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Articles by Swami Veda Bharati

Communication with Students: Effectiveness

(This is a transcript of a lecture given at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, in 1981.)

The title that I gave today was Communicating with Students. From what we have been saying all of this time, that should not longer be a problem. And I am going to play my old broken record all over again and will not tire of playing it. Your work is with yourself. You are working hard on your postures or your breathing or adding one more exercise to the list of those that you have mastered. But where it's at is in your emotional framework. Let me remind you here again that we are doing a whole weekend on the Yamas and Niyamas next month, and I expect the teachers not to miss it, because that's where it's at. Asana, the third of the eight limbs of yoga, comes after Yama and Niyama. And a large number of us have not even begun to give serious thought to the Yamas and Niyamas. If you have got your Yamas and Niyamas straight, you have no more problems in the world. That is the test of the perfection of the Yamas and Niyamas, because then you have somebody solving all your problems. And that somebody is called the Yamas and Niyamas. You have a referent. You have some place to which to carry your problems. You have a set of guidelines. You have a set of systems against which you evaluate and measure everything in your life. Somebody there is counseling you. This applies. This does not apply. This is effective. This is not effective.

Please remember that to be an effective teacher, you have to be an effective person overall. An effective person is she or he who takes a task and is able to bring it to its fruition according to his or her will. And one needs to test oneself throughout life as to one's effectiveness. How effective am I? Do I decide in my mind what I need done, and do I find that it got done according to my wishes? Has it produced the fruit of the color and the ripeness that I wanted. And if I have not produced the fruit of the color and the degree of ripeness that I wanted, why is it that I did fail? This can be with regard to your marital happiness: "Am I happy as I want to be?" No? Then make yourself happy. Be effective. And it is within the power of your will to do so. And I assure you, I do not speak as great swami, a renunciate far removed from the world of daily problems, but as a person who all his life has dealt with all the problems that you deal with, even on a larger scale. And I am giving you the benefit of my experimentations. I have not led a life free of problems, or free of suffering. But I have learned the art of solving the problems. I have learned the art of reducing my suffering. That is the only difference between you and me. What I'm asking you to do, what I am suggesting that you do, is to find the mental blocks that there are inside you against the solutions to your problems, the mental blocks that are preventing your success and your effectiveness. If your mind constantly dwells, it has no time for solutions.

If your mind constantly dwells on problems, it has no time for solutions. It is the nature of the mind that it can do only one thing at a time, at least your rational and emotional mind. It can do only one thing at a time. If it is busy complaining about the problems, there is no way that it can find a solution. The only way to find a solution is to neutralize your mind as regard to the problems themselves. Neutralize the emotional content of your mind with regard to a problem. By neutralizing your mind I mean neutralizing the emotional content to a problem before you can find a solution. And then the solution will present itself. This applies to your marital life. This applies to your other relationships. This applies to all the internal mental habits of anger or of depression or of self-pity or whatever it is that you have developed. These emotions are our enemies. They are blocks in the way of our progress. They reduce our effectiveness. And when our effectiveness is reduced, we go through a vicious circle in life: "I am not effective. Oh, I always fail. Oh, I am no good. It's not going to work." Somebody says, "Well, you've got to try." "Well, all right. I will try, but don't think it's going to work." So I have already blocked the possibility of my success. Because the energy, the mental energy, the free flow of mental energy, the free flow of my prana, which is liberated, released into a specific direction when my mind is emotionally neutral, that will bring the effectiveness about, that free flow is blocked by these mental situations.

And the unfortunate thing about the emotional content of our mind is that we are most often not aware of it. People who deny a certain emotional state are not dishonest, nor are they liars. People who deny being angry, people who deny being ill, people who deny being depressed, people who deny being in a mental state called selfishness, they are not liars, they are not deceivers; they simply are not aware. They simply are not aware that they have this mental content. And awareness is our first step. And we are not aware that the presence of these mental situations, is affecting indirectly our other situations and is reducing our effectiveness in life.

