Relationships: “Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway.” (Yoga in the Gita Series)

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Welcome to this week’s Yoga in the Gita series, where we continue from Catherine’s post last week on the Gita’s artful wisdom on “Relationships….”

….which quite often resemble being tossed around by the waves of the ocean. But we have a life-raft: the Gita is, as we’ve already said, the ultimate guide to love. By default, that means it’s the ultimate guide to relationships: how can it claim to teach love or lead to love if it doesn’t address the inherent qualities that a relationship must both acquire and avoid?

And apart from being the ultimate guide to love and relationships, the Gita is also the ultimate conflict resolution guide: a dialog that took place on a battlefield, the site of a war, the ultimate conflict. Let’s face it:

There’s not one amongst us who can claim to bear anything like the burden of conflict resolution and relationship issues that Arjuna was facing on that battlefield.

Fortunate man that he was, Arjuna had as his friend the most qualified person in the world, in person, right next to him, to help deal with his doubts and fears: Krishna. For us, there’s the Gita–and pretty much nothing else. You might object that there’s a world of so-called information and self-help books out there that claim to be authoritative. But they rarely address the real issue of relationships, the bottom line, the inherent “bacteria,” if you will, that sits within each of us and contaminates our every relationship. This subject is brought up by Krishna very early in the Gita, and he wastes no time in telling Arjuna: it is fear.

Sometimes we over-invest in one relationship because we fear another. Arjuna did–and he was a warrior, a prince. Why wouldn’t lesser mortals do the same?

Arjuna surveyed the battlefield, his relatives, his guru even, all before him, and decided to take what appeared to be the “higher road:” he said he could not go against dharma and kill these people. And so he backed out, he sat down, gave up, and refused to go on.

Most of us would consider that the higher road, for sure: compassionate, respectful, all those things that sound like a higher consciousness is driving us. But it’s not really the truth of what lies beneath…

It’s the most challenging thing in the world to step up to the plate in terms of relationships and face them head on. It’s so much easier to withdraw and hide behind a facade of any one of a million reasons (even the really “good” reasons Arjuna had); or to blame the other party for the inability to develop, resolve, or even leave a relationship, rather than take responsibility for the problems ourselves.

All of these things are driven by our fear of relationships, of personalism. But what is that fear all about? We touched on this earlier in the series, when Arjuna asks Krishna what it actually looks like when a person is actually practicing the principles of yoga, when they’re actually living in spiritual consciousness. At that time we were focusing on controlling the mind, but we go further into Krishna’s instruction and see that he mentions something else:

“One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.”

One who is free of fear can have a steady mind, Krishna says. Last week Catherine asked the question, can we be in a loving consciousness at all times, even when we’re in the midst of our own battles? This is what Krishna is teaching Arjuna, and he says the answer is yes, we can: if we actually know what love is. And in this respect, Bhaktivedanta Swami writes in chapter 4 (verse 10 purport) that to be able to call what we’re doing “spiritual,” or if we want to speak of “love,” we must free ourselves from the three stages of the material concept of life: negligence of spiritual life, fear of a spiritual personal identity, and the conception of void that arises from frustration in life.

How? Well that’s what we’re talking about here, Yoga in the Gita, so of course his answer is concise: “This yoga process helps one become free from all kinds of fear and anger.”

Yoga is the process that teaches us there is nothing to fear in learning who we are, understanding our own identity; nothing to fear in our relationships with others; most importantly, nothing to fear from confrontations of the heart.

Remember: this entire dialog was borne from Arjuna’s fear. He was afraid to enter battle and face his relatives, afraid to kill them, afraid to dishonor his seniors, afraid of the consequences. And his fears seemed valid: he was thinking about millions of people, about an entire nation, about the detrimental effects on generations, of the dharmic consequences of his actions.  Who amongst us can claim we have as much to lose as Arjuna did?

Yet still the fear is there in our relationships, and it is destroying them, it is destroying us: it stealing from us the basic need we have, which is to love and be loved.

And that’s just on a material level. Are we ready to delve into the personal spiritual realm of relationships? Because yoga isn’t about making one’s life better materially, or about physical health, or osteo- or ortho- or cardio-preventions or cures: yoga is the path, the process, to spiritual life. And are we able–or even ready–to connect both the negative and the positive aspects of relationships with the yoga process?

The Gita’s dialog is about the process of yoga. This series you’re reading is about the process of yoga. We’re speaking of the Gita as the ultimate guide to love, and now as ultimate guide to relationships. Understanding how our yoga practice connects to all this is the key. And that’s what Bhaktivedanta Swami means when he writes in chapter 5, as mentioned above:

“This yoga process helps one become free from all kinds of fear and anger.”

Think about your relationships. Most especially, think about those that give you the most trouble, and it is guaranteed that the reason they give you that trouble is because they are imbued with either fear or anger, or both–small-scale or large, it doesn’t matter. Fear and anger are the two most destructive elements that can be present in any relationship: parental, friendship, employee/service, lovers, family–all relationships.

