The spiritual path can sometimes seem like an endless struggle up a steep cliff, with little to show for our efforts along the way. But the ability to find the strength to keep going is what separates the dilettante devotee from the true seeker. Deep commitment is the secret to drawing God’s presence into our life.
There’s a beautiful story that Paramhansa Yogananda tells of a man who was told by his doctors that he was dying of diabetes and had only three months left. He thought, “If I have only three months remaining in this lifetime, let me spend them seeking God.”
At first, he couldn’t meditate for more than fifteen minutes at a time, but gradually, as he persevered, he was able to sit for longer periods each day. His prayer during his meditations was not to be healed, but rather, “Lord, come into this broken temple.”
Three months passed, then a year, and he was still alive. Continuing in intense prayer, he was by now meditating eighteen hours a day. Two more years passed. Suddenly a great light filled his being. The man was absorbed in divine ecstasy, and found to his amazement that his body was completely healed.
“Lord,” he prayed, “I didn’t ask for a healing—only that You come to me.”
God answered his beloved devotee, “Where My light is, there no darkness can dwell.”
The saint—for he’d become one—wrote in the sand with his finger, “And on this day the Lord came into my broken temple, and made it whole!”
How can we find such commitment to keep going until we’ve reached our spiritual goal?
First, don’t allow yourself the luxury of deciding each day whether or not you’re going to meditate. Instead make a firm inner commitment to be regular in your practice, and don’t question it. Build your schedule around your times of meditation, and let other duties fall into place around them.
For those times when you’re not able to meditate as long, set a minimum amount of time below which you won’t go. Try to establish a regular routine in the morning and evening. Twice daily meditation is very important, because it keeps your consciousness in an upward flow, starting and ending each day with the thought of God.
It’s also helpful to look at the lives of others who have struggled in their spiritual efforts, yet were victorious in the end. For you are not alone in this battle: Such challenges are faced by every saint.
During my first year at Ananda, I went through a period of discouragement, and questioned if I should continue on the spiritual path. At that time there was a wonderful old gentleman living here who had been a disciple of Master for decades. He was both our gardening mentor and a great friend to many.
One day, filled with discouragement and doubts, I gloomily asked him, “Why does God make it so hard?”
His answer has had a deep impact on me: “There must be some value in the effort itself.”
I came to understand that it’s perseverance in the search for God that draws us closer to Him. When discouragement returns (and it does from time to time) I remember that simply trying has its own spiritual reward.
Remember, too, that Master said that in each meditation, we should be ready to make a “dash for the Infinite.” Only God knows when He will come to us. And so we must be ready for Him at any moment, even in the midst of lackluster meditations and restless thoughts.
One of Yoganandaji’s most thrilling statements is: “I remember the day when for the first time, unlooked-for, from behind the clouds of the drudgery of routine meditative habits, the aurora of bliss suddenly burst upon my consciousness. It surpassed all my expectations. Joy indescribable!”
Who can say how many lifetimes ago this great avatar experienced the “drudgery of routine meditative habits”? Who can imagine what the “aurora of bliss” is really like? Yet, his words, filled with promise and hope, are beacons of light to guide us forward when finding God seems beyond our reach. Let’s await that unexpected moment. . . .
Until we reach the journey’s end,
Listen to Devi as she reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (9:20):