Pushing Our Boundaries
If we wish to open our inner eye, we will need to push our boundaries. We will need to go beyond what is familiar – to go beyond what we are comfortable with and what we think we know.
The first step is to become aware of these boundaries and to begin questioning them. There’s an old British movie, called “Alfie,” in which the main character asks the question, “Is this all there is?” A lot of us have asked this question. It is the nature of the mind to keep us trapped here. First we are attracted to so many people, places, and things. We enjoy some of them for a while, but then we become disenchanted, bored, and dissatisfied. And when that happens we may keep searching for new experiences that bring fun and thrills, perhaps a sense of happiness. But over time we still remain dissatisfied and feel empty. Nothing in this world creates permanent happiness. Nothing belongs to us. Everything is temporary. So rather than waste so much time getting consumed by all these temporary things in this world, we need to come to grips with this reality. Nothing lasts. We – along with our families, friends, and possessions – will all disappear over time.
A Sufi saint gives us some perspective on living in the world. He says:
The deeper your involvement here, the harsher your pain and suffering. Donkeys with colorful ornaments or loud bells are groomed for heavier loads.
Shaikh Abu Saeed Abil-Kheir, Nobody, Son of Nobody, translated by Vraje Abramian
So, like the donkey, we might have the colorful trappings of the world, but all of these things weigh us down and bring suffering rather than peace. The world and its trappings take us deeper into darkness and illusion. Spirituality, on the other hand frees us and takes us toward the light of the Lord.
When we finally realize and accept this, then we should tread lightly in this world. We should treat the world as we would a beautiful rose. Roses are fragrant and pretty. If we came across a rose garden and saw an especially beautiful rose, we might lean over and smell it and admire its beauty and the colour of the petals. But we would