A human being has such a potential that he can just about accomplish whatever he sets out to accomplish. There is nothing on this earth that can be denied to you. I want you to believe this. There is nothing on this earth that can be denied to you. You can have it if you know the right mental way to go about accomplishing it. But, you see, there are a few subtle tricks. You have to judge your capacity to concentrate. There is nothing in the world that can be denied to you once you have learned to gauge your capacity to concentrate. And the greatest obstacle in the way of your concentration is the habit of dwelling on your problems. People say, "How am I going solve my problems if I don't think about them?" Constructive thinking is one thing: sitting down, looking at the problem, analyzing it, examining the possiblities, with a clear and neutral mind, a mind without an emotional load concerning the problem. Because it is that emotional load which creates the block.

And, you know, I feel so sad at those of you whom I see with some frequency. I perceive the problem you have, and I say, "My goodness! This person is not seeing where his problem is really coming from." And nobody else can show it to you: "My wife does not let me come to the Meditation Center." "My husband is unhappy." This, that, so on, so forth. "Am I recognized over there?" "Is my importance acknowledged?" "Was I greeted with due honor when I entered?" You see, these are very shallow symptoms where you are trying to compensate through the externals. This "honor," "respect," "acknowledgement" stuff [points to] some other inadequacy that you feel elsewhere. Someplace inside you there is inadequacy which you are unable to fulfill because you're unable to acknowledge it. You are unable to see it. Or, even though you see it rationally, you have not the courage to fill that weak spot in you. So you are trying to look for strength, for compensation for that inadequacy in somebody else acknowledging you, in somebody else honoring you, in somebody else giving you an uplift. That is not the way of serving the world, or serving the guru's mission, or serving your students. "Are my students acknowledging me? Are they respecting me? Am I making a good impression?" These are all emotional blocks. If you will be concerned on making a good impression on your students, you will never make a good impression.

So, point one, you have to learn to stop dwelling on your problems so constantly, consciously and unconsciously. Go, give yourself some selfless task and accomplish it. I don't care how small a task. Start with small tasks. And then take on larger tasks. Try to take on those tasks against which you have some kind of a block. Overcome those blocks. Do something you don't like. And do it lovingly. What that requires is becoming emotionally neutral about that. There is no person in the world whom you cannot please. There is no person in the world in whom, if he is the hardest rock on earth, whom you cannot melt slightly. There is no obstacle that you cannot somewhat reduce in strength. At present it will be highly ambitious to say, "Well, okay! Good! I am going to free myself of all my obstacles by tonight." That you can if by tonight you can free yourself of all your blocks. "I am not succeeding financially." It is because you have a block. You do not know how to. And not all the financial advisors in the world can help you. And the block in not in money matters. The block is not in your learning about economics. The block is elsewhere. Somewhere, someplace, sometime in your life you learned to accept defeat. Somewhere, someplace in your life you created a block against success. And if you can only point your finger at that block, success is yours. Go back and see where the block was created. What was the object of your fear? Overcome that object of fear. Go do again what at that time you refused to do because you were afraid. A trapeze artist who falls from the trapeze and wants to continue his career has to go right up to the trapeze right away, at that moment, immediately, or he will never go up on the trapeze again. And his career is ruined. Can you find out what it is that you have been afraid of? I challenge you to go and do that, today, tomorrow, in the next month. Take your time getting up enough courage. Allow your heart to beat faster for a while. That's okay. Go and do it.

What does it all have to do with communication with students? That is all that the communication of students is made up of, is reducing your blocks; not reducing their resistances. Not reducing their resistances, reducing your blocks, which invite their resistances to you – to what you are teaching, to yoga, to the practice.