The Gita is remarkable: we begin with a battle, we see a warrior bewildered and refusing to fight; we see his friend and mentor exposing his fear, challenging his so-called right to abandon his duty; we see the dialog unfold in an exposition of love and duty and relationships, and conclude with Krishna’s words, ma sucah: “do not fear.”

And in the midst of it all is a description of the process of yoga that will lead us out of material concepts of life, out of the lower qualities, raise our consciousness to a level of purity and knowledge, and ultimately to love.

I don’t want to give the plot away, as in the coming weeks we discuss “fearlessness” in depth. But as for our relationships? We need to rid them of the qualities that weigh them down, and that means ridding ourselves of those qualities. We cannot inflict on others what we are not disturbed by. Modern-speak calls it “projection,” but there is an ancient Sanskrit saying, atmavan manyate jagat, that one sees the world (jagat) just as he sees himself (atmavan); “as I am thinking (manyate), so the whole world is thinking.” In other words, we project our own fear and anger onto others, our own lacking, our own lower qualities.

Lost & Found in India

But it’s not all negative. We are also drawn to others because they have qualities that we respect, admire, and want to develop ourselves. Thus the concept of association is explained later in the Gita: how to identify the right association, how to cultivate it, and how to make it work for us. In other words, the Gita is a manual for human relationships.

As we wind through the Gita, so much wisdom and depth is discussed between Krishna and Arjuna, as they reveal the secrets of life, the truth of the world, and the way to attain pure yoga.

And let’s not be sentimental: we’re not talking about some self-created philosophies by some armchair wanna-be who films themselves speaking, uploads it on their site, and pontificates about how the world turns; nor are we speaking of some individual’s random idea of what love is or what yoga is or how they should look, some concocted market-savvy modern branding of a product that everyone is seeking. We’re speaking about real love, real yoga. Learn it, live it, and what you’re calling “yoga” and “relationships” and “love,” do properly, really do them, live them. Don’t fake it or pretend or wish: it’s all there, how to identify the real thing, how to attain it, how to engage in the process of yoga in the Gita.

Every relationship can be scary: but like Susan Jeffers said, “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

For earlier posts in this series, see the Elephant Journal author pages for Catherine Ghosh & Braja Sorensen
For continued posts in the series, see Yoga in the Gita.

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31 Responses to “Relationships: “Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway.” (Yoga in the Gita Series)”

  1. Suresh M. Nair says:

    Simply amazing. Thank you.

  2. Thaddeus1 says:

    "But as for our relationships? We need to rid them of the qualities that weigh them down, and that means ridding ourselves of those qualities. We cannot inflict on others what we are not disturbed by."

    This sentiment has been coming up in my life again and again in recent days. I just read a note by Sacinandana Swami where he writes about a dog who walks into a castle filled with a million mirrors. Seeing all the dogs, he growls and snarls in fear and sees one million dogs growling and snarling back at him and flees. A second dog enters the exact same room and seeing all the dogs is excited and in confronted by one million friends with whom to play.

    The exact same world has the capacity to produced such dramatically different results depending on how we approach it. And as you point out, this essential wisdom is all explained to us within the pages of the Gita. Thank you for this wonderful series.

    Posting to Elephant Bhakti. Be sure to Like Elephant Bhakti on Facebook.

  3. Another blockbuster, Braja.

    I studied the Gita in great depth for several years. Yet I get great new insights from every installment of your and Catherine's series here.

    And it always seems like the perfect compliment to the very different approach (but not substance!) in my own series Gita in a Nutshell.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here, both of you.

    Bob W. Associate Publisher
    facebook, twitter, linkedIn
    Yoga Demystified.

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    This series is truly one of the very best I've seen on elephant! Love it so much! Thank you!

  5. Jacquelin Blatchley says:

    A very impressive article. Well prepared. Very motivating!! Go off on to facilitate wayMy site is on Family fitness.

  6. anuradha dasi says:

    This soothed my heart today.

  7. I really enjoyed this perspective, Braja "…the Gita is also the ultimate conflict resolution guide." Yes! As you ask, which one of us can claim to have before us a greater conflict than the one Arjuna did! If he can resolve his, then there is hope for the rest of us. I like the encouragement you offer, and the way you pinpoint the two main obstacles in conflict resolution: fear and anger. Thank you for another, very pointed and eventful piece!

  8. […] Relationships: “Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway.” (Yoga in the Gita Series) […]

  9. Kudos to you for being the inspiration behind this series….thanks Catherine xo 🙂

  10. Love this. I've enjoyed the approach you and Catherine are taking on this round of Gita Talk, but this is by far my favorite."Can we be in a state of loving consciousness in the midst of our battles?" I hope so! I think it's the only way through them.

