Out of the Rabbit Hole
Before the amazing August 2023 retreat and intensive, I contemplated writing my upcoming blog about: What characterizes my rabbit holes (that which leads me away from God)? How do I get there? By ‘chance’,....View Now
Off to the Races!
by Kambra McConnel
Listen to audio version of this article.
Sat Chit Ananda Guru Ki Jay
This year, I tuned in to watch the Kentucky Derby on television. Mundanely speaking, I know very little about horses, yet I have always loved to observe their beauty, strength, and intelligence, and I especially feel a sense of awe when I see them run. When I occasionally watch a horse race, I usually try to learn a little bit about each horse and jockey so that I can choose a few to cheer on.
But this year, I made an effort to observe the Grand Play of the Kentucky Derby with no awareness about any horse or jockey whatsoever, and with no attachment to the life story of one horse or jockey over another.
This time, they all lined up at the starting gate on the same level playing field for me, so to speak. And I approached it this way because I was engaged in the process of preparing a Talk on the topic of Improved Mental State – the second of Sadguru Kedarji’s Four Pillars of Joy in Daily Living.
As I paused to take a brief break in the midst of performing the selfless service of preparing this Talk, I was inwardly reminded that in order to directly experience who we really are—our True Nature of Love, Peace, Joy…the Self—it is necessary to have an Improved Mental State.
And I also was reminded that it is only by the unwavering leadership of Sadguru Kedarji that I can understand and directly experience my True Nature.
As Sadguru Kedarji utters, an Improved Mental State is a mind that functions sharply and optimally—it is quiet and content. An Improved Mental State is a mind that is not restless. It is a silent mind. And a restless mind is the hallmark of a poor mental state.”
Sadguru Kedarji goes on to say that “the mind is not the brain. The brain is a body part. The mind is an energy of Consciousness…which means that the mind is above the brain. The mind is the parent of the brain. We refer to it as ‘The energy of the mind.’ The mind, which has great power over us, has that power because it is, itself, an energy of Consciousness.”
Among all of Sadguru Kedarji’s Four Pillars of Joy in Daily Living (The Spiritual Power, Improved Mental State, Emotional Resilience, and Vibrant Health), an Improved Mental State intricately relates to each one of the other pillars. However, The Spiritual Power is what ultimately fuels all of the Pillars—especially an Improved Mental State.
As Sadguru Kedarji utters, The Spiritual Power is an “energy substratum of our existence, or a Divine Conscious Energy. We are all energetic beings, and the one thing we can all agree on is that we need power. Nothing can function without power.” So we cultivate The Spiritual Power to remember the Truth of who we really are—Love, Peace, Joy.
Therefore, while a restless mind—a Poor Mental State—can erode our experience of all of the Pillars, an Improved Mental State that is fueled by The Spiritual Power can fortify our experience of all of the Pillars—and lead us to victory over the mental “traffic” of useless thinking, habits and tendencies, such as fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, frustration, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, and depression.
I held these highest understandings in my awareness as I watched the horses line up in the starting gate for the 148th Kentucky Derby.
My mind quieted and I felt calm, despite the excitement building around the race.
My mind easily could have become restless due to the heightening drama, but I had been in the midst of performing selfless service and performing japa (mantra repetition), both of which are methods instructed in our approach that help me to quiet my mind.
So, in that moment, I experienced both an Improved Mental State and Emotional Resilience, which we define in our approach as “the ability to express the full spectrum of emotions from a state of delight, meaning that no matter what situations or circumstances you may find yourself in, you never suppress your full spectrum of emotions or your humanity, and you also never become entangled in them.”
And then the race began! The starting gun went off, and the horses bolted from the gates.
I observed the horses as if I was observing a metaphor for the energy of my mind.
The horses wove in and out of the pack…there goes one, here comes another.
Just like the mind: so many thoughts and impressions weaving in and out…there goes one, here comes another. As one recedes, another one emerges and blazes forth.
I felt an awareness of what happens when the energy of my mind attaches to a particular mundane thought: I become so focused on that thought that it preoccupies my mind, and I lose sight of the big picture. I become like the racehorses, who wear special blinders that restrict their field of vision. My Improved Mental State becomes a restless mind.
But when I practice japa or Dharanas as instructed in our approach…instead, I can instantly experience my True Nature of Love, Peace and Joy, no matter what occurs around me.
And I can step into my “upper story” and easily witness where my mind goes. And then, I can observe what is actually taking place, just like the commentators who report the activity of the race.
Now, what made this race particularly interesting was a horse named Rich Strike, who was a last-minute entry and an 80-1 longshot. In 2 minutes and 2.61 seconds, Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby with a come-from-behind rally—he is the second-biggest longshot in history to win this mile-and-a-quarter race.
And it was truly awesome to observe Rich Strike’s effort throughout the race. He began in one of the outer starting gates, and he began at the back of the pack. His jockey skillfully wove him in and out of the field of horses…in and out of the “traffic,” as the jockey described it…which instantly reminded me of the “traffic” that I feel when my mind gets restless.
Yet even in the midst of this mundane race-time excitement, as I repeated my mantra again and again, I experienced more calm and content. My mind remained quiet. I continued to experience an Improved Mental State, whereas I could have quickly experienced a restless mind and a lack of Emotional Resilience if I had allowed my mind to attach to the dramatic turn of events.
This allowed me to further observe that Rich Strike’s jockey served as a great metaphor for Sadguru Kedarji and the necessity for strong spiritual leadership.
The jockey led Rich Strike into open spaces away from the “traffic,” and the “traffic” created by the crowding of the other horses simply faded away and dissolved as Rich Strike advanced.
To me, this felt just like how an authentic Sadguru instructs us in practices that give rise to the “open space” of an Improved Mental State—a calm, quiet mind—and leads us in reaching for and holding the highest understandings that help us grow spiritually.
Just like the jockey who can see far down the track when the horse cannot, an authentic Sadguru can see where we are headed based on our mental conditioning, our mental state in the present moment, and the level of our engagement in spiritual practices.
And just like the rest of the horses in the Kentucky Derby who could not keep up with Rich Strike, a restless mind cannot compete when we engage the highest understandings and spiritual practices—an Improved Mental State lets go of useless thinking and distractions, and they simply fade away.
Finally, just like a jockey expertly harnesses a racehorse until it is ready to advance, an authentic Sadguru helps us to swiftly harness distracting, useless thoughts that may feel like they strike our minds out of nowhere, so that we can reach higher for an Improved Mental State.
And then, we can glide to victory over fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, frustration, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, and depression.
We can end our spiritual seeking and experience the “trifecta” of our True Nature—Love, Peace and Joy—instead of getting stuck going round and round in circles, like horses running in an unfinished race around a racetrack.
So, I now remember the story of Rich Strike in order to remember how to strike it rich – with the many treasures that Sadguru Kedarji and our gem of a path, Nityananda Shaktipat Yoga, have to offer.
Om Guru Om!
Kambra McConnel is the Treasurer of The Bhakta School of Transformation. She sits on our Board of Directors and also volunteers as a certified staff teacher and program leader for Nityananda Shaktipat Yoga.