Adrift between matter and Spirit


Q: What should a person do when all the hopes in material life are lost and he tends to lose interest in life, yet still he has to live to fulfill his responsibilities like everyone else? The perfect state of meditation seems far away. How can one keep going, balancing both material and spiritual life, when he belongs to neither end — spiritual or material?

—vaishu, india


Sooner or later, this happens to everyone: We conclude that the material world – which we hoped would bring us happiness – simply cannot give us the lasting fulfillment that we seek, yet the higher spiritual realms seem far away and little more than an unproven promise. We are adrift between two worlds. And we get discouraged. What to do?

First, realize that it’s very good to reach this point. It is a sign of spiritual progress. Look around you – How many people feel like you? Most are either quite content with material life, or if not, still they lack any higher aspiration. Now that’s misery! So don’t despair; you are blessed to feel this discontent.

But it doesn’t feel like a blessing, does it? Your painful state is so universal to sincere seekers that the Bhagavad Gita devotes much attention to it, and the answer is unequivocal: The only way to attain the spiritual heights is to do our best with whatever is in front of us. For most of us, that’s the daily duties of material living. We cannot transcend them by ignoring them or doing them half-heartedly. We transcend them by doing our best. There is no spiritual growth – and certainly no fun – in grudgingly carrying them out.

“Doing our best” means, yes, trying to “do a good job,” but it’s more than that. It’s about performing every outward or inward action as a heartfelt offering to God, even something as trivial as washing a dish or answering a telephone. It doesn’t even matter if you fail in your effort to do it well; the very act of offering will help you. Then even the most mundane duties – and even your failures — acquire spiritual luster. They become like meditation, and they contribute to the quality of your next actual meditation. When we live our entire life this way, that “perfect state of meditation” to which you aspire comes much closer to hand.

Hard to do? Of course it is. It’s the supreme art of the spiritual life, so it takes practice. I strongly recommend that you read “The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda” ( He addresses this issue with a power, clarity and utter practicality that will not only answer your question, but inspire you to make the efforts that will lead you unfailingly onward in your spiritual quest.

Blessings on your aspirations and efforts.