It was an Open House at a Unitarian Church in San Francisco where people could sign up for a variety of new classes. That evening I was sitting at a small table ready to register people for a four-week “How to Meditate” course that Jyotish and I would be teaching.
Two well-dressed middle-aged women approached my table and enthusiastically asked, “What are you teaching?”
“We’ll be offering a course in the basic practices of meditation. Would you like to sign up?”
A little disappointed, one replied, “Oh, meditation. We already did that.” They flitted away to the next table to see what new fare they could find.
We live in an age of extreme restlessness, where the possibilities for new activities and experiences are never-ending, but the ability to go deep in any one of them is largely ignored. People move from job to job, city to city, relationship to relationship hoping to find happiness in the “new.”
Too late they realize that outward change brings not what they seek, but merely a “variation on a theme” of what they thought they’d left behind. The French have an apt proverb that describes this: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” meaning “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
Without transformation of consciousness, external change alone won’t make much difference in our life, nor bring us lasting happiness. “Change” may amount to no more than rearranging the pieces on the same old game board; “transformation” means changing how we perceive the game itself.
This process of transformation, however, requires inner discipline to focus the mind on whatever we’re doing, and perseverance until we begin to change from the inside.
We might call this process the “Art of Becoming.”
To practice it, we need to have commitment, patience, and steadfastness. As well, we need to view our life as a connected whole in which every step leads to the next, not as separate episodes with no underlying purpose or direction.
The world today is rife with restlessness. People are deceived if they think that a quick change in government will make a real difference. But there is hope, because world consciousness itself is in the process of transformation. It, too, is struggling to become more enlightened, and we can help in this process.
This year Ananda has started a campaign called, “Be The Change,” paraphrasing a statement by Mahatma Gandhi: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” We’re inviting people everywhere to join us in pledging a certain amount of time daily to meditating for world peace. You can find out more about it by going to meditationpledge.com.
Our potential to transform ourselves and positively to affect the world around us is much greater than we realize. When we abandon our fascination with constant outer change and focus instead on inner transformation, we begin to perceive our true Self.
This awareness of who we really are can’t be found in time’s fleeting moments, but rests always in the changeless, Eternal Now. In the heart of stillness lies the key to lasting meaning and joy.