To overcome restlessness, we need to make a strong, conscious effort to focus our thoughts and actions, because the natural pull of the world tends to keep our minds scattered and diffused. As long as we habitually skip from one activity to the next, from one train of thought to another, our restlessness prevents us from experiencing calmness, which is the doorway to true peace and happiness.

*******       *******       *******

When undertaking a task, give it your full attention, putting all other activities or plans aside. We had a friend who told us she habitually did several things at once—eating a meal, for instance, while talking on the telephone, and reading a book at the same time. It wasn’t until she had to deal with the challenge of a life-threatening illness that she realized she was restlessly skimming the surface of her life without enjoying any of it. She saw that her restless activity was blocking her ability to feel joy.

After her recovery, she and her husband made some major life changes, and began to slow down and really experience whatever they were doing. We had lunch with them one day in the beautiful garden they had created, and could feel the peace and joy they were now experiencing.

*******       *******       *******

When dealing with others, give them your full attention. Don’t let your mind restlessly move to what else you need to do, or where you need to go. The more we develop the art of focused, conscious listening—to people, to music, to nature—the more we can truly hear and appreciate their deeper message to us. Conscious listening to the world around us is a stepping-stone to hearing the vibration of God in meditation.

*******       *******       *******

Swami Kriyananda has always stressed the importance of finishing a job completely before going on to the next. In every project there are three stages: the initial creative inspiration, the hard work of overcoming all the problems involved, and the joy of bringing it to completion. When the initial inspiration begins to fade and the challenges arise, it’s easy to abandon a project, rather than put out the energy to push through to completion. We repeat this pattern over and over until we learn that success comes only with sustained concentration.

We find that there is a similar pattern in our practice of meditation. At first, we’re carried along by the initial inspiration and joy of discovering the spiritual path. Often new devotees are blessed with deep inner experiences and an ease of achieving depth in meditation that eludes us later on. Swami Kriyananda has explained that this is God’s way of giving us confidence in our own spiritual potential.

Then we hit the middle phase when the hard work begins. This period can take many years as we struggle with desires, attachments, and karmic tendencies that keep us from allowing the flow of Spirit into our lives. And we get restless. That’s why Paramhansa Yogananda said that the key to success in meditation is intensity and duration of effort.

To get through dry, restless periods on the path, it’s helpful to bring fresh, creative approaches to our sadhana. Try adding chanting (or learning new chants), or practice walking meditations in nature, or incorporate a period of yoga postures into your day, or take a retreat in an inspiring environment. Spiritual perseverance in the face of restlessness will ultimately lead us through the period of effort to the third phase of inner joy and fulfillment.

Jyotish and Devi Novak live at Ananda Village and serve as Spiritual Directors of Ananda Sangha Worldwide.

Other Clarity articles by Jyotish and Devi Novak are listed under “Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *