Q: I have heard you say that the Himalayan Tradition emphasizes “living in the world” and “overcoming pain and misery.” You have also said that this tradition is about finding freedom and fulfillment while living in the world. I live in New York City and the whole city is filled with fear and anxiety. How can I live without being affected by this pervasive fear and anxiety?

A: This is not a problem for New Yorkers alone. There are many, many cities, countries, and communities that are filled with fear, pain, and anxiety, and the reason is very clear: we, as individuals, are filled with fear and anxiety. New York City is not just a concrete jungle. New York City is made of people who live there. If there is fear and anxiety in human minds and hearts, of course it will pervade the entire community.

There are times in history when a qualitative change in our politics, our society, our world of business is vitally necessary. But we also need to understand that any real change in our world—whether we live in Tokyo, Rwanda, New York, or any inner city, suburb, or rural area of America—will only occur when we, as individuals, are healed and empowered within. For that, the Himalayan Tradition emphasizes discovering the tools and means that can help us become healthier, happier, and more stable; tools and means that can help us acquire a clear, calm, and tranquil mind; tools and means that can help us gather the courage to reflect on ourselves and the very source of fear and anxiety.

What can we do to start to eradicate the pain, anxiety, fear, and misery that seems to be all around us? It is important to remember what experience can teach us. And here, I’m talking about our own personal experience as well as the collective experience of the great sages who constitute this tradition. All of this experience tells us that first we need to discover who we are. Then this discovery begins to reflect on our experience in the external world. We start with our own selves. Our emphasis, at least in the beginning stages of our own spiritual quest, is to heal ourselves—to remove the pain that we have acquired. Personal healing and personal empowerment is the very first step our tradition teaches. It is crucial to start here if we want to be healthy, happy, and effective in the larger world. We have to start working on ourselves at every level to heal our body, breath, mind, emotions, and interpersonal relationships. After this first step, healing others is a natural, spontaneous response to the healing that is taking place within us. Accomplishing change, removing the pain and misery that lies in the external world, then becomes very natural, spontaneous, and almost effortless.

Personal healing and personal empowerment is the very first step the Himalayan Tradition teaches.

That is why the Himalayan Tradition promotes the idea of spiritually enlightened social change, spiritually enlightened political maneuvering, and spiritually enlightened commerce and business. We believe in the power of self-transformation and in the power of individuals to effect powerful, positive change in the larger world. You can call this a “spiritual movement.”

But if we are not established in ourselves, then our skyscrapers and homes—no matter how concrete and solid they seem—are bound to be infested with fear and anxiety. It is the inner tranquility, inner contentment, inner enlightenment and stability, which we cultivate on the spiritual path, that will infuse the concrete jungle with stability and peace. This is the kind of world we would like to live in, and the kind of world we can help create. Then both our inner and outer worlds will be balanced and peaceful. This is the final cure for all anxiety and fears.

Source: Traditions & Techniques of the Himalayan Masters: Q&A (Honesdale, 2007)

More in this Series

Inner Quest: Seeker’s Q&A