Life is a journey filled with highs and lows. Sometimes it feels like a roller coaster, bursting with exhilarating peaks and gloomy valleys. At other times, it feels like the repetitive routine of a Ferris wheel that simply turns in endless circles. We will continue to ride the cycle of life from one incarnation to the next until we have learned our lessons. Paramhansa Yogananda said that ultimately this cycle becomes an “anguishing monotony.”
Yogananda wrote, “When a child is sent to school and fails to make the grade, he has to go back again and again until he passes his examinations. So also, souls who fail to preserve their perfection while in the mortal school of education and entertainment have to come back for many incarnations until they completely experience their hidden Spirit nature.“
When we get too engrossed in the turbulent emotions of life’s dramas, we fail to see the broader picture. Yogananda said that we should strive to be ever “even-minded and cheerful.” This is one of those deceptively simple teachings—easy to say and understand, but hard to implement. This transformation can only happen as we become more detached and less driven by the reactive nature of our likes and dislikes.
Yesterday we had tea with a cherished friend whose husband passed away a few months ago. She is still in a state of mourning, just beginning to move on to her next life chapter. When we lose something very precious, it is nearly impossible to remain even-minded and cheerful. Nor does God expect us to do so. Even a great master like Yogananda had a period of deep grief after losing his earthly mother. Yet, eventually we must move forward in spite of our loses. Or gains.
Why should we try to stay even-minded? Most teenagers would find this concept stiflingly boring. When we are eager for new experiences, we embrace the stimulation of emotional ups and downs. But as devotees who are yearning to graduate from this world of pleasure and pain, we need to see life more as a school and less as a playground.
Yesterday we had a wonderful meeting with the young leaders here in the Assisi community where we are staying. These remarkable souls are now at the forefront of many aspects of the work here. Our satsang together started out as a chance for them to give us departmental updates. But Devi turned the gathering in a much deeper direction. She said, “Don’t just tell us about your projects, but share how your work is changing you spiritually.” This was a wonderful question for them and a perfect way for us to keep our spiritual focus. No matter what is happening, it will help us stay even-minded and cheerful if we ask ourselves, “How is this experience enriching me spiritually?”
Lately the concept of spiritual specific gravity has been surfacing in my mind and talks. Our specific gravity is determined by the degree of expansion or contraction of our consciousness. A light, or sattwic, person will have an expanded awareness that naturally feels the interconnectedness of all creation. Conversely, a heavy, or tamasic person will focus mainly on his egocentric needs and desires. Each individual floats somewhere between these two extremes.
This morning it occurred to me that we actually have two specific gravities. The first is shaped by our past thoughts, desires, and actions—our accumulated karma. A second, more important, specific gravity is determined by our aspirations, by what we want to become. Our spiritual ambitions might be summed up by a humorous bumper sticker I once saw: “I wish I was the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”
The Masters see us as evolving souls, as saints in training. They are able to see the longer rhythms of life and also our deeper nature. Master once said to a group of disciples, “I see all of you as images of light. Everything—these trees, bushes, the grass you are standing on—all is made of that light. You have no idea how beautiful everything is!” Let’s strive to become the kind of person the Masters think we are.
In divine friendship,
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