Every teacher should keep a spiritual journal. Make sure it is a spiritual journal, not an emotional journal. It's not a journal filled with complaints against the world, or complaints about yourself against yourself. That it is a spiritual journal. An emotional journal is another thing. That is a different therapy. But that is also an essential part of self-therapy. But don't confuse the two. The emotional journal and the spiritual journal are two different things. In a spiritual journal you have got your goals, your ideals, your principles, all clearly set: "I believe this. I believe this. I believe this. I believe this. I believe these to be the guidelines of my life. These are the lights under which I will find my solutions. I believe in being this kind of a person, this kind of a person, this kind of a person. I shall be thus. Thus shall I be." And measuring yourself against those goals, those internal, purely spiritual goals, measuring your acts, your thoughts, your words, your emotional content against those emotional principles that you have established on page one, on January 1st, and saying, "Here I succeeded. Here I failed. Here I succeeded. Here I failed. This is the way I shall attempt to succeed. This is the way I shall reduce my failures – my spiritual successes and my spiritual failures."

An emotional journal is a necessity for many. In an emotional journal you can write anything you want to. Write it, write it, write it, fill pages. (I wish I could use that time to write my books. If you have time to do that, come help me write my books.)

As a person develops insights into himself for herself, so he or she develops insights into others. Because any problem that anybody has ever faced, everybody has faced – perhaps to a small degree, to a minute degree – but everybody has faced in his or her own life. It's a difference of degree. You have experienced the problems of every person in the world. If you cannot reduce your wife's resistance to you, or your husband's resistance to you, or your child's resistance to you, you are not going to reduce your students' resistance to the teaching that you are imparting. The principle of reducing the resistance is the same. If you will not train yourself to be effective in general life, at your job, in your money matters – it could even be your attractive dress – if you have not learned to make yourself effective in life, you will not be able to make yourself effective in a classroom. Go and make yourself effective. This is possible by having your spiritual goals clear, your mind free of 24-hour concern with your problems. The concern should be with solutions, not with problems. The concern should be with figuring out the way. And you may not do it in two months. You may accomplish it in twenty. But accomplish it you will!

I'd like to stop here and have you ask questions that are relevant. You can ask for yourselves, or you can ask for others.

Question: How do we bring that awareness to ourselves?

It's simply a question of consistent looking at yourself. You see, you dig, and you dig a little more. But, you see, it must always be against a value system, or you end up confused, or you end up self-defeated. "Oh my, it's just not working. Oh, I am so poor. I am so bad. I am just no good." Because you are not measuring it against a value system. You have not set your goal. When you have set a goal: "Here is the mountain that I am climbing. Well, how much more I have to go? How much more I have to go? How much more I have to go?" You keep track of your progress. When I get angry, my concern is not "Oh, there I go again. Oh, I am angry. I am no good." My concern is that now, "Oh my, I have added another karma to my mind. Now I have to wash my shirt again. I splattered it." And I try to find my way to go wash my shirt. You have to find the water, and you have to find the soap, and you have find the place to wash it. This is a different approach from the normal approach that many people need, of course: Well, you got angry. You have to find some way to express it, okay. But what I am saying is there are two reactions possible right in my mind. Just as you have to any situation a choice of a fight or a flight response, mentally, so you have to any provocation the choice, the option, of a blessing or a cursing response. People go only so far as to say, "Well, you feel like cursing, then curse." But I say you have the option of feeling like a blessing or feeling like a cursing. But there you exercise the option at that subtle place where you have the choice of a feeling inside you. "Shall I feel like blessing, or shall I feel like cursing?" Do you understand? And that subtle place people have not learned to acknowledge. That place is where the spiritual will resides. That place is where the principle of volition exists. And that principle of spiritual volition is not being used. And life becomes a mess. It becomes a confusion. See? And you will just have to learn to exercise that volition against a value system about which you are convinced. See?

It is the same thing as when people say, "Well, you talk of Yamas and Niyamas, and you talk of non-violence. I would be foolhardy, if someone is pointing a gun at me or threatening me with something, you see, not to try to defend myself." I say, "All right. Yes. I totally agree. You should defend yourself." And I will not advise you to go into a forest infested with wolves alone and unarmed. But I will not advise St. Francis to go armed. Do you follow? Because where your mind is, you need those arms. But where St. Francis's mind is, he doesn't need the arms. See? As you refine yourself, as your refine your non-violence – I will say a little bit more about it in the Yamas and Niyamas weekend – you see, well, you start carrying a smaller gun. Well, I don't know if that's a very good metaphor right now.

