One reason I love the great 20th century Indian saint Yogananda is that he is the favorite teacher of my favorite teacher, Mickey Singer. Mickey brings up Yogananda’s teachings often and more than any other of the great beings.
One exchange I’ve heard Mickey reference several times is the following. One of Yogananda’s devotees asked how he could find God.
“He dwells right behind your every thought.”
First, let’s dispense with the obligatory G-word caveats. GOD means different things to different people. Some believe there is no God. Others that there is only one God and that he/she/it exists only through their religion — I’m thinking Islam, Christianity and Judaism here.
So yeah, it’s complicated. For the purposes of this article, I’m asserting that God is the creator of the universe and life here on Earth. For all of us.
And, as Yogananda implies, God is in every one of us. How, and in what fashion?
The Brahman and Atman one-two punch
On this, I like the Hindu teaching of Brahman and Atman. Brahman is the Supreme Being. In layman’s terms, he/it is the head honcho of the Universe. The One source of all consciousness.
Atman is the entity that is within all of us. I like to refer to the Atman as everybody’s tiny slice of God/Brahman. And we all have it. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that that little slice of God gets obscured by our egos, largely manifesting as thoughts. We mortals walk around all day thinking, thinking, thinking.
About what? Our weight. Our daughter barely acknowledging us on Father’s Day. The passive-aggressive comment your boss made just as you walked out the door for the weekend. Our too-long to-do list. And on and on.
And all the while, as we think, think, think those thoughts, that God-consciousness lurks, as Yogananda so eloquently says, behind those thoughts.
As another high being, Meher Baba, put it:
“Man minus mind equals God.”
We don’t have to quiet all of the mind. Just what I’d call the personal mind, aka, the ego.
We still use our brilliant minds to help us in myriad areas. From the complex, like writing a book, to the simple, like figuring out what we need from the grocery store.
The work of our lives
So the work of our lives is to still our minds of ruminative, useless, noisy thoughts. Why? So that the Atman/Soul/God that is always there can then come through us into the world.
What does that manifestation look like? There are zillions of examples, but I’ll give a few from my life.
Sometimes when playing tennis, I enter what many call “The Zone.” It’s a state where my mind shuts down. There are no thoughts. Just pure presence. When I’m in that state, I hit shots I never knew I was capable of hitting.
It was from this place that Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Chris Evert worked their genius. It’s God working from that place of no-thought.
Getting in the writing zone
Even in the work I’m doing now, I often look back on articles and have no recollection about writing them. I, in the iconic words of Nike, “Just do it.” Not a ton of thinking. Just getting into “The Zone,” and “doing it.”
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to write this stuff ten or twenty years ago. Why? That brings us to the “How do I still my thoughts so I can experience God coming through me,” part of this piece.
The reason is that I’ve done a lot of meditating and practicing mindfulness these past ten years. That work has gone a long way in helping to still my wacky, active mind.
So, yet again, the takeaway is this: If you want to still your mind, start practicing regular meditation and practicing mindfulness.
Those practices will help still the thoughts that block your tiny slice of God from shining through you.