We had a lovely dinner on the lawn with a group of friends last week, the first in more than a year. As the conversation deepened over the evening, we asked each person to talk about what they were working on inwardly. Their answers probably resonate with you too: “I’m working on staying in the moment.” Another, “I’m working on being spiritually authentic to myself rather than doing what others might expect.” Yet another, “I’m trying to keep my mind God-centered throughout the whole day.” One said, “When I have a question, I try to remember to ask God or Master, ‘What would you do?’” Around the table it went, each sharing deeply their inner aspirations and struggles.
What made this remarkable is that we were sitting with a group of younger people, some of whom had been here for only months. The age of our bodies doesn’t matter; what counts is the “age” of our souls. These were all old souls in young bodies.
What is an “old soul”? In one way, this is a misnomer: Our souls have been around since the beginning of time. But in another sense, an old soul is someone who has spent a number of lifetimes pursuing spiritual truths. Anyone drawn to a high and challenging spiritual path such as that given by our great line of masters has to be an old soul.
Once we were with Swami Kriyananda in, of all places, a shopping mall when he said, “I received a letter yesterday from someone expressing how unworthy he felt about himself. He compared his accomplishments to mine and felt inadequate. I wish,” Swamiji went on, “that people would understand that we are all the same. I’ve just been at it for a little longer.”
An important point here is that there are many deep aspirants who are struggling with unhelpful self-images. Many feel alone and without support from their environment. Most old souls, many in young bodies, experience feelings similar to the ones below:
- “There is so much more to life than what I see happening around me. I’m not attracted to the things that others find so important. This world doesn’t seem to fit me.”
- “I wish I had friends I could talk to, who feel as I do. But I feel alone. I don’t have anyone that I can share myself with, who really understands my deeper feelings.”
- “I want to help the world.” (This may take a thousand forms: helping the homeless, or the environment, or those who are unable to defend themselves from those with more power.)
- “I feel that I am spiritual, but not religious. I wish I could find someone who can explain the purpose of life.”
These were some of the feelings being expressed at the table last week. What was notable was that everyone felt secure enough to bare their soul. These young people had been a part of our Internship Program at Ananda Village, and now were moving toward living here permanently. The Internship Program gives young people a chance to stay here for a period of time without any long-term commitment, to see if Ananda seems to be the right path and environment for them.
Whether young or old, it is a deep blessing to find a safe and supportive environment in which to allow one’s spiritual aspirations to unfold. Yogananda said that environment is stronger than willpower, and urged the creation of “world brotherhood colonies” based on simple living and high thinking.
The world is desperately in need of social models that help people live lives of higher meaning and purpose. What Ananda is offering globally are such examples. Master’s great mission to the world has hardly begun.
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