There’s a joke about a man who woke up one morning to discover that he had only three, long hairs left on his head. As he looked into the mirror, he said, “Today I think I’ll wear my hair in a braid.” The next morning he found that he had only two hairs left and thought, “Hmm . . . today I’ll part it down the middle.” On the third day there was only one hair left, so after some thought, he decided to wear it in a ponytail.
Finally on the fourth day there were no hairs left at all. He sighed with relief. “Thank goodness. Now I don’t have to worry about how to wear my hair anymore!”
I hope this story brought a smile to your face, but there’s a deeper message in it as well. Change and loss are an inevitable part of life. We can’t escape them, but we can choose how we deal with them. We can go the route of resentment, blame, and self-pity when faced with difficulties; or we can accept them willingly with openness and a positive expectation. It all depends on our level of consciousness.
In Whispers from Eternity, Paramhansa Yogananda writes: “We must prepare ourselves mentally to meet life’s inevitable trials, difficulties, and tragedies. For such preparation, the movies we see in actual theaters can be instructive. If viewed with inner calmness and detachment, they can help us to understand that nothing in life is real in itself.” “The fundamental cure for all human ills is everywhere one and the same: to raise one’s consciousness.”
Let’s look at some changes that most of us face—loss of material possessions, health challenges, the passing of loved ones—and find ways to rise above the suffering they bring.
From personal experience, I’ve learned that even in the midst of losing everything one owns, it’s still possible to find a center of peace and security within. Our drama unfolded in July 1976 when a forest fire swept through Ananda Village, destroying hundreds of wooded acres and most of the community’s buildings, including our home and everything we owned. This happened at a particularly vulnerable time for us: Our son had been born just eleven days earlier.
With nothing but the clothes on our backs, we prayed to God for the strength to face the future. In response, we felt uplifted by an understanding that the source of our security and well-being was not our possessions, but an inner connection with God. Over time we came to realize that losing everything we owned was one of the greatest inner gift we’d ever received, because on some level it permanently freed us from dependence on material things for our sense of well-being.
Another challenge that everyone deals with, especially now during the pandemic, is the loss of good health. Swami Kriyananda, who faced an almost constant series of health challenges, was a wonderful model for how to deal positively with them. We were with him before and after many surgeries, and his unwavering attitude of calm inner joy was astonishing.
How did he do this? We could see that there was never any denial of the situation, but rather complete acceptance and almost embracing of what was happening. He also maintained an inner detachment from his body, as though he were thinking, “This illness may be happening to my body, but it doesn’t touch my true reality, my soul nature.” Through all the tests and trials he confronted in his life he had unwavering trust and faith in his guru to sustain him.
Probably the hardest loss to deal with is the death of friends or loved ones. Yoganandaji faced overwhelming grief with the passing of his mother when he was a young boy. Inconsolable for many years, he was finally comforted by the voice of Divine Mother, who said: “It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers! See in My gaze the two black eyes, the lost beautiful eyes, thou seekest!”
We can find comfort from such a loss by looking past the form of our loved one to the One Beloved hidden there. “It is God alone who acts through you,” Yoganandaji said. “It is Him alone you should really love—through others, when you love them. People aren’t aware of that great, ever-comforting presence. They focus all their affection on one another. When someone whom they love dies, they think, ‘Oh, how cruel!’ But it was God alone all the time, playing at hide-and-seek with them!”
Let’s embrace all the changes and losses in life with the uplifted consciousness and strength of divine warriors. Then we can stand firmly in the truth that no loss can dim the light of God that shines within us and within everything in this world.
May you find God’s peace in the midst of change.
Jyotish and Devi now offer weekly commentary on each blog, with 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 (8:01):