The devotee who tries to meditate will be hindered, not only by new distractions, but also by strong habits of the body such as restlessness, procrastination, material desires, moods, and selfishness. It is best to conquer all such habits consciously. According to the law of karma, if they are not transcended, they will pursue the devotee through many lifetimes, causing unending woes.
The great battle in meditation is with restless thoughts. Only when the thoughts quiet down can you concentrate on God and contact Him. Those who meditate only a little, find that their desire to meditate and contact God vanishes when they are invaded by the powerful habit of restlessness. Similarly, those who have attained only a little calmness through their meditative efforts, find their calmness easily disturbed when restlessness invades.
The devotee who tries to meditate but finds himself continuously subject to restless thoughts should not feel discouraged. That is not the time to give up, saying, “There is no use meditating.” As soon as your mind becomes restless, use all the power of your will to command the mind to be calm. Any individual, no matter how restless, can successfully fight it if he carries an indomitable determination to overcome it. By strong will and devotion, the static of restlessness is eliminated.
Don’t mix with people too closely. The desire for outward companionship is a reflection of the soul’s desire for companionship with God. The more you seek to satisfy that desire outwardly, the more you will lose His inner company, and the more restless and dissatisfied you will become.
Yoga is the state of mental evenness which is the native state of the soul made in the image of the even-minded Spirit. When the soul is identified with the changes of the world it forgets its own calm nature and easily becomes restless. The remedy is to concentrate and be united with God while performing actions in the world. The more focused you are on God throughout the day, the easier it will be for you to quiet your mind and contact God in meditation.
The devotee who makes the supreme effort is the one who finds God, not the one who keeps offering excuses. The procrastinating devotee says, “When I am not so busy,” or, “When these guests leave,” or, “When I feel better,” or “When I can find a quiet place — then I’ll meditate.”
Procrastinators will never reach God. But if you tell yourself, “Right now I will go deep in meditation!” you can be there in an instant. When a person is really sleepy, can’t he fall asleep anywhere? So it is with the person who loves God. He can meditate even in a train station or in the market place.
Don’t postpone your efforts to change your bad habits. Procrastination only fosters more bad habits until the will becomes a prisoner, and you think you can never change. Don’t allow yourself to reach that state. So long as you are willing, God will always help you.
Cultivate the habit of sitting to meditate and contacting superior soul pleasures immediately upon awakening. By developing the new good habit, you will gradually cancel out the bad habit of procrastination.
Selfishness is a barrier to spiritual development, preventing one’s escape from the misery of soul ignorance. To reach God, one must learn to act without selfish motive: for God, not for personal reward.
Why is it sinful to steal? By emphasizing selfish desires, the thief cuts himself off from the Spirit within, the one true source of all life and all abundance. By taking from others for selfish gain, he narrows his own self-identity instead of, as he believes, expanding it. What he denies others, his own greater Self, he also denies to himself. The thief invariably, in the end, impoverishes himself.
Human friendship is often selfish; when a person ceases to be useful to us, we lose our love for him. Learn to be unselfish. Whenever you think of you own needs, remember also the needs of others.
A temptation sannyasis face is to center their attention too narrowly on their own spiritual search, forgetting the needs of others. In that selfishness they strengthen, instead of weaken, the hold exerted upon them by the ego. Similarly, anyone practicing meditation who becomes impatient or is easily disturbed by the slow results is acting with a selfish motive. Hence the Gita says one should meditate only with the thought of pleasing God, not for selfish gains.
One who deeply wants to receive God’s love must first be purified of every selfish desire—indeed, of every self-definition except that of belonging utterly, completely, and forever to God alone.
4. Material desires
Desires are the greatest obstacle on the spiritual path; they keep the energy flowing ever outward to the senses. I see it as a war, with people fighting to achieve victory. Some are killed by bullets of desire, and must be reborn to renew the struggle. Others, after great difficulties, win through to victory, and have no need to return to this material plane. They achieve eternal blessedness in God.
Those who plunge deeply into the material life grow away from God. They wallow so deeply in the mud of mundane worries that they cannot walk freely along the path that leads to soul freedom. To avoid this, men and women should train their minds by constant meditation to perform the necessary actions of daily life with the consciousness of God within. Even those heavily engaged in the business world can free their lives from endless worries by practicing non-attachment and deep daily meditation.
Do what you can, within reason, to remain healthy and to achieve the worldly success you need, but keep those efforts proportionate to the true, long-range goal of life, which is to find God. To devote all your energy to fulfilling material desires, as so many people do even in the name of spirituality, distorts their values and deprives them of the time they need for more important things.
When you pray to God, be completely sincere with Him. If your heart is restless with desires, say to Him, “Lord, I have these desires, but I want You more than anything else. Help me to dissolve every limitation in Your great ocean of peace.”
It is all right to pray to God for things. It is better still, however, to ask that His will be done in your life. He knows what you need, and will do much more for you than the best that you can imagine for yourself.
Moods are caused by past overindulgence in sense pleasures. They are the consequence of over-satiety and disgust. Don’t give in to them. If you indulge in moods, they will reawaken your past desire for their opposite pleasures. Thus, they will pull you down into delusion again.
Life manifests the principle of duality. It is like a pendulum — swinging unceasingly back and forth between opposite states of awareness. The farther the pendulum swings in one direction, the farther it must swing back in the other. Indulgence in moods returns a person, with or without his consent, to their opposite pleasures.
To stop that unending to and fro movement, the secret is to resist it, and to preserve a mental non-attachment. Resist, inwardly, the pleasure you feel in anything, and resist also the sadness life brings you in consequence. Strive to be even-minded in all that happens, so that nothing touches you inwardly. This doesn’t mean to allow nothing to please you, to become apathetic. Simply realize that whatever pleasures you enjoy are in yourself, not in outward sensations.
Most people allow themselves passively and desultorily to grow in any undirected way, according to the patterns of their passing moods. You must be able instantly to control your moods. Whenever moods come, try to conquer your emotions and do not blame others. Avoid self-pity and over-sensitivity. Nursed grievances eat like acids into the fibers of your peace. Learn to take responsibility for whatever difficulties life brings you. See them as opportunities to grow closer in God by becoming stronger in yourself and deeper in your spiritual life. In that way you will get rid of all moods.
God certainly wants us to commune with Him. It is we who shut Him out by our moods, selfishness, restlessness, desires, and dull indifference.
The ego lies at the root of all delusions. Producing the plant of material desire, it is like a noxious weed, choking and killing the more wholesome plants of will power, devotion and self-control. When one is fully satisfied in the Self, desireless and free from every attachment, one no longer sees himself as a separate wave on the ocean of Spirit, but realizes his true Self to be infinite, and one with the ocean.