Today a friend of mine sent a cartoon in which a couple are seated together in a living room, and the woman says, “One day 2020 will be a one-word catchphrase for everything messed up. ‘How’s your day going?’ someone will ask you. ‘A total 2020,’ you’ll answer. ‘Say no more,’ will be their reply.”
There’s probably truth behind the humor, because 2020, continuing now into 2021, has certainly been a challenge for everyone on this planet. Our lives have been changed, turned upside down, and may never return to what they were. However, there’s a secret to finding peace and happiness no matter what changes or setbacks are coming your way.
I first got a hint of it one evening in Rome when we were with Swami Kriyananda. It was late, and we’d just had a long, lovely dinner at the home of a dear friend, Renata Arlini. As we were walking back to our hotel, the lights from the shops and restaurants illumined the night, there was a hint of autumn’s chill in the air, and a light rain started to fall. Swamiji stopped at a street stall to buy Jyotish a much-needed umbrella.
Then we walked along in silence, when suddenly Swamiji said in a quiet voice, “How many dinners in how many homes in how many languages have I had!” As we strolled through the beautiful tree-lined avenues of Rome towards our hotel, Swamiji’s few words seemed to open up a different dimension of time. Nothing outwardly changed, but somehow we were living in the moment—everything was clearer, crisper, as though illumined from within, and we were a part of everything. Time itself seemed to stand still.
What was different? Before, we’d been enjoying friendship, good food, and the sights of a beautiful city. We’d been taking pleasure in all these things, but we were living for the moment, experiencing it with some attachment to our enjoyment. Swamiji’s simple statement about his life of non-attachment and self-transcendence was a secret to how to face all of life’s experiences: the enjoyable, the not-so-pleasant, and the downright horrific.
Paramhansa Yogananda put it this way: “It is helpful to think of God as being forever with us: right here and right now, ever in the present tense. Ask yourself, at the same time, why are people so irresistibly drawn to living for, rather than in, the moment? In other words, to identify with the fleeting scenes and ever-fluctuating circumstances around them: changing events, endless streams of people, both enemies and friends. Unfortunately, it takes time to banish the mental hypnosis that all this, and that time itself, is a reality, focusing one on the desire for ephemeral sense-experiences.”
How can we make this change to living in, not for, the moment? It’s not rocket science, friend. Meditate so that you experience your own inner self. Offer your life in service to God through others. Cling not to anything or anyone, and don’t identify with the “fleeting scenes and ever-fluctuating circumstances.”
Then 2020 can be remembered not as the year when everything went wrong, but as an opportunity that brought you closer to true freedom and happiness. Be part of a group that says, “It was a total 2020,” and means, “It was wonderful.”
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