Is it just me, or can undertaking spiritual life at times seem extremely daunting? Its like looking at the top of a snow capped mountain from thousands of feet down at the bottom. How do we journey through the various terrains and steeps to get to the top? Of course, everyone’s route is unique and special to their journey of awakening. There is no one size fits all for spiritual living. And there is no predicting the different obstacles, delights and stormy weather we may face along the way. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other.
Amma often tells a story of a businessman who came to Her wondering how he could ever lead a spiritual life. He had a wife, kids, a home, many businesses… He dangled a big ring of keys in front of Her. Amma answer was very simple and direct. “Well, my son, first start by chanting your mantra when you first wake up. Chant it from your bed to the bathroom. Then, once you have accomplished this, chant your mantra while taking your bath. Once you have accomplished this, chant your mantra while brushing your teeth. And so on. In time you will be able to chant your mantra and focus on divinity all day.” And so, She was right. The man came back one year later to share his success. Start where you are. Do what you can.
I am reminded of another story told by my friend. He was Vietnam vet, sugar addict, couldn’t meditate, yet he deeply yearned for to lead a spiritual life. And so, he went to Brother Bhaktananda of the SRF Hollywood temple explaining his situation. “Well Charles, how long can you meditate for?” “Five minutes. But I can’t do anymore than five minutes.” “Five minutes, that is great! Lets start with five minutes every morning and evening. And the next week, six. And the next week, seven.” And much like the story of the business man, in time, Charles had lengthened his sits to a full hour.
What small efforts can you incorporate into your dinacharya, your daily routine? Perhaps its sending three affirmations into your food before you eat. “I love myself, I trust myself, I nurture myself.” Or mindfully chewing. Like the great Vietnamese Zen master Thich That Hanh suggests, chew your food until its liquid. Perhaps its listening to kirtan instead of a morning talk show on your way to work. Who doesn’t love some Krishna Das in the morning? Maybe its doing a few rounds of nadi shodana, alternate nostril breathing, before exiting your car and walking into your home. What about incorporating one small act of kindness each day? Like picking up a piece of trash on the sidewalk. Turning off a dripping tap. Pausing to speak with loving kindness to the cashier at the grocery store. As Amma says, even selfless service done with joy and a selfless attitude is also meditation.
Even a few seconds of concentration in meditation helps. Amma compares this to miners in California searching days and days for gold to only find one gram. But this one gram is extremely worthwhile and valuable. Likewise, even small concentration is precious and not lost. As Amma says, all spiritual efforts stay with you and never go to waste. The goal of realization will automatically come. Evolution happens naturally in its own time. It is the aspirant’s job to put forth right effort. The tree is already inside the seed. It need only be sown. Lets get gardening! :)
Jai Kali Ma!