Satsang 8: Self-Doubt, the Comfort Zone, and Petty Tyrants

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“No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly.

When we know this, we become free.”


Notes on the Satsang with Sahajananda

Watch the satsang here. Find notes from all of Sahaja’s satsangs here.


The following notes are offered to support your understanding of the satsang Sahajananda presented on June 8, 2020. This satsang is the eighth in a series of ten talks which together make up a program called Inner Non-Violent Revolution: A Free Online Course on Self-Awareness.

Note that this is not a transcript and should not be seen as an alternative to viewing the satsang itself (available here). If you don’t watch the satsang, you will likely miss the context for the ideas presented here and will therefore not grasp their subtleties. And, as importantly, you will miss Sahaja’s transmission. The word satsang comes from the Sanskrit words sat (“truth”) and sangha (“association”) and refers to “associating with truth,” or “being in the company of the wise.” By being in Sahaja’s company via watching the video of the satsang, you will be receiving the teachings directly from him and you may understand them on a deeper level.

“There is nothing critical, there is nothing urgent, except Self-Awareness.”


Spiritual Centeredness and Psychological Flexibility

Question: What about making a decision that might bring a lot of suffering?
Answer: The deeper question is about deciding, essentially, who we are.

We can act from a place of the reactive ego world or act as conscious human beings. But, to emphasize waking up, knowing who we are, doesn’t mean that we ignore the whole process of decision taking.

“Love… and do what you like.” –Saint Augustine.

  • The point is that from such a position, we are no longer acting with hate and blindness. Again, the limited, doubting mind would say that this means that we are not free to do absolutely everything.
  • Nevertheless, the freedom of a sage is a coherent truth, an intimate and loving vision of life, not an absurd exploration of any possibility, as the doubting mind would think.
  • And this freedom is not rigid, it includes even the freedom to make mistakes.
  • “Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Responsible means to be in charge of ourselves. We can only really be in charge when we are Self-Aware.

Me. Here. Now!

First ask: Who is actually making such a decision? Find that trust in yourself, the Heart.

The Main Doubt—Self-Doubt

  • The difficulty of making decisions happens because we frequently have doubts, confusion, hesitations.
  • But we have doubts because we live in doubt.
  • It is our habit to constantly mentally explore one option and then the opposite one, because we are paralyzed in a more basic doubt.
  • We are doubting ourselves.
  • Whenever we feel that somehow life is not fully flowing in us, we feel that we are not deeply fulfilled. There is a sense of inadequacy, with ourselves, with the world. We feel that there is something dysfunctional inside. We feel that life is overwhelming, and it is often hard to cope with the countless challenges of life.
  • We notice that our mind, psyche, and body lack a sense of balance, Center, that they are not totally coherent and harmonized.
  • When the moment to make a decision comes, this inner self-doubt is also there in a subtle way, haunting us. It gives us the illusion and hope that a decision regarding something outside will finally change that uneasiness that is happening inside.
  • So, we project this inner burden and fundamental doubt about ourselves to all the choices we make.
  • This is why the decisions we have to make seem often hard and very serious. Consequently, we are afraid of the responsibility of making decisions.
  • Hridaya Meditation teaches us, silently, in a subtle, gradual, intimate way, a new kind of instinct, how to synchronize the mind, psyche, and body with the Silent Center, the core of our being. And this echoes in the rest of life as well.
  • By letting the process unfold, by trusting in ourselves, by looking for synchronicities and coherence within our lives, the decision unfolds naturally.
  • The only way to be totally at peace with ourselves is to open our hearts. Rooted in the Heart, we start to feel at ease (and actually it is much more than feeling at ease) and any choice is easy since it happens in a space of detachment and surrender.
  • Then, even by this very act of making choices, making important decisions, we can still remember who we really are. And thus, maybe for the first time, we genuinely fall in love with ourselves.

Meditation Practice

  1. Close your eyes, keep your back straight.
  2. Center the awareness in your heart.
  3. Open your heart (you can think of somebody you love)… and feel an inner sense of balance… which naturally harmonizes your energies.
  4. By being rooted in the Heart, feel how life starts flowing more easily in you, how the body and mind start functioning together in harmony.
    You are relaxed, at peace in the body and mind… Feel how Now, in this state, you are not doubting yourself, you feel more intimate with the world and yourself… There is an unconditional inner trust, with no specific object…
    A trust in yourself, in life, in existence.
  5. Gently open the eyes, keeping the awareness of the Heart, Centeredness.

This simple meditation can give us a taste of how we can practice trust and freedom from doubts, because if we want to have freedom it is not enough to make protests and clamor for it, but to practice it, by being Self-Aware, Centered. This is true for Freedom, Love, Serenity.

