by Julia Howe: Namaste, Holy Beings! This marks the first of many regular, monthly blog posts.  For the past ten years I’ve been inspired, motivated, intrigued, and encouraged by the universal Jivamukti Focus of the Month.  Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life (the co-founders of Jivamukti Yoga), the F.O.M. is a beautiful and potent tool we can use to give our practice deeper intention and meaning.  It’s great to discuss briefly in class, but I want to take that discussion beyond the yoga studio.  These blog posts will be my informal musings on the F.O.M. and it’s my hope that you all will read it and contribute with your own understanding of the focus, ask questions, etc.  We’re all students in this world, so let’s explore these grandiose and often esoteric ideas together.

vitarka-badhane prati-paksha bhavanam (PYS II.33) 

When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think of the opposite.


The focus for the month of August is: Love Everybody and Tell the Truth. When I first read this, I thought to myself , “Oh, well that’s easy.”  A couple minutes later I read the now infamous news story of the Newport man who crushed 8 police cars with a giant tractor.  I read the entire article and fixed my gaze on the photo of the perpetrator.  Needless to say, some sarcastic and un-loving thoughts toward this man filled my mind.  Then I caught myself, “Wait!  Love everybody?”  That means I need to love the soul that found driving over those cop cars with a massive tractor a justified act.  That means I need to love politicians, factory farmers, and criminals–I need to love the souls who have committed severe and atrocious acts. In my mind, at that moment, the truth was that I couldn’t identify with these people, did not respect their choices or how their actions affected others, and therefore did not love them.I’m going to share with you some words from Ram Dass.  In this account, he talks about his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and the same teaching we’re discussing here:


“From the moment I met Neem Karoli Baba, who we affectionately call “Maharaji,” in 1967, I felt a kind of love and acceptance I had never previously experienced.  He seemed to know everything about me.  He knew my past and he knew my thoughts, intimately.  Yet he loved me unconditionally.  I resolved to stay with him as long as possible.
I returned to America in 1968. When I went back to India in 1971, a sizeable group of young Westerners followed me.  To my eventual chagrin, they wound up taking much of Maharaji’s time and energy which I had hoped would be available to me.

I began to get agitated.  Eventually, I became angry.  Who were all these interlopers, and what were they doing invading the precious space I had previously shared with “my” guru?  I began to resent them all, one by one.  Eventually I came to dislike every one of them.

One day, after walking eight miles alone to the temple, I was particularly irritated. When I arrived, I became enraged.  Seeing all these young Westerners sitting around, obviously enjoying their time with Maharaji was more than I could bear.  One sweet young fellow came up and lovingly offered me a plate of food.  I was so angry, I threw it in his face.  Maharaji was sitting across the courtyard, watching this scene from a distance.  He immediately called out, “Ram Dass! Ram Dass!” in a piercing, high-pitched yell.

As I walked over and sat down, Maharaji looked deeply into my eyes and said, “Is something troubling you?”

I said, “Maharaji, I hate everyone but you.”

He seemed unperturbed, but looked at me more intently.  “Didn’t I tell you to love everyone?” he asked.

“Yes, but you also told me to tell the truth.  And the truth is I don’t love everyone.”  I began to weep.

Maharaji leaned forward, moving his face closer and closer to mine, he said, “Love everyone and tell the truth.”

What he was saying to me in that moment was, “When you give up being who you think you are, this is who you will become.” In other words, “When you finish being your ego, you will be Soul.”  And the Soul is Love.” -Ram Dass

That “truth” that Ram Dass had discovered (that he didn’t love everyone) is actually the lie.  It is the greatest lie of all; the one that keeps us from our own enlightenment.  The more we allow ourselves to latch onto those thoughts of judgement, anger, sadness, or irritation toward others, the more isolated we become.  Our physiology — endocrine system, nervous system, etc.– responds to our experience.  A large part of our experience is our thoughts.  Negative thoughts can be addicting because, in a way, they make us feel alive.  Our blood gets pumping, the heart rate may increase, adrenaline is released; we feel empowered.  Psychologically though, those negative thoughts only validate our false sense of separation. The more we feed into those negative thoughts, the more we perpetuate the lie–the lie that we are all separate.  In identifying with negative or disturbing thoughts, we drift further and further from the ultimate goal of realization of oneness. We don’t want that, right?

So, before we can truly love everybody, we first need to internalize the truth that we’re all one.  How do we work toward that? You’ll notice PYS II.33 above.  “When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think the opposite.” Yoga is kind of a “fake it ’til you make it” school of philosophy.  And guess what?  It works!

So next time you’re annoying or angered by someone or something, instead of latching onto the “I am annoyed” or “I am angry” vibe, try to see the person as a reflection of yourself.  Even though it may be challenging or feel silly at the time, think the opposite: “I’m learning so much from this, I love this person.”  “This person is revealing to me a part of myself I rarely care to visit.  Thank you.”

The more and more we shift from disturbing, low vibration thoughts to helpful, high vibration thoughts, the close we get to the Truth.  And once that perceived barrier of separation has dissolved, we begin to see ourselves in others.  We begin to see that, just like us, everybody wants the same thing: love.  In the words of Sharon Gannon, “To start to see yourself in others cultivates positive emotions like friendliness and compassion. This will lead to tolerance and the ability to recognize commonality rather than differences, which will bring you to love-the experience of connection. Love will bring us to the real truth-the real truth that we are One.”