Many years ago, my husband and I spent three months traveling in a motor home across the western part of America. We gave lectures and classes on yoga and meditation, and it was a wonderful way to travel and teach.
The motor home had a small bedroom and kitchen. While David drove, I would make our meals in the kitchen.
One day I was making a sandwich in the kitchen. The road had lots of curves, and when David made a sharp turn, a heavy jar slid off the counter and fell on my foot.
It was very painful, and the instant I felt the pain, I had an irresistible urge to yell at David.
It was an automatic reaction. My subconscious mind told me that if I shouted at David, it would lessen the pain in my foot. “I have a pain, and if I make you hurt, my foot will hurt less.” What an peculiar delusion! And yet it’s very common.
Swami Kriyananda didn’t need anyone in the world to be different than they were. He had no stake in what we were like. He was never restless inside. He was perfectly content.
Swamiji had experienced a great deal of pain in his life – from illness, betrayal, and loss. And yet his only desire was to help others. In every situation, his only think was, “How can I help?”
Unfortunately, very often you can’t help people, because they don’t want to change. They’re determined to go on exactly as before.
For a time, there was an absolutely insufferable person who lived in our community. Swami Kriyananda’s response to this person was compassionate and mild. He said, “Yes, they do have an unfortunate manner about them.”
I loved that response – “Yes, he does have an unfortunate manner.” Because it put the man’s nature in proportion. He was a child of God and a sincere devotee, and he just happened to have an “unfortunate manner.”
One day, somebody came to me angrily complaining about this person. I said, “Here’s an idea. Let’s take them out into the center of the community, and let’s have an execution.”
Because, naturally, it would be lovely if this person would change, and naturally it’s annoying that they aren’t about to change. So the only thing I can think of is to kill them, and then we won’t have to deal with them anymore.
Sometimes you have to say something completely ridiculous, in order to lighten the mood and start thinking of a better solution. “Oh well, an execution isn’t appropriate, so let’s think of something else.”
If there’s no way to help the person, then you’ll have to adjust to the way things are. Which means that you’ll have to change yourself. It may mean that you need to separate yourself from them physically. But if you want to preserve your inner peace, you’ll ultimately have to do battle with your perfectly natural reactions and find a way to feel harmony with the one who’s bugging you.
Sometimes, of course, you have to stand strong. Swami Kriyananda wouldn’t allow himself to be bullied. Years ago, Swamiji was following a program of fresh juices. He had a certain regimen he wanted to follow, and to this day I have no idea why I did this, but I wanted him to follow a slightly different plan.
I explained to him why I thought his protocol was wrong. And he told me calmly and clearly that he wanted to follow the one he’d chosen.
I was making the juice for him one day, and I made it the way I wanted. It’s amazing how a stroke of complete idiocy can take over our brains! I put the juice on the table, and he knew what I had done. He didn’t touch it or look at it, nor did he say anything – no reaction at all.
He had tried to persuade me, and I had showed myself to be completely pig-headed. I wasn’t going to listen, nor was he going to give in.
It would have been completely inappropriate for him to let me bully him. If someone is trying to bully you, you don’t necessarily have to reason with him or argue. But you don’t have to weakly go along. Of course, ideally, you’ll remain calmly centered in yourself.
My friend Shraddha was dying of cancer. She was quite young, in her thirties. She had a fiery relationship with her father, Jake. Jake and Shraddha were both fiery characters, and even though there was lots of love between them, it came out in a very stormy way, with lots of shouting.
When Shraddha became ill, Jake was devastated, as any father would be. He came to the Ananda community to stay with her, and at one point my friends Paula, Susan, and I decided to go and see her. So we telephoned, and Jake answered.
Paula said, “Jake, we’d like to come see Shraddha.”
“Shraddha’s not feeling very well. She shouldn’t have any visitors!” And he slammed the phone down.
We talked it over and decided, “Shradda has spent a great deal of her life making sure that Jake can’t control her. Probably she would like to see us, whether Jake wants her to or not.”
So we decided to go. Fortunately, I had the good sense to stand in the background and let Paula speak for us. We knocked on the door, and Jake came out. And immediately he saw a way to pass his pain to us.
He shouted, “Why are you here? I told you not to come!”
Paula said, “Oh, Jake, we just had to come.”
Jake yelled at her again.
“Oh, Jake, we just had to come.”
They did it three times. Then Jake said, “All right, but don’t stay very long.”
Paula was as sweet as a rasgulla. You know how you squeeze a rasgulla and the sugar pours out? Now, if I had knocked on the door, Jake would have had somebody to fight with, and we would never have gotten into the house. But Paula behaved perfectly. “I’m sorry Jake, but you don’t control me or your daughter anymore. We’re here, and we belong in this house.”
Why would she fight with him? There was nothing he wanted to learn from her. But Paula, besides being completely sweet, was very tough-minded, and she stood firm in her center and did exactly what had to be done. And in a strange way, it opened the door because it was completely the right thing.
Try to live more in your own strong center within. A tremendous help for developing this skill is meditation, which gives you the experience that your sole reality is at your inner center. Meditation will help you develop the power, as Yogananda put it, “to stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.”
Don’t let the world push you around – as it will, if you are always reacting to it. As you give yourself more to God, you’ll find that His love and bliss are completely all-sufficing, and you won’t care what comes or how people treat you.