Every situation of pressure, pain, difficulty, or forceful change in our lives places us at a crossroads. One reaction and possible direction for us to take is to say, “NO! This is bad, unfair, too much!” Unfortunately, this reaction takes us down a gray and rainy road in life. The other path is to say, “YES! I embrace it; this too is good!” This direction can joyfully lead us forward to a sunny, often steep but upward road 0f expansion and growth. In the desire for growth, we would be wise to follow the second path. Healing calls each of us to sincerely try to learn any personal lessons from challenges.
Tests are not meant to crush us. They develop our powers.Paramhansa YoganandaWhy is it that our most difficult tests are in truth positive things? A cosmic answer is as follows. According to yogis, all creation appears out of consciousness. Everything is guided by that consciousness or cosmic intelligence, including all of our tough situations. Nothing happens to us randomly or by chance but by logic and laws of the universe. Our trials and tests always come to us with a specific purpose – to promote the evolution of our souls. Yogananda put it this way:
Through tests, we learn life’s lessons. Tests are not meant to crush us.
They develop our powers. They come through the natural law of progress.
The challenges we face are not only positive but are also never too big for us even when they appear to be so. Their size, force, and impact are calibrated to our specific needs. They are given by the cosmic intelligence permeating the entire universe. This is a reassuring promise, and Yogananda reminds us that no matter what our tests are, we will have the strength to fight them. “God will not suffer you to be tempted more than you are able to bear.” Instead, He intends for us to become stronger.
Reflect on how the cosmic intelligence works in nature: It is icy cold that makes the plant grow hardy. It is the threat of extinction that makes the flower grow colorful and fragrant to attract the bee. It is the wind that makes the tree grow deeper roots. The dread of hunger makes the tiger become strong and agile. Difficulties of the natural environment make the fox become intelligent to get to his prey. Likewise, it’s life’s difficulties that form and educate us.
We can apply our intelligence to understand what we might learn from the pandemic. What is important about the pandemic both individually and collectively? What good can come out of it? Yogananda gives us this prayer:
Dear Father, whatever conditions confront me, I know that they represent the next step in my unfoldment. I will welcome all tests because I know that within me is the intelligence to understand and the power to overcome.
What We Can Collectively Learn
What is it that we can learn from the pandemic? Where have the nation, society, and the world erred? What’s really important for all of us in facing this trouble? It seems to me: Consumerism and materialism are not the keys to global happiness but... Love is. Friendship is. Positivity is. The ability to adapt is. Inner expansion is. Acceptance of pain as a teacher is. Simple living and high thinking are.
May we all never lose sight of the priority of love.
The first lesson the cosmic intelligence can collectively teach us is most likely Love. COVID-19 has a tendency to separate people and to trigger litigation. May we all never lose sight of the priority of Love. Love is the highest truth, highest principle, and First Commandment. May we always keep in mind, man’s highest duty is to Love. May we carefully reflect that our long-term relationships with each other are more important than any passing disagreement. Can we maintain Love, or at least acceptance, during the inevitable differences of opinion we will have, placing emphasis on Love’s longer rhythms?
There are so many people who have lost money and financial resources because of COVID-19’s social impact. Millions of businesses are closed. Some may never reopen. There are far fewer folks traveling and some continue to hesitate or no longer go shopping in town. We can no longer enjoy many of the social entertainments and activities we used to take for granted.
Could the cosmic intelligence be trying to help us understand and embrace simplicity? Is it prompting us to remember that we can be happy with simpler lifestyles? Perhaps we recognize now that we don’t really need all of those trips, activities, distractions, and things.
A simpler lifestyle can help us to cultivate the attitude of happiness. Our lesson of simplicity may be to live only with the necessary necessities (to quote Yogananda) and gradually develop a peaceful, happy mind, day by day.
Selflessness and Self-Control
The cosmic intelligence seems to be teaching us about selflessness and self-control. Selflessness is perfectly expressed by wearing the ever-uncomfortable pandemic mask. Nobody enjoys it. It’s bothersome. Yet it’s the perfect symbol of selfless care for others. Most masks not only provide a discernible degree of protection for ourselves as physicians tell us but they are a wonderful sign of loving protection for others. When you put on a mask, aren’t you silently saying, “I care about you. You are why I am wearing this awkward thing”? Selflessness at any rate, personally and nationally, is a lesson we certainly need if we hope to have and live in a better world.
COVID-19 teaches us self-control. We desire to do many things but we cannot. Therefore, we exercise our self-control. We maintain social distancing when we naturally desire closeness. We remain inside when we want to go out. We wear our masks when we may not really want to. And so on. Again it’s wise to perceive these actions as rooted in love and care. “I don’t remain distant to protect myself but mostly to protect you, my dear fellow citizen.”
May our actions never be based on fear but on loving care. If this era of COVID-19 hardens us, we will not have understood the lesson. If it softens and opens our hearts, we have learned the most important lesson.
Of course, the lessons of the pandemic are not simple. They are multifaceted. There are many precious teachings coming from the pandemic on different levels, from the most material to the most spiritual. Let’s explore such education, starting on the physical level.
Whatever your standpoint may be concerning the vaccines, it seems hardly plausible that the cosmic intelligence wants us to consider it a long-term solution for good health. Swami Kriyananda writes in The Art and Science of Raja Yoga, “The yogi is shown how to develop his own latent powers rather than lean weakly on some outer agent for his physical well-being.”
In short, we cannot always be dependent on chemistry, vaccines, or other outer agents. In addition to vaccines, we can all learn to harness the power of nature to mightily strengthen our immune systems, no vaccine being foolproof. Yogananda showed us that as human beings, the most effective tool for self-healing and self-protection we have is the strong flow of the life-force within our bodies. He said that if the life-force is powerful within us, it electrocutes all germs. The prana (life-force; energy) is strengthened by fresh natural food, deep breathing, sunshine, and exercise where we learn to consciously draw on the cosmic source of prana.
Yogananda taught us how to access that cosmic source through the Energization Exercises. These exercises teach us to pull the universal life-force into our bodies through the medulla oblongata, directing it with will and tension to all body parts. This revolutionary practice, when done correctly (vibrating the muscles, and applying great willpower directing energy toward the tension), virtually electrifies the body. Yogananda explains that energy, distributed evenly in the body is what helps to keep diseases from settling.
On the mental level, each one of us is asked by the cosmic intelligence to learn both a personal and individual lesson from the pandemic. It might be fearlessness or greater awareness. Perhaps it is being responsible, solution-oriented, or something about the acceptance of others’ realities; or it may be a lesson completely different. Dear reader, take a moment for yourself and ask yourself, “What important quality can I develop from this time through my individual situation?”
Many times throughout history, tough social situations have brought people closer to God – and this is necessary. We have for the most part become too proud, too worldly, and separate. The farther away we are from the Divine, the farther away we are from our roots. Our home, our origins, our provenance is there. It seems the primary cause of all troubles is separation from our true source and support.
At the spiritual level, the most important lesson appears to be to strive for union with the Divine. Once that union occurs, well-being naturally will flourish in body, mind, and spirit, and our world will finally heal. If that should happen, we will all say, “Thank you, precious COVID-19.” Such healing requires that each one of us sincerely try to find and learn the lessons provided by this pandemic.
There is one final question. Is the cosmic intelligence stimulating a greater spirituality for us worldwide? For that development, Yogananda gives us this prayer:
O Father, no matter what my tests may be, teach me to bear them joyously by feeling Thy presence always in my heart.
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