Clear mind is like the full moon in the sky. Sometimes clouds come and cover it, but the moon is always behind them. Clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don't worry about clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes and goes, comes and goes. You must not be attached to the coming or the going. - Seung Sahn
India can be so intense, like being on the mat: you can't run away from what's inside OR outside of you. This week I sucked it up, bit the bullet, and did not run away from a heartbreaking place.
I went to an animal "shelter" in Mysore with a small group of yogi volunteers.
It may be natural to avoid what pains us. I know there is suffering in the world, but because it makes my heart ache, and because I feel helpless to affect change, I have always turned away from such things, certain that my heart and emotions would break. Sure, I sign internet petitions and even march for what (I believe) is right, but rarely have I looked at suffering directly.
When we entered the enclosure of People for Animals, we were greeted with great excitement and enthusiasm by a horde of happy dogs, eager for attention - to play and be petted. These dogs, about 50 of them, were normal in every way except most of them had only 3 legs. No one told them they were handicapped!
Then I moved on to the cats which is where the heartache began.
I had planned here to write descriptions of the horrendous and painful afflictions some of the less fortunate cats, dogs, and birds are enduring. But I can't.
Well, one dog jolted me to the core.
I walked back to where the cats and some of the sick, chained and/or isolated (by necessity) animals were. During the time I spent in the cat enclosure, there was a caged, wailing dog nearby. Walking past him without really looking, I returned to my 3 legged friends and then circled back to the cats. Still the dog wailed. This time I noted a horrific, gaping wound on his underbelly. He was in great pain. I was told that the vet would operate on his cancer the next day.
By Western standards the conditions are not good, but the vet and the organization do the best they can, and animals do get adopted. This week I will bring treats for dogs and cats, paper to wad up into balls for the cats (who are able) to play, and some fabric to make chew or throw toys for the dogs.
This visit was something I never thought I could do. Yes, I wept a few times and yes, I survived. And I like to think that if I did not turn away from this, I will not turn away from scary, unpleasant, difficult energies - physical or otherwise - present in myself and others. Can I remain steady when facing anger, hate, ugliness, pain and suffering in myself and others?
Can I accept truth (without the lens, prism, prison?of my ego) -- in whatever form it may take?
The initial work of yoga, therefore is to carefully observe your mind as you begin to stretch out the breath...as the whole spectrum of a mind-created heaven and hell unfold in actual meditation practice. By learning to stay attentive and focused within these aspects of yoga, you discover the true work is fervent passionate inquiry into the present moment, into what is actually arising, as it arises.
- Richard Freeman, The Mirror of Yoga