Actual freedom is always divine, which means it is rooted in the Heart. Try to feel it now, this freedom…

“No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly. When we know this, we become free.”  –Buddha

About the Comfort Zone

Now, we’ll speak about the importance of going out of the “Yes,” of the comfort zone, while keeping the inner Center.

  • First of all, it would be good to fully understand the difference between living in the comfort zone and being in the real Center, the Heart.
  • The comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel at ease, familiar. It is a bubble, a kind of fairy tale world in which we hope to live surrounded by all the things we like, therefore the things to which we say a big “Yes.”
  • There, we try as much as possible to exclude the world of unpleasant things, the “No,” the other pole of the swing. It is a way of saying no to our insecurity, inadequacy, and vulnerability.
  • It has a big power of fascination, because there we access everything we like. And thus, we often feel empowered at the psychological level by having some control and favorable conditions to express ourselves. And, this is not something bad in itself.
  • We may want to have comfort food, like French fries or pizza, and this is okay, as long as we don’t identify and get stuck in the domain of just looking for what we like, the constant “Yes.” (At least this is the Tantric perspective; the ascetic one would require us to give up all such pleasant sensations.)
  • The problem comes when we get trapped in one extreme of the swing (in the identification with the denial or with what we like). The need to go out of our comfort zone and know the center comes exactly from the necessity to integrate both “Yes” and “No.”
  • Our comfort zone is a cozy place, but remains a spot of stagnation, an extreme of the swing, where we are stuck in a “Yes,” attached to what we like, to our old life values, and all such energies are like an inertial subconscious force that gives power and magnitude to our ego. This pleasant place is a place of forgetfulness—we forget how much we doubt ourselves—existentially.
  • We can even observe that unless we are really vigilant, almost everyone has a constant tendency to fall into the comfort zone. Even some gurus fall into this when they get to a certain status. The problem is that in that place everything we experience is about cherishing our ego, because there the ego is the only reference point we have.
  • The comfort zone is the paradigm (the pattern) of the ego.
  • There we feel good, at ease, but we cannot be in wonderment. Real Love takes us from the comfort zone in a deeper reality which may be scary, may seem like uncharted territory for us.
  • If we clearly understand the difference between the comfort zone and centeredness, we realize when there is a need for vigilance, Self-Awareness.
  • In the beginning, it may help if we whisper to ourselves: “The Quiet Center, the Still Center, the Love Center…” Or, “I am.”
  • We don’t need to cut out or deny all that we like. When we are really in the Heart, in the Center, then by saying “Yes” to what we like, we just expand the sense of Centeredness, we expand our consciousness, not our ego.
  • Therefore, it is not about broadening the comfort zone but expanding the sense of Centeredness. We start acting, thinking by having our reference point not be the comfort zone and the cherished ego, but a deeper sense of ourselves, an unconditional honesty with reality, with ourselves.
  • The beauty is that further, by going out of the bubble of the comfort zone, we don’t need to remain in constant challenge or stress. What used to be unfamiliar and threatening now becomes natural.
  • To put it in a different way, it is as if we have expanded our comfort zone in an absolute way. When everything and everywhere feels at home.

The Role of Petty Tyrants for Our Comfort Zone

  • Who are these petty tyrants? A tyrant is a person who uses power or control in a cruel and capricious way. We have countless examples in the history of humanity.
  • The notion of the petty tyrant applies to those bullies we meet in life who tend to intimidate or persecute us.
  • First the all, it is important to observe that what we are studying here, deliberately taking the opposite viewpoint as well as welcoming the petty tyrants into our lives means not allowing life to be, as usual, just a place of reactivity in which things happen to us, but a kind of continuous, new, experimental place of investigation and learning.
  • When we are willingly open to meeting adversities in life, an important step in waking up happens, because we are not in a fight with the world anymore, but in a conscious exploration.
  • Therefore, the idea is that we are not trying here to offer solutions on how to deal with challenges or so-called adversities in life. We just learn new paralogical strategies (of “Yes and No together”), how to consciously explore these aspects of life, how to bring new fascinating perspectives to our understanding. We find out how they can point to Self-Awareness.
  • The understanding of this aspect is very important. Otherwise, we are acting from the same place of samsara, as victims (egos) looking for some miraculous solution.
  • We need challenges to bring maturity and ripen our trust in ourselves, which will naturally change our behavior.
  • The insightful notion of the “petty tyrant” is described by Don Juan to Carlos Castaneda (in The Fire from Within). When Castaneda argued, following the common idea that tyrants can only make their victims helpless or make them as brutal as they themselves are, Don Juan responded: “The difference is in something you just said. They are victims, not warriors.”
    Our choice is always: do we react as victims or respond as spiritual warriors? (Of course, the use of “warrior” is metaphorical. This is not about a common fight, not even about a need for control, but Centeredness, Awareness).
  • As a victim, we go further into the swing. As a conscious being, we constantly move towards the Center. So, it is about the vector, the tendency. You may not be in the Center, but you aspire to go in that direction.
  • A petty tyrant has power over us because we accept it. Through our fears or sense of defeat, we are empowering them.
  • Buddhist Story: I am the one who can be beheaded without blinking.
  • To empower something or someone essentially means to allow it to become a center for us. In meditation, we can observe how some obsessive thoughts, bodily painful sensations, or memories become our petty tyrants. We identify with them and accept their tyranny because we don’t know another way.
  • This does not happen only in meditation, but also in our whole life. Believing and accepting that power imposed on us brings a lack of balance in ourselves, takes us from the real Center. But Self-Awareness shows us, gives us the trust that there is another way.
  • Indeed, we can extend the concept of petty tyrants to anything that stresses us. At the beginning of the pandemic, when fear was growing, I repeated again and again:

