Remaining Loving When All Our Triggers Go Off: Yoga in The Gita.

Via Catherine Ghosh
on May 6, 2012
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Welcome to part nine of our Yoga In The Gita Sunday series!

Last week Braja Sorensen showed us how “Love is Found Through Balance.” Today, we explore relationships as a most powerful place in which to practice yoga:

The entire universe revolves around relationships. From the interactions between atoms to the ones between planetary orbs, everything around us is connected. Energies and organisms that relate to each other surround us every day. Links are made between nations and between individual hearts.

Yoga is a conscious awareness of this interconnectedness between us all.

By increasing our awareness of the interdependent relationships we all share in the world, we learn how to best honor them. It is an approach to living that supports harmonious co-existence between all species everywhere, equally. Being conscious of how we are all connected is a critical part of any healthy yoga practice, as it reflects its very essence: connection.

The Gita invites us to ask: What is the quality of our connections with others? And how do we choose to act within those relationships?

Most practitioners of yoga will reply that they wish to act lovingly and peacefully in their relationships with others. It is easy to act loving and peaceful when nothing is challenging us. But how good are we at loving when all our buttons are getting pushed and our feathers ruffled?

Last week, Braja Sorensen challenged us to look at how deep our love and peace really goes: Is it authentic? Or is it just a superficial display of how we think yogis are supposed to act? Is it consistent? Or does it evaporate the minute we’re being confronted with our own weaknesses or those of others?

When we are inconsistent in feeling loving and peaceful under all circumstances, we become like Arjuna in the Gita: conflicted about how to act in response to the great tension building up around us, and within us.

Is our state of being loving and peaceful one we can access all the time? How about when we are in the middle of an imminent battle within those relationships that matter to us most in life? Can we exercise our love then?

In yoga texts, the first verse is often understood as the bija, or seed verse, and typically anticipates the focus of the entire text. In Graham M. Schweig’s translation of the Gita, he illuminates the way the first line of the Gita’s bija verse, presents us with a powerful juxtaposition of dark vs. light forces: dharma-ksetre kuru-ksetre. Dharma represents the light and kuru the dark. Ksetre is “the field” upon which we move in our lives. And, according to the Gita, the field is not a very friendly one! It is one upon which two armies are lined up to fight.

Yoga is remaining focused on love, even when everything around and within us is inviting us to fight. 

How do we avoid battles? The Gita tells us that battles will find us in life no matter what! We cannot pretend they don’t exist. We cannot skirt around them and avoid facing them. And we certainly don’t want to feed them. But, as Arjuna did, we still need to bravely move through them.

Most of the battles we’ll face in our lives are already occurring within us. Our exchanges with others only activate them.

For this reason the Gita wants to know how we will act when this happens: when the outside world triggers our own internal fears, and doubts, and insecurities. This is when our behavior counts the most, and when it is hardest to act in ways that engage love and peace.

The Gita’s first verse, or seed verse, is therefore a question that highlights the power we all have to choose how to act at any given moment in our lives, upon our own battlefields.

The most challenging part of practicing yoga occurs when we are feeling tensions within relationships.

Yoga is identifying with the most permanent parts of our self while our relationships with others are constantly changing.

Much of Arjuna’s anxiety in the Gita stems from his fear that his actions on the battlefield would destroy the already established relationships he had with many of the warriors on the field. Arjuna wanted to be true to himself, and yet also to society’s expectations of him. Because the two seemed to contradict, Arjuna became deeply conflicted.

What a powerful way for the Gita to open! Instantly highlighting how easily it is for humans to feel torn between their hearts and their fears. And setting Arjuna’s conundrum on a battlefield (of all places!), takes our interactions with other human beings to the ultimate extreme: those of life and death.

It’s as if the Gita were dramatically reminding us that our interactions with others could either increase the quality of our lives, or kill us! How does the flower of our consciousness blossom within relationships that feel like concrete?

Perhaps the best way to test how deeply absorbed in yoga we are is to test how loving and peaceful we can remain while faced with conflicts and tensions within relationships.

In chapter seven of the Gita, Krishna describes one such person as “exceptional,” and characterizes them as possessing both knowledge, or jnani, and the ability to offer love unconditionally. This “offering of love”—as Graham Schweig translates it, or bhakti, is what the Gita tells us is the secret formula for navigating through the tensions in our relationships gracefully. Where there is love and light, fear and doubt dissipate. 

Yoga is a fearless, loving movement through the most challenging parts of our relationships with others.

