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Transcend Where You Are

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

The other day I saw a quote on someone’s feed that said, “Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year that you are today.” This reminded me of the most famous, one-word lecture, by the great guru of my tradition, Guru Deva Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, “Nivar tatvam,” which translates to “Transcend where you are,” or in other words, “Go where you are not.” It may not seem so profound at first–“Go where I am not? Where am I and why shouldn’t I be there?”–but understanding it is key to self-realization.

The answer to, “what should I do?”

Most of us are living cycles of the ever-repeating-known. The same thoughts over and over again and then the same actions that spring from those thoughts. Thousands upon thousands of circling unfulfilled desires, guesses about the future, ruminations of the past. “Nivar tatvam” tells us it’s time to move on. Time to move into the unknown. Don’t just embrace change, seek it out.

If it’s good enough for the Universe…

If you want to know the answer to what the universe is up to, it can be summed up in one word–evolving. No matter what you’re into, you should be evolving too. What is true at the macro level is also true at the micro. Nature can be summed up as infinite cycles of creation leading to maintenance which then stagnates and calls in destruction which clears the way for creation again. Look around you. Everything you see is at some point of this cycle. Some cycles are short, like the life of a flea or the popularity of the “OK, Boomer” trend. And some cycles are a bit longer, like the seasons or the US being the leading world power. The entire universe itself is subject to evolution as well, it was created (the Big Bang), is maintained (where we’re at now) and then one day will be destroyed (returning to a singularity). If you’re not evolving, you are stagnating, which means something will come along (often uncomfortably) to push you to evolve.

How do I go where I am not?

So you want to break free of the ever-repeating known and evolve, but how do you do this? You may have guessed the answer (hint…it’s what I teach), but I will first talk about what keeps us from evolving in the first place. Most of us are filled to the brim with stored stresses which govern our behavior. They cause us to seek distractions, fear others, and zap our energy to adapt. They also keep us identifying with our individuality by pushing our awareness to the crest of the wave of the self as opposed to that greater ocean of Self. No deep change can happen when we’re here. Here the distorting filters of cultural conditioning are thickly opaque as well. Meditation purifies us of stored stress and brings our awareness to the ocean of Self where we can see things clearly and respond to demands creatively rather than repeating our former reactive behaviors.

Meditation is "Nivar Tatvam"

Meditation not only helps us to evolve, it is evolution. Another way to look at the grand movements of the Universe is to witness how everything is moving between Unity and Diversity (that’s why it’s called the Universe). When there’s too much unity, it goes to diversity and then back again. This is what we are doing in meditation. The practice is not just going deep, the practice is the alternating between going deep and coming to the surface. When we meditate, we are marinating in Unity, and then in the waking state, we are participating in the relative or realm of diversity. By going back and forth, we are stitching the two consciousness states together, allowing for more depth while in activity and more conscious awareness in the deepest of meditations. So ironically, the best way to "go where you are not," is to sit in one spot twenty minutes twice a day.


The girls going where they are not.


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