There’s a delightful story about a sculptor who was renowned for his ability to create marble statues filled with life. After carving an amazingly lifelike image of an elephant, he was asked, “How were you able to make the elephant look so real?”
“It’s not that difficult,” he replied. “You just chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant!”
Jyotish and I are preparing to leave for our annual trip to serve in Italy and India for three and a half months. (In fact, by the time you read this, we’ll be in Italy.) People sometimes ask us, “How do you manage to travel for so long and keep strong and centered?” Our answer is the same as the sculptor’s, but with a slightly different twist.
When we’re preparing to be away for a long period, we think, “What isn’t really essential? What can we chip away?” All of our habits—what we eat, how we exercise and relax, when we serve, whom we see regularly, where we meditate — are only patterns that we’ve adopted. They aren’t essential to who we are.Once we are willing to give up small comforts and habit patterns, it’s easier to enter into the flow of life as it presents itself. Like the elephant emerging from the block of marble, with the nonessentials stripped away we can live more freely in our essential nature.
What is this nature? It’s unique for everyone, but shared by all. It’s who we are when we strip away all outer definitions. It starts with self-honesty and expands to become Truth itself; begins with self-acceptance and ripens into Universal Love; grows from a sense of well-being to a state of all-pervading Joy; and from an awareness of our individual self it expands to identification with the Omnipresent Self.
How do we find it? In the stillness and calmness of meditation, we can discover this essence. The interiorized mind is the gateway through which we experience it. Once we begin to recognize who and what we really are, we don’t want to return to superficial self-definitions. Then we let the chips fall where they may.
So Jyotish and I are beginning our journey by paring down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Why not join us in the same process of eliminating the nonessentials? Look at the habit patterns and attachments in your life, and decide what you’d like to leave behind. Remember that what’s necessary isn’t always to release things physically, but to break the thought that they define you.
Each of us is given a block of stone out of which we can carve our life. Be like the master sculptor who perceived the essence of spirit hidden within the material form. Release your soul from the prison of fixed thinking, and roam in freedom with the spirit of God.
Your fellow traveler,