The cedar beams framing the large, picture window were old and rough, filled with tiny holes and cracks. As I began to apply a wood stain to seal the beams, I could see that many coats would be needed to make them look finished. Standing high on a scaffold, I dipped my brush in the can of stain and began.
What led up to this moment was this: One morning in about 1972, Swamiji entered the dining room at the Meditation Retreat, and asked those of us finishing breakfast, “Is anyone free to help me paint the inside of my new dome?”
The Ananda construction crew had just completed his home. Although some finishing work such as interior painting was still needed, Swamiji was eager to move in. A group of us happily volunteered and drove over to Crystal Hermitage, ready to begin.
This launched one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. It was about ten o’clock in the morning when each of us started our painting tasks, with Swamiji working alongside us. I chose to stain the beams framing the windows.
Though the building was new, the carpenters had chosen to use a rough cedar wood for some of the dome’s trim. After a few hours of work, Swamiji said, “Let’s take a break for lunch, and then come back and do some more.”
The real magic began to happen after the lunch break. I climbed back up onto the scaffolding, and continued to stain and restain the rustic beams. Glancing at the clock as we started up after lunch, I saw that the time was a little after one p.m.
Being focused on our painting, we were oblivious to the passing of time. We painted and stained, and rather than feeling tired, we were increasingly joyful to be helping Swamiji. Finally he said with his usual magnetic enthusiasm, “Well, everyone, let’s call it a day.”
We were surprised to see that since it was dark outside now, time must have gotten away from us. Again I glanced at the clock, and to my amazement it wasn’t evening, but two a.m.! We had been so concentrated on what we were doing that we were totally unaware that more than twelve hours had passed.
I think Swamiji blessed us that day with the experience of a deep, prolonged state of concentration. That was probably how he approached everything he did, but for us it was a revelation to see how a sense of timelessness accompanied our absorbed concentration.
For time and space are not real in themselves, but are divisions that belong to the realm of maya, or duality. In fact, the Sanskrit word “maya” means just that: “the measurer.” With a deeply concentrated mind, we can enter the state of superconsciousness, which transcends such dualities. I believe that is what happened as we painted Swamiji’s dome that day.
Kriyanandaji often spoke of the importance of bringing “keen, alert attention” to everything that we do. The next step is deeply to focus our attention not only on what we’re doing outwardly, but inwardly on God. This is essential for deeper meditation and spiritual awakening.
Paramhansa Yogananda said, “The minutes are more important than the years. If you fill the minutes of your life with thoughts of God, you will find the years of your life automatically saturated with the consciousness of God.
“Never think of tomorrow. Take care of today and all the tomorrows will be taken care of. Do not wait until tomorrow to meditate. Do not wait until tomorrow to be good. Be good now. Be calm now. It will be the turning point of your life.”
There lies within us the latent power to focus our mind totally on God or on one of His qualities, such as love, joy, compassion, selflessness. When we do this, the rough exterior of life begins to melt away, and the heavenly gardens of the “Eternal Now” open their gates to us, changing our perspective on reality forever.
Doing, doing, one day done,
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