“Be part of the solution, not of the problem.” To be part of the problem means to be the victim. To be a part of the solution means to go consciously in the direction of Self-Awareness, the Center.

  • When we take (not just play) the role of the victim, everything can become a petty tyrant for us, even our cat—asking for food, meowing too much, etc.
  • Again, we need to understand very clearly what I’m speaking about. What does it mean to go consciously in the direction of the Center, in spite of adversities? It means to emphasize and trust the Present Moment, the Center, not the story.
  • Of course, this doesn’t imply that we ignore or repress the situation, it simply means that we are embracing it, as a fact, from Self-Awareness. In this way, the story is stripped of its drama, personal interpretation, and reactivity.
  • There is a need to train for this—we can take it as an ongoing experiment.

Being able to make a sort of scientific experiment with our psyche means to be free from the narrative, the dream in which we are usually lost. But, it is not just scientific, because such exploration involves always Love.

  • The solution suggested by Don Juan was to smile: “With that moment of awareness, warriors can honor the stress the petty tyrant provides and remain curious about learning. They can be thankful for how lucky they are to have petty tyrants in their lives.”
  • But this means that we are already in that zooming out position (a recollection of ourselves). We are not fighting the situation. With awareness, we observe what is happening: the situation, the play of emotions, the unpleasant sensations, everything.
  • Chogyam Trungpa—“The role of the guru is to insult you.”
    We move away from our set agenda, programs, routines, beliefs—otherwise, we just like to pretend to be spiritual…
  • Even though my Romanian yoga master was not a realized being, I am very grateful because he fulfilled this role of crashing egos very well.
  • Gurdjieff, who was sometimes called the “rascal sage,” had a very difficult person in his sangha who would trigger everyone else. A good ingredient. We also have such a person in Longeval… A very good master.
  • Xantipa, the wife of Socrates—This was a constant training for him, looking to be taken out from any possible comfort zone, the land of constant “Yes” to little pleasures. But, Life, in its majesty, is not really so.
  • “When the restrictions you have do not limit you, this is what we mean by practice.” ­–Shunryu Suzuki

Meditation Practice

Let’s do a short meditation in which we being to understand how we can learn from the adversities and petty tyrants we meet in life.

  1. Close your eyes. Keep your back straight.
  2. Bring your awareness to the middle of the chest, a little to the right.
  3. Evoke the image of a person you really love, your mother or your lover, and feel how your heart starts becoming more and more open. Experience a sense of warmth, enthusiasm, and honesty of the Heart and feel very aware of it.
  4. Now, evoke the image of a person you don’t like, who created some wounds that are still open. Be very present and aware of all what is happening in your heart, a sense of contraction, pain, alienation.
  5. Try to witness these sensations in full equanimity.
  6. Now, again evoke the image of your lover, feeling the release and warmth that the openness of the heart brings.
  7. Now, while keeping the image of your lover, again bring up the image of the person you don’t like, learning how to keep your heart open, to prevent a reactive closure.

In this way, we acknowledge, we learn how we can be in the presence of petty tyrants or adversities while still keeping our hearts wide open. This is exactly the proper attitude, that Centeredness we are referring to, from which we will learn the freedom of witnessing in Self-Awareness.

Exactly as we train our muscles in order to have a harmonious and functional body, we need to learn to train this kind of sui generis subtle muscle of the heart, in order to keep it open all the time.

Keeping the heart open is the best indication of being really present, awake.

In the ancient Chinese vision, related to the Book of Changes, the I Ching, the word “success” is represented by an image from nature: “The clouds pass, and the rain does its work, and all individual beings flow into their forms.”

Contemplation on these natural events points the way to success, which lies in understanding and honoring the Tao, the way of the Cosmos, the way of zooming out, the way of the Center.

Concluding Thought

“…and don’t believe that some kind of blessing from the outside can change your life: that is TOTALLY wrong! Buddha made it very clear, you are your own Master. Your future entirely depends on yourself.”

All Satsang Notes