What is love according to the Gita? Interestingly, the first time the word bhakti appears in the Gita as a noun, “offering of love,” in chapter seven verse seventeen, it makes its grand debut in the chapter on realized knowledge. Harkening back to Braja’s article last week, this places love on a whole new level: A deeper, more authentic one.

Love is not mere sentimentality that can often obscure the way we see ourselves, and others. Instead, love is deeply illuminating, like realized knowledge. And, according to the Gita, true love is not fleeting. It holds us in its continual absorption. It connects us to what is true.

The question is this: What are we choosing to connect with?

We want to connect with what makes us feel good, and we want to escape experiences that make us uncomfortable. On a very primal level, all human beings are programmed to seek out pleasure and recoil from pain. Death, or impermanence makes human beings most uncomfortable. This is a reoccurring theme in the Gita.

Yoga is a willingness to face the unavoidable discomforts in life as a means to finding our own loving, peaceful core.

Endings in life can be most unpleasant: the ending of our youth, the ending of a marriage, the ending of a friendship, the ending of something we derived great pleasure from, and the ending of the life of a loved one, or our own life.

Every time we are forced to face the ending of something, we are also forced to face the parts of us that are clinging onto it.

We are asked to look at our human tendency to identify with what’s impermanent, and examine how our investment in it cripples our own progress. This happens to all of us most powerfully within our relationships with others.

Sometimes the end of a relationship can feel like the end of our very life. And when it’s taken from us, we feel as if our shelter from life’s storms has been pulled out from over us.

In chapter eight of the Gita, Krishna defines yoga as that by which we move beyond our clinginess to the impermanent. Whether it’s a relationship, or our own life (as in the time of death), the eighth chapter of the Gita describes two passages through which we can move through it: one of darkness and one of light.

The path of light is dynamic and represents growth, evolution and progress. Darkness represents stagnation and returns us to relive the same experiences over and over again. This becomes most obvious to us in relationships, when we see ourselves stuck in repetitive patterns with others. How to break out of this cycle can be bewildering.

Yoga is the ability to release our mind and hearts from stagnant cycles and relationships in our lives.

The Gita’s psychological portrayal of humankind, when faced with difficult choices, is that of bewilderment. Like Arjuna, we become bewildered when faced with all kinds of imminent deaths before us. This is human nature.

Krishna reassures us in the Gita, however, that the very “power of yoga” (yoga-bala) is stronger than anything that may bewilder our minds and hearts, no matter how dark and painful. Like the Gita’s bija verse says: there is light and there is darkness. Which force will you choose to align your actions with?

“Knowing these two paths, the yogi is not bewildered in any way. Therefore, at all times, be absorbed in yoga, O Arjuna.” (Graham M.Schweig translation 8.27)

Relationships are therefore one of the main fields in our lives that test our dedication to our yoga practice. If we can exercise love, even when feeling bewildered before imminent, unavoidable deaths, in the midst of discord and tension, within the relationships that matter most to us in life, then we can connect with the peace that yoga brings us anywhere!


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.


About Catherine Ghosh

Catherine Ghosh is an artist, writer, mother of two sons and editor of Journey of the Heart: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry by Women (Balboa Press, 2014). As a practitioner of bhakti yoga since 1986, she is co-founder of The Secret Yoga Institute with author and teacher Graham M. Schweig, Ph.D., her life partner. Catherine has been a contributing editor for Integral Yoga Magazine, and is a regular columnist for Mantra, Yoga + Health Magazine. Together with Braja Sorensen, she created the Yoga In The Gita series. Catherine is passionate about inspiring women to share their spiritual insights and honor their valuable voices on her Women's Spiritual Poetry site Journey of The Heart .. You may connect with her on FaceBook, or email her at [email protected] A lover of nature, she divides her time between her two homes in Northern Florida and Southern Virginia.


24 Responses to “Remaining Loving When All Our Triggers Go Off: Yoga in The Gita.”

  1. But Krishna addresses this in the Gita: He actually tells Arjuna, "Armed with yoga, stand and fight." Fight. Don't back down and pretend you can make everyone happy just by spouting some nice flowery words and pretending to be the "good guy." What a crock of royal sh*t (well, Arjuna was a prince: "royal" is appropriate 🙂 Krishna tells him to get the hell out there and kick some sorry arse. Worse, to kill the damned fools whose pride, arrogance, and ego were destroying culture and society.

  2. Wow, Catherine, You have described such elegant poise for walking through life. What a joy to read this. Thank you

  3. Yes, it seems like Arjuna was trying to please everyone, and thus refusing to fight. His attempt to be the "good guy" was clouded by his own prejudices of what was "good" and what wasn't. Krishna helps him cut through those incomplete views during their famous conversation, as you know. At the end of the book, we see Arjuna mounting his royal chariot and -just as you say- fighting! Indeed, Braja. We are called to be warriors! According to the GIta, it's warriors of love. 😉

    We all need more courage. Sometimes the *courage TO LOVE* is the hardest of all. In the Gita, love is talked about as the greatest weapon of all. The greatest force. The most powerful means of destroying "pride, arrogance and ago". But yes, it has to be genuine love, as you point out in your last article, and i echo in this one. Authentic love, and not just "nice, flowering words". Agreed, dear writing partner! And the torch is yours to run with! :))

  4. Thank you, Pranada! I am glad you read it and appreciated my dive into how the Gita proposes we move through our lives, and relationships. You're very welcome!

  5. maru says:

    This is an amazing article. I can read it over and over, it has so much depth and simplicity at the same time.
    Thank you

  6. You're so welcome Maru! Thank you for sharing that.

  7. Thank you, Bob!

  8. Thaddeus1 says:

    I can't help but thinking about this Trevor Hall song where he sings, "So much love for the gods, so little love for the people." How true this can be for some who profess their love. On some level it seems easier to love God, but much, much harder to share that love with those people who apparently bring hardship into our lives by their insistent need to be themselves and walk their path. I mean, seriously, where do they get off bothering us like that. 🙂

    Thank you for the great reminder and thank you to both you and Braja for this ongoing and crucial conversation.

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

  9. Exactly! Most of the wars on our planet are theocratic ones; fought in the name of "loving God". It's amazing how this contradiction is so easily accepted in our modern culture. And why others feel that objecting to how one chooses to live their life is part of "love", is beyond me!

    More often than not, love and religion have very little to do with one another in this world. This is one of the reasons the Gita (a discourse on love), is cleverly set on a battlefield: to hopefully shed some light on the irony of it all!

    Incidentally, I noticed you have a very musical mind, Thaddeus. :-)) I also have many songs in me, stirring my emotions. And yes, my article resonates perfectly with that Trevor Hall song: "What we fighting for? Why are we still at war? Where's the love, where's the love?" Thank you for sharing, as always!

  10. […] Remaining Loving When All Our Triggers Go Off: Yoga in The Gita […]

  11. ValCarruthers says:

    We will always be at war with others until we realize that we are at war with ourselves. What if, instead of always wanting to give those in our closest relationships a piece of our mind, we can one day (after imbibing the Gita's wisdom) share with them the peace of our mind? Until then, spiritual practice can become misinterpreted as a pious form of avoidance. The Rolling Stones nailed that one perfectly when they sang, "Hey you, get offa my cloud."

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  12. Dearbhla says:

    Beautiful and right on time! Thank you Catherine.

  13. I like how you phrase that, "a pious form of avoidance." Well said Val. That kind of mood is transferable into so many aspects of life, but it's insidious and ugly when it's inflicted on those we have r/ships with….that's a very accurate way of explaining "passive aggressive behavior" — many think that no matter how "polite" or "nice" they sound, they can say anything…if someone gets upset, immediately it's that person's "issue." It's really ugly what goes on in the name of religion, politeness, holier-than-thou behavior, or anything else that has a false face on it, no? One of the reasons I love the exchange between Krishna and Arjuna so much is the humility of Arjuna: he's a beautiful, tall, handsome, educated, high-class prince, yet he's not driven by piety or ego or facade or anything else. He's honest, "I can't do this," and for a warrior, that's a very, very powerful line to cross—imagine, the most powerful warrior in the world sits down and says, "I can't do this." There's no pious face on that, at least. Yet Krishna points out that his unwillingness to do it is in fact the desire for everything to be "nice," hiding behind piety and dharma and so on….and so Krishna is saying, "Armed with yoga, stand and fight." Let's see someone tell Arjuna he's got "issues" for getting angry and fighting :))

  14. You nailed it, Braja! Here, here!

  15. You're very welcome! Thank you! :))

  16. Thank you Valerie. My sentiments resonate with yours and Brajas. I am happy this cam across in my article as this was my aim. An encouraging confirmation indeed! Always a pleasure! And thank you for sharing. Incidentally, I appreciate your musical mind as well! It seems like we have a theme here, (following Thaddeus' lead) in lyrical expression. Fun! You shared a classic tune! :))

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