fall into self egoic praise, I thank you for recognizing what I have and not falling to the "status quo".

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Chang,

      Two very nice ashrams – that do great service to the world around them – are the Sivananda Ashrams (www.sivananda.org), and Swami Balendu's place (http://www.jaisiyaram.com)

      There you will find Yoga and genuine spirituality, which – contrary to whatever nonsense some of the above commenters are wittering on about – is all about service, love (for oneself and others), peace, and simplicity.

      And an Ashram is a wonderful place to go, because the above four qualities are sorely lacking elsewhere in the world today.

      with love,

      Ben

  23. dave says:

    Give it a rest bro.

    My word, you really have an annoying bee up your bonnet, you know. Here is my tidbit of spiritual wisdom: Chill out.

    Chang, go for it. Life is too short to think your online opinion is gonna change the world. Live you life, and try not to be a dick, and everything will be okey dokey. Work hard and share your success and happiness. Maybe write a blog. Or whatever.

    Good grief.

    Peace.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you for your patience Dave. I have stopped replying to Humored comments because s/he clearly is not ready to really listen (a necessary part of a conversation I think!). Too busy proclaiming other people's narcissism (oh the irony in those six words!)

  24. [...] advice: whenever you are struggling, always come back to the basics: breath, relaxation, and [...]

  25. dave says:

    Thanks Ben.
    Dealing with 40 8 year-olds a day teaches you a thing or two about patience.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanekuh and wonderful whatevers to you all :)

  26. karlsaliter says:

    I also spend time in ashrams and meditation centers when I can manage to. It is an honor to pause and be surrounded by people who focus on finding what is next internally. Sometimes I believe the most important work on earth is happening in spiritual communities. 17 years ago in Woodstock at Karma Triyana, Tenzin Monk told me

    "After your meditation, don't judge your meditation. It happened. That is enough."

    Thank you for a great short piece on such an important topic.

  27. Beefalie says:

    The best advice I was ever given: "Be yourself."

  28. Laima says:

    Best advice I’ve got was an observation from a friend who said “everyone serves a purpose of some kind. And it is always something important”. The fact is you never know what it is. You can be a narcissist who teaches someone to be at peace as well as someone so perfect by a book can give a good example on bullying. Eater way everyone need all those lessons. We need Ghandi and Mother Theresa’s examples in our lives, but what would happen if everyone in this world would be just like them? Light doesn’t go without darkness- Yoga Sutras will support this if you study them (or any religion). So embrace it all, then we can find harmony. We all need each other no matter who we are or what we do or where we go wrong. Manifest your passion and then please it! Namaste

  29. Humored says:

    And the MOST eloquent statement to illustrate my sentiment is available below:
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/12/the-most-m

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