It’s early morning and you’re shuffling to your meditation seat. You’re feeling that peaceful anticipation that comes before a meditation. Still walking, you glance up and see your laptop on your desk. It seems to beckon to you. The thought arises, “You know, it would only take a few moments, a few keystrokes to check my emails, to see if so-and-so wrote back.” 

Mental yawn. “No, I can’t be bothered.” Not even shrugging, you sit down on your meditation cushion and begin to quiet your mind.

I think all spiritual seekers come up with little techniques to help them on the path. I call this one “Spiritual Laziness.” Instead of doing something I know will not benefit me spiritually, at that moment I try to tune into that “I don’t feel like it,” lazy attitude. It’s my way of turning a shortcoming into a virtue.

“Spiritual Laziness” has its counterpart:

It’s 5:00 AM. It must be, because your alarm clock has gone off. You reach over and switch it off. And the thought comes, “It’s so nice and peaceful, lying here. Why don’t I just lie here for a few minutes before I get up and meditate.” 

You know what will happen if you give in. An hour and a half later you will finally wake up hearing your child playing in his room, and you will have lost the opportunity to experience perfect silence. And you may find yourself “behind the eight ball” the rest of the day.

To counteract that thought, you momentarily tune into a frame of mind that has sought at times to plague your meditations.

“You know, it’s really hard to just sit or lie here. I really need to get up and do something, RIGHT NOW.”

And so you get up and walk over to your meditation seat.

I’ve named this technique “Spiritual Restlessness.”

These two are “backwards virtues.” But here is a more straightforward one you might want to add to your spiritual toolbelt:

You’re watching a spiritual movie or listening to music when, perhaps unexpectedly, you find yourself being moved to the core of your being. The heavens open up, your spirit soars, and you feel that sense of perfect inner clarity that comes only rarely on the spiritual path. 

For a long time, you bask in the radiance of your experience. Then, after a time, you begin to feel your exaltation diminishing.

Suddenly, the idea pops into your mind. “Let me share this.”

Focusing on your inspiration, the essence of what you’ve been experiencing, you expand it out in waves to all open souls in your neighborhood, your state, your country, and the whole world. Your ego dissolves as you act as a direct channel of this special inspiration to all who might benefit from it.

I’ve dubbed this one “Applied Inspiration.”

Share Your Own “Backwards Virtue”

Do you have a helpful “backwards virtue” or spiritual technique you’ve developed that you think might help others? Feel free to share it by posting a comment below.


  1. Hi Richard,

    Yes! Mine is “spiritual irresponsibility.”

    Has there ever lived a devotee who hasn’t felt at some point that he’s let himself down? “I’m no good.” “I’m not making progress.” “Look at all the times I’ve failed.”

    When that mood strikes, I find it’s helpful to step back and stop being so responsible. “Do I REALLY have to feel so down on myself? Isn’t it just a waste of time? What could I be doing instead? – I could be having a lot better time!”

    At about that point, I realize that self-loathing is the devil’s work. And as we all know, the devil is a complete jerk. Why do the devil’s work for him? When the alternative is to be feeling sunny and cheerful.

    I find this actually works. Gloomy hours are a complete waste of time. Being irresponsible – not giving a hoot about my own past mistakes – never draws an angry response from God. On the contrary. I once told a friend at Ananda, “You know, I don’t think Divine Mother cares about our mistakes.” Her immediate reply: “I don’t think Divine Mother even NOTICES our mistakes.”

    I once prayed to Divine Mother after I made a mistake, “Well, I guess You’ll just have to accept me as I am.” And I heard her voice: “I am not interested in your faults. I am interested only in your continual improvement.”

  2. Dear Richard

    This happens to me also.In the begining i use to set alaram and wake up sometimes willingly and sometimes unwillingly but i do get up and try to meditate.Than gradually i stopped putting alaram and pray to Guruji that let this be your responsibility to wake me up i surrender to you.Guruji took the responsibility and wake me up sometimes at 4 am or 5 am by various means like i heard sometimes flute, a clap, or knock on the door, or ringtone of my cell or sometimes nothing i just wake up look at Guruji and time and go to my meditation seat.Now willingness & unwillingness has no place.There is no thought like i have to do meditation its like you dont forget taking breath.It becomes necessity.Anybody can overcome this problems who sincerely wish to meditate but first should have thrust and must surrender to GURU rest he will take care.

  3. Hi Richard

    I love this blog. It is going to help so many people.

    I guess I have a backward virtue I could share that I would call ”spiritual melancholia”.

    I am going through a stage of intense sadhana. I am practicing God’s Presence in earnest and achieving it, in part at best, by various methods. When I forget I am present in God – which I do all too often -I liken myself to the walking dead, totally oblivious to the glorious Presence that we truly are. When, by grace, I am woken from the hypnosis of maya I am sad that I strayed and lost precious time that could have been spent in Divine company. The melancholy continues for a while after my trite sojourn, although never depressingly so. Soon I came to cherish this melancholia. I realised that actually this feeling came from my heart. I analysed it further. It stemmed from an intense yearing for my Beloved, which actually fuelled my desire to be ever more present in God. That can only be a positive thing. This feeling then transmutes into the joy and bliss that Presence brings, as I strive to better my practice with new vigour after each ‘apparent’ lapse.

    Now I think a little spriritual melancholia is actually good for the soul.

    Jai Guru

  4. I had received this blog in my mail on the 12th and the very topic of the blog sounded very interestiing and important. However, I was unable to read the blog, because of one reason or the other. And now for the past two days I had hit a low in my practice and for the first time after years the fears and insecurities hit me, effecting my meditation and spiritual practices.

    All this made me lament myself for being irresponsible, lazy etc. And today morning my meditation went nowhere and I had been very disappointed and fearful that maybe the Divine Mother and the Masters have given up on a lazy sloth like me.

    While rummaging thru my mail box I again hit upon this unread mail and read the blog which and I felt it to be too much of a coincidence that the blog nearly expressed what I felt and then I opened the link of the same blog and came on this site where I went through the beautiful responses of Nayaswami Rambhakta, Bhushan and Tyagini Maitreyi. I mean I cannot express myself now. I am at complete loss of words. It is as if the Divine Mother, understanding my predicatment has communicated to me directly.

    “:I once prayed to Divine Mother after I made a mistake, “Well, I guess You’ll just have to accept me as I am.” And I heard her voice: “I am not interested in your faults. I am interested only in your continual improvement.” ”

    I feel so touched by the Divine at this moment, that I cannot explain. THANK YOU ALL.

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    Dear Sanjeev,

    I am so glad that this blog and others’ comments were helpful to you. It is the reason I wrote it and encouraged others to add their own techniques.

    Blessings and joy to you,


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