  11. I'm glad you're enjoying the series Kate: had no idea til now you were reading it! The whole goal is love, and while we may express some nice sentiments about something we read, the answer to that question isn't really substantial if it's "gee I hope so." The point of this series is to understand the process of attaining that rarely experienced state of grace whose name we use so cheaply and freely, "love" being the most important one. Sure, we can be in a state of loving consciousness, but there's only a few rare people on the planet who actually genuinely possess that ability. It may seem otherwise, but the Gita is teaching us what real love is: most want to remain in the impersonal realm and imagine that "Krishna" is an allegorical reference or some other such bullshit. For them, the approach to love is simply a facade, a "fake it til you make it" performance that in the end just turns people off—especially those of us who are seeking the genuine.

    But we all keep at it in the hope that some elements of the genuine seep through our pores, eh? :))

    • Absolutely! I think it's rare that any of us attain it fully, but the keeping at it, the practice, is what's important.

      "I hope so" = I hope my daily meditation practice, time with my meditation teacher & studying dharma (or learning from great texts like the Gita) and just learning as I go through life…I hope that loving consciousness increases. Sorry if that wasn't clear enough from my brief comment.

      Bob's last round of Gita talk was my first reading of it & I participated weekly. This time around I've been a bit bogged down and haven't stayed in with the discussion, but have enjoyed reading the series.

      • The goal of the Gita is bhakti, devotion. I saw some piece of sh*t "article" on EJ entitled "Sh*t Bhakti Yogis Say." While the world laments about how cheap and ugly the yoga industry has become, it's sites like EJ who are meant to protect the genuine from the crap, I thought. But here they are minimizing and degrading the genuine process of yoga by allowing crap like that to be aired.

        I'm officially disgusted. I thought EJ was above that kind of low-rent "sports." Obviously I'm wrong: they'll do or say anything and I bet someone's got a smart-arsed response for why they have a right to publish crap like that.

        Is bhakti yoga going to be dragged in the same shitty and low class direction as hatha yoga and ashtanga yoga in the US? This "shakti fest" has little, if anything, to do with bhakti. If only they knew…alas, they're trapped in the good ol' US of A….

        • Yikes! Saw the post title, but haven't watched the video in it yet & will take a look. I do think it's good to be able to laugh at ourselves, if it is from the perspective of those participating laughing at themselves a bit, but if that's not the case then we should revisit whether it belongs here.

          I'll watch the video and check in with Kasey about it. I know her to be a beautiful, respectful, genuine person and my assumption was that it was meant to be "let's laugh at ourselves" rather than mocking the idea of bhakti.

          • Thanks; I posted that reply just as you did, so I'm reposting with some edits….I mean seriously, Kate: it is an opportunity to rethink the "goal" of EJ. An article on fake breasts gets lambasted for being "judgmental" by some damned fool women who want to defend their right to fake themselves up–and oh, the defensiveness of that is alarming!—yet an article so derisive is, what, defended by the author? "An individual's right to speak?" Since you're helping run EJ, why don't you help up the standard and make it shine like the vehicle for something higher it set out to be? All those changes imposed on writers/editing, etc., weren't they designed to give some polish to the site? To take it up a notch? To raise it's professional standard? Freedom of speech is one thing, but derisive put-downs another. I'm sure some will find it funny. But at whose expense? It's embarrassing for EJ to be on that level. Millions of bhakti yogis worldwide—genuine ones—wouldn't go near EJ after knowing something like this was part of its menu…..

            • I think the tough part here is that we are reader created, which means many different perspectives….but—they still should fit the overall mission of mindfulness.

              Sometimes that means laughing at ourselves, sometimes that means some of us get pissed off or offended, but hopefully the majority of it increases mindfulness rather than mindlessness.

              **edited to add—I watched the video. Didn't feel it was offensive given that Kasey is part of that community, but if you wanted to write a response piece on what bhakti is to you, why it's not all bhaktifest, etc the way it's done in the States, that would be great too.

              • Sorry, Kate, you're wrong: "part of that community" means what, precisely? What do you know of bhakti, or it's many and varied communities, to warrant you stating that "she belongs to that community"?

                I'm afraid EJ's response is always lacking greatly in any kind of principles: "write a response" is always their response. Why don't you redefine your boundaries to incorporate something a little more substantial, rather than just allowing it all and responding with "hey, write a response." There's a world of people out there who can't be bothered with getting involved in the back and forth, and I'm one of them.

                Anyway, my apologies: I thought EJ had more substance or genuine foundation. Obviously I was wrong: it's far from it. I'll leave you all to post derisive and low-class articles to "amuse" yourselves. Whatever floats your boat….

  12. and your definition of "mindful" is a crock…seriously.

  13. ValCarruthers says:

    Another winner from the House of Hits, Braja. A brilliant, pull-no-punches reminder that the key ingredient in transforming fear and anger into non-attachment, steadiness of mind and ultimately love, is surrender—pure and simple.

    Can you please send me a hit of that Himalayan air?

  14. […] week Braja Sorensen wrote how there is nothing to fear from relationships, or from what we are confronted with from the heart. Today, we explore the secret of […]

  15. […] Gita climaxes with this passage, in which Krishna, the original Personality of God as described in Hinduism, tells his friend […]

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