What resistances do you find from your students? You know, my recipe is just one person's recipe, something I have tried. And having said that everyone can succeed at tasks taken, I can't
say that my rate of success is more than 50%. Okay? When I encounter, not resistance, but a situation where I think that resistance might be possible, I voice the resistance myself before the other person can voice it. I make a joke of it, or something – defuse it. I make the person feel I am on your side. Not just to keep an open mind. I make the person feel, yes, I am on your side: "Yes! Ah ha! Oh what a dumb thing! Yes, having to come and be forced to do something. Oh, it's horrible. Why don't we just chat. Treat me as a friend. I am here because I have been asked to do it. The way it works for me is that, that, that, that." Get the people on your side by taking their side. And I have found that very effective. But, you see, if I were to go knowing that it's a place where resistance might come and I go afraid of that resistance, I am blocking my success. See?

Say, you are working in a half-way house. Your mind is somewhat clearer than the mind of the patients there. That's why you are a counselor. That's why you are a teacher. That's why you have been chosen to go. Right. Well, if your mind is clearer, you have a stronger mind than theirs. You have the capacity to influence their minds. Because your mind is clearer, it is somewhat more capable of concentrating, is somewhat more capable of enduring –see? – It is somewhat more capable of creating some conscious energy someplace, you impair the possibility of it's effectiveness the moment that you go with the fear: "Well, they are being forced to do it. They're not going to like it. Now how shall I handle that?" You have created an emotional block. See? But if you go with a knowledge of your clarity, you will find the right words, you will find the right way of winning them over. But you see, once again, the principle of blocks and unblocking the blocks is not specific to a situation. Your blocks – even though the symptoms are specific, at a specific place . . . [are within you!]. (end of tape)

So one has to take a good look at the totality of one's mind, not just the specific symptoms, and cleanse the mind in its totality. You cannot say, "I tried so hard at that place, and it did not work out." Okay? At that place, what is coming out of your mind at that place is only a wave behind which there is a whole force of a great tide of the sum total of the input and output of your mind. Work on the totality of your person.

Question: How does meditation work with these blocks?

Because meditation is a time of unblocking. At that time it [the mind] is not dwelling on problems. It is dwelling on the possibility of the peacefulness and the clarity of the mind, and the one-pointedness of the mind – training the mind to be clear of those blocks and problems. So it shows to you that it is possible for the mind to dwell free of that obsession that we have with our problems – and all of us have that obsession. And the stronger your obsession is, the less your rate of success. The stronger your obsession is with your problems, the less is your rate of success.

Question: Students in class are able to quiet down, but when they come to class the next week they are all stressed out and nervous again.

You see, just as you have to work on yourself, they have to work on themselves. You know, you cannot take a magic wand and just transform them. You have to accept the fact that it's not you that they're resisting. They have their own resistances. Sometimes people begin to blame themselves for other people's failures. You do only what is conceivable, what is possible within your capacity and your awareness, the maximum that you are capable of doing at that time, you know. And, who knows, someday you might become a Buddha and touch somebody, and the robber becomes a saint. [The story of the Buddha and the outlaw, Angalimala] You know, you keep working towards that.

So far you have no claims to such power, see? Some people try to imagine those powers. That is also not where it's at. I have one test. A lot of people come to me. They think that I know this, that, and so on, and that maybe I go travel in the astral world every night. Maybe I go to the sun and moon with the space shuttles not withstanding, and so on. I'll tell you one thing. I am such a hard nut. I am totally cynical about all spiritual phenomena. I am totally cynical about all predictions, about any statements about "my past reincarnation" or about somebody else's future one, or somebody's ESP and somebody's psychic faculty and, you know, this and that and all the rest of it. I don't believe – excuse my language – I don't believe a damned bit of it. I only believe in my practice of meditation. And the rest doesn't concern me at all. And my one principle always has been and is – and that is what my master has confirmed and taught me and retaught me – is look at all the possible material, physical, physiological, psychological explanations. And if there is any such explanation available, then dismiss it as a spiritual phenomenon. It is not a spiritual phenomenon. Look for all material, physical, physiological, psychological explanations, and if there is any such possible explanation, accept that. And then, if none of those possible explanations applies, then, perhaps, then perhaps it is a spiritual phenomenon. You might have missed some explanation. And that is my personal philosophy. When people come with all sorts of sensations in their bodies, I ask them about their sex life. "Oh, I care only about spiritual things. Those things do not concern me." And I see the phenomenon right there, you know. So I am just not into that world.

