"To be happy, one should be in tune with 'The Creator'." Thus wrote Paramahansa Yogananda in 1982, commenting in his Spiritual Diary on the topic of happiness.
I felt great happiness one still, dark, windless-night in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, on the southern point of Africa. Seeing the Milky Way clearly-it felt as if I could pluck the thousands of twinkling stars by hand, so close they seemed-left me almost ecstatic. There must be something bigger than I am looking after this blue planet. So I would like to rephrase the above: to be in tune with the absolute, irreducible Source of All Existence brings great happiness.
"In tune"-two such lovely, light English words! They make me think of my mother's favourite piece of music, the "In the Mood", the song made famous by Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters. It's such a great classic to dance to, because it is so rhythmic.
But what would we want to be in tune with? Depending on what we're tuning into, we create a totally different "mood". If we're trying to stay current, we could say one should be in tune with technology. Not only is technology ruling our lives; it is really hard to keep up with! But it is also mechanical and dead: technology has no soul. To be in tune with something should make one feel alive, to want to sing.
To be in tune with animals creates a good feeling: one of happiness, and also of delight. I was once privileged to see a documentary called The Animal Communicator. This South African-made movie features Cape Town local Anna Breytenbach, whose gift enables her to communicate with animals. Some amazing footage demonstrated how thoroughly she was in tune with those animals!
A story that particularly impressed me was that of a beautiful black panther, owned by ex-policeman Jury Ohlson and his wife, Karen. Jury could do nothing with this awesome big cat, which he had named Diablo. The animal merely snarled at him and refused to emerge from his night shelter. Mr Ohlson was sceptical that an animal communicator could be of any help, but he was persuaded to give it a try.
Anna went straight to the panther's enclosure and began immediately to communicate with him. The panther expressed concern about two leopard cubs, his neighbours at the time he was removed from his previous home in a European zoo. What had happened to them? Then he told Anna that he did not want to be called Diablo, a name associated with the dark and devilish. He wanted to be renamed.
These revelations took the Ohlsons totally by surprise. They told Anna the leopard cubs were fine; they were actually in their care as well. Taking note of the panther's request for a different name, they decided on Spirit. That afternoon, for the first time in six months, the panther came out of his den and seemed restful and at peace. The reaction of his carer, the policeman, was heartrending. Jury wept, insisting that he had never believed such a thing was possible.
So not only did Anna change the life of this beautiful black cat; the Ohlsons have now taken her course in animal communication, and revel in their newly acquired skills. To be in tune with animals is a lovely gift!
Tuning in to Your Body
Natalia Baker, a Cape Town metaphysical teacher, has spoken of the innate wisdom of the body. She maintains that one should listen to the body, for it is much wiser than the mind. The mind, she says, has been programmed and thus cannot perceive the real truth. If this is so, we should strive to be in tune with our bodies, so as to make use of this essential tool. Being in tune with one's body can surely produce a state that would make one sing. In this state, one would be able to read the truth intuitively.
Chi kung is an ancient Chinese exercise system that works with the flows of energy in both body and mind. I am an avid follower of the chi kung way of life, which encourages me to be in tune with my body, breath, and mind. I cannot speak too highly of this exquisite art of being. It brings tremendous health benefits-improving digestion, promoting circulation, and preventing illnesses, to name but a few.
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1966-76, numerous chi kung practitioners were thrown in jail. The practice was actually illegal in China until the early 1980's. As recently as September 1999, the Chinese health ministry issued laws restricting all forms of chi kung. Why? Because chi kung promotes independent thinking! In the new world we are creating now, may independent thinking be welcomed and embraced.
To be in tune with one's body would require feeding it the right nutrients. The June 2014 edition of Time magazine featured a most revealing article, claiming that eating fat is good for the body: one should eat butter, cream, and so on. This contradicts virtually all the previous literature on nutrition. As it happens, this is exactly what Dr Tim Noakes of Cape Town's Sport Science Institute has been advocating for years. He is South Africa's foremost proponent of the high-fat, low-carbohydrate Banting diet.
My own view is that even here, one should really just listen to the body. What does it need? It was heartening to note that the Time article concluded with the observation that "how we eat ... matters as much as what we eat". To enjoy food with friends and family in a relaxed atmosphere could probably mean more to our eventual health than what is on our plates!
Patrick San Francesco from Goa, an enlightened being from India, claims that there is no specifically spiritual diet. You can eat whatever you like; no need to be a vegetarian to be spiritual! This accords with my view that one should follow the innate wisdom of one's body, and eat what is required for one's unique setup.
Standing Together for Our Future
In Elizabeth Gilbert's well-written novel The Signature of All Things, she makes a strong case for the evolutionary nature of our universe. Only the strongest species will survive. It makes sense to me that only the strongest and fittest among us will eventually make it through the massive changes our planet is going through.
At a recent Sufi service I learned that the founder of the Universal Sufi Movement, Hazrat Inayat Kahn, predicted the future of the world back in the 1920's. Everything would eventually be harmonious, he told his followers; there will be great joy and peace on earth. People will tolerate each other's beliefs, rather than going to war over them. This seems an unlikely prophecy at the moment, but by holding this in our collective consciousness, we might just be able to turn the status quo around. We are certainly at a crossroads; we can all stand together and create a new civilization in which all are free and in which social justice reigns, or we can continue to be divided and so probably see the end of life on this planet.
This may sound like an overwhelming task, but it begins with simply working hard to improve our lives and those of our dependants. This is one of the ways we can bring ourselves in tune with life. Approaching life from this perspective, you realize that you are the one making the choices; you are the one that steers the boat. The famous line by poet William Ernest Henley comes to mind: "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. This remains true whether the seas are rough or calm. It's all part of the precious journey called life!
So my wish for you is that you are in tune with your body, your mind, and your breath, as well as with animals. May you also be in tune with Mother Earth and appreciate her vast beauty all around us. May you be so in tune, in fact, that you surrender all of life to a Higher Power, the irreducible Source of all Existence that is in every breath we take. Then we can all reap the happiness we deserve in this wonderful place.
- Yogananda, Sri Sri Paramahansa. 1982. Spiritual Diary: An Inspirational Thought for Each Day.
- Hawkins, D. R. 2011. Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self.
- Cohen, Ken. 2005. The Essential Qigong Training Guide: Strong as the Mountain, Supple as Water.
- The Animal Communicator. DVD. 2014. Produced by Swati Thiyagarajan.
- Walsh, Bryan. June 23, 2014. Time. "Don't Blame Fat."
- Gilbert, Elizabeth. 2013. The Signature of All Things.
Dr. Sibis Mouton is a practising behavioural kinesiologist and former world champion in the Ironman distance competition. She facilitates the ZEST4LIFE courses in Cape Town, South Africa; at Quest in Devon, England; and on Mahe Island in the Seychelles. For more information, visit www.zest4life.co.za or email email@example.com