Patients often tell me they want to “go back to the body they used to have” or have their lives “go back to the way it used to be.” This is actually an impossible goal and from the start creates suffering and distress. However, when life hands you a challenge that you don’t have the skills to navigate, the best thing you can do is find a mentor who can teach you what you need to get through the challenge and come out on the other side with an even better life or body or marriage or job, etc. This is called attaining wisdom, and it only happens when you have successfully learned a new skill to overcome a life event that triggered you in some way, be it physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
Why are you triggered in the first place? Because you do not have the skills to meet the latest curve ball life just tossed to you. Do you sit down and cover your head and cry as life pitches more unpredictable and painful balls at you, or do you go find a coach to teach you how to play the game more skillfully?
Today I am giving you some ancient wisdom from India to help you alleviate your own suffering. This wisdom is in the form of four sentences. You can picture your Highest Self delivering these sayings to you the next time you are in distress and not playing the game of life skillfully, i.e., crying, yelling, blaming others, shaming someone else, swearing, withdrawal, isolation, shutting down, drugs, alcohol, shopping, porn, gambling or gaming, exercise, sex, food, TV, work, social media, screens, overscheduling, screaming and kicking, or any other form of temper tantrum you might be prone to when in distress.
The Mahavakyas are “The Great Sayings” of the Upanishads. The Upanishads are the “practical teachings” of the Vedas, or sacred texts from India from which arose the disciplines of yoga (linking the mind with the body), Ayurveda (medical knowledge and how to know your body), Jyotish (Indian astrology), and Vastu (how to best order your environment and where Feng Shei came from).
I am writing about four of several Mahavakyas because these are considered the “primary” great sayings and are a beautiful way of living powerfully rather than as a victim of circumstances and life events. These sayings are in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India and are part of the Vedic tradition. However, they are applicable for all of us in the ways I will mention in a bit.
The Upanishads are teachings that represent “sitting down at the feet of a great teacher.” One of the primary reasons the Upanishads are revered is because they emphasize our oneness with Brahman (the Absolute, the Divine, the Godhead or God). Once you fully assimilate the meaning of these Mahavakyas, you become your own Guru. The idea is that you have these in your being to call upon when you need to remind yourself who you really are. The most important time they will be of use to you is when you forget your own Divine essence.
The Four Primary Mahavakyas Are:
- Prajnanam Brahma: Consciousness is Brahman (or God).
- Ayam Atma Brahma: The Self (Soul or Higher Consciousness) is Brahman (or God).
- Tat Tvam Asi: That thou art (everything I see I am, and it too is God).
- Aham Brahma Asmi: I am Brahman (or God).
Here are 3 examples of ways to use the above information:
- Yesterday a good friend of mine called me in distress. She was upset because she wasn’t feeling emotionally connected to her husband. She was resentful (and jealous) because she observed him in relationship with others in an emotionally connected way and believed he was not “choosing her” and felt abandoned.
As I spoke to her, it became clear that she expected him to “choose her” 100% of the time and to fill the void she had from childhood of not belonging and not feeling lovable. She had forgotten that she was Divine, that as a being who is connected to God, she did not need any reassurance to feel worthy of being loved. If her spouse didn’t connect to her, if her spouse didn’t love her every minute of every day, if her spouse didn’t choose to be with her in all activities (or worse yet, in her mind he chose to do things with other people), this had no bearing on her lovability or worth. She forgot who she was at core. She didn’t see that the very experience she was having of despair and sadness was actually a gift from God to help her heal her childhood wound. This trigger was being done for her not to her so she could learn new skills for developing better emotional resilience.
- Today I was hiking with my husband. We are training for circumambulating Mount Kailash in Tibet, a 3-week trip that will mostly take place at altitudes, in fact, reaching over 18,000 feet. This training program we are on is admittedly grueling, much more intense than his usual exercise routine of a comfy 3-mile walk 4-5 times a week and occasional yoga. By the third consecutive day of 7+ mile hikes, some of which were over rough terrain with difficult altitude gain, his feet were blistering and his joints and muscles aching (as were mine). He began to get snappy with me.
I reminded him of the Mahavakyas and the fact that his suffering and pain was also God. I pointed out that the rocks on the trail were also consciousness. I asked him to remember that I was not trying to “torture him” (as he stated), but helping him train so he could accomplish the upcoming event successfully and even skillfully.
He was quiet for a time and then said, “it’s much easier to remember that all of it is God when it’s just physical pain I’m in. When I’m in emotional pain I find it nearly impossible.”
I acknowledged the truth of his insight and asked how he can alleviate the emotional pain so the physical pain can be seen as within his ability to shift as he stops identifying with his body. He recognized that whenever he feels like a victim it’s harder to get into the spiritual state he needs to be in to realize his body is not all there is. I couldn’t have said it better.
- I have a patient with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She has verbally said and also written emails to me that say, “I hate my arthritis.” When she finds she is limited with her range of motion, feeling pain in her joints, unable to keep up with the same physical exercise routine she used to do, she gets angry. She tells me she feels betrayed by her body. She is a Christian woman and believes if she prays and is faithful enough, God or Jesus will remove her suffering.
When I pointed out that Christ asked to have the cup taken from Him in the midst of His suffering in the Garden of Gesthemane, she was quiet. I asked her what happened next and she quietly said, “He said Thy Will Be Done.” I nodded. I asked her if she could see “her arthritis” as a gift that was for her and not a curse that had been levied against her. She affirmed that she could. I could see her eyes lighten up, her shoulders relax, and her breathing become less constricted. I helped her see she is a part of God and that disease is also Divine…a Divine teacher. Rather than ask how to get out of suffering, ask what that suffering is meant to teach.
The Upanashads say that when the four Mahavakyas are mastered, the veils that cloud our knowledge of our divinity will begin to lift. There are four veils that will lift as we get more and more skillful at taking full responsibility for all of our lives, feelings, beliefs.
The first veil to vanish is ignorance; and when that is gone, unskillful behavior goes; next desire ceases, selfishness ends, and all misery disappears. This cessation of ignorance can only come when you know that God and you are ONE.
Love and the brightest of blessings,