And don't be afraid, you see, about being disappointed of not being able to find spiritual phenomena. They are very subtle and very, very, exceedingly pure places to be at. Just test out. Just check out. This is something I have been wanting to say for a long time because I see all this delving into, you know, worlds of the subtle forms. They are dangerous. They are not helpful.

On a very, very elementary level I still find that a very large number of teachers, walking in the classroom and teaching a class of an hour-and-a-half, still have no contact with the students. I find that people walk in, and they are interested in the class, but not in the individuals. The individuals do not feel your personal interest. Sometimes, when you are able to overcome your blocks, the individuals feel your interest in their technique – as to how they are doing. But they do not feel your personal interest in them. You would say, "I have never seen this person before. How can I be interested in him?" Well, that's the difference between the beginner, living in the ordinary world, and a person with spiritual aspirations. Your love is for the whole human family – and not just by saying "the whole human family," so that you see the forest but do not see the individual tree.

This love should not show itself in all kinds of tears and embraces. But the person should know that you are interested in him, in her, at a very, very pure level. This comes by expanding your Heart Center. Speak from the Heart Center. Speak from the Heart Center, as though your words are coming from the Heart Center. And your eye contact. The eye draws the energy from the Heart Center. This applies to counseling. This applies to a discussion. This applies to a debate. This applies to a classroom situation. Speak from the Heart Center. Let the energy of that come out through your eyes, and let the eye contact be with everyone. And in that eye contact your love shows. And it's a controlled love. It's not pity. It is not sympathy. It is simply your commitment to helping. It's simply your commitment to helping. That is what teaching is – commitment to helping.

Question: Sometimes I feel like I am not prepared to teach others.

You see, one cannot prepare oneself for teaching a class. It's a whole life preparation. I prepare myself twenty-four hours, thirty-six hours in advance. I don't think about what I am going to say. If I were to think of that, I wouldn't have anything to say after – you know, I have been speaking for thirty-nine years. For thirty-nine years, almost every day! Where is the stuff to draw the material from? I would have to spend twenty-three hours a day in a library if I had to prepare my subject matter. Understand what I am saying? I prepare myself. And I prepare myself twenty-four hours, thirty-six hours in advance. I sort of tune myself to that. That means conserving my energies, conserving my emotions. Whatever little degree of effectiveness that I have with you people, that you can sit down and keep coming back to the Center to listen, it comes from that total frame of mind I have to keep twenty-four hours, thirty-six hours in advance of speaking anywhere. So again, it is not the specifics of the situation that determine your success or your failure. It is the totality of your mind. And if I feel sometime that I have not – occasionally – that I have not put the concentration into myself that I want to, I cancel the class. Seldom. I don't think I've ever canceled a class for mental reasons. But I would do it if I felt that my mind had wavered into other emotions in the last twenty-four hours to thirty-six hours. And my concern for my students has been the greatest inspiration for me to purify myself. Not just my guru's pleasure, because a child knows he is dirty; mother will wash him. I have that much confidence in my guru. And he does his job for me, you know, and so on. But, you see, I remain constantly aware of this thing: I have to do a duty towards you. And I can't do it if, twenty-four hours before, thirty-six hours before, I am out in this anger or this self-pity and this depression and this identity crisis, and God knows what other stuff – you know, that people stuff their minds with. Then, you see, I wouldn't have the energy. I wouldn't have the concentration. I wouldn't have the love. I wouldn't have the care, you know. And you will come once, but you won't come twice.

Do you understand? See, I am not saying that I am explaining myself. I am trying to tell you where your progress and your effectiveness in life lies. See? That's where your effectiveness comes from – the total frame of mind.