We recently took our annual period of seclusion at a guesthouse on Abbott Mount, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. As the crow flies, it is a mere eighty miles from Babaji’s Cave, and it seems as if Babaji still walks these very hills. He feels very close when we are there, especially during our long periods of meditation.
Swami Kriyananda has said that one of the happiest periods during his first years in India was when he was offered a guesthouse for a monthlong seclusion. He stayed in the little town of Lohaghat, a ten-minute drive from Abbott Mount—threads of karma weaving together.
One of the things we most look forward to is the view of Nanda Devi, a revered mountain associated with the goddess Durga. When we arrived, however, she was hidden by mist and cloud. And so it continued. Every morning after meditation we gazed eagerly in her direction. And every day we saw that mist and clouds continued to veil the heights. Until the final day. Then she gave us the most glorious darshan ever. It felt like Divine Mother was patting us on the back and rewarding us for our faithfulness.
On the physical plane there was another reason for the view opening up. In the early days of fall—October in these regions—rice stubble left in the fields after the harvest is burned, and people build fires in their dwellings to stay warm. A smoky haze settles everywhere. Finally, however, during our stay a downpour cleared the air.
So it is with our consciousness. The smoky emotions of anxiety and apprehension build up to cloud our mental clarity and obscure the high mountains of our aspirations. Like the hills, we need a good cleansing from time to time.
The state of our world offers plenty of reasons for concern. Issues like climate change, political dysfunction, and warfare affect us all. The perpetual challenge is that valid concerns will always exist. Many believe that the solution is to force others to conform to their worldview. Those who think that coercion will lead to peace fail to remember, however, that the dusty road of conflict has been travelled for millennia and always leads into the wastelands of yet more strife.
Is there a way out of this morass? Absolutely! Conditions could change. People, who are the cause of the conditions, could change. But only if and when they genuinely want to change. Lasting transformation can come only through heightened awareness. If we want a better future, we should take those actions that will lead to the upliftment of consciousness.
The journey begins by releasing our individual and collective attachment to the negative events of the past. Paramhansa Yogananda has said that to remember bad experiences and dwell on them is an abuse of the divine gift of memory. He also encouraged us to stay positive and active. “Moods,” he said, “get their grip on your consciousness when you are in a negative or passive state of mind.”
Do you want to help create a better world? It begins with you taking responsibility for changing yourself. Here, then, is a simple three-step process to get started:
- Clearly identify the improvements you want to see in yourself. Create a short list—one to three items—of changes you would like to make.
- Get to work! Formulate a strategy and commit to it. Change won’t happen spontaneously.
- Stick with your new habits until they grow strong and permanent.
Thankfully, we don’t have to walk this road alone. God and Gurus are eagerly waiting for us to turn toward them. It is also a great aid to spend more time with those friends and gurubhais who can support our aspirations.
Just like Nanda Devi, Divine Mother is always there, patiently waiting for us. If we play our part, then God, Gurus, and good friends will be the cleansing rains that wash away our cloudy thoughts and reveal our higher nature.
In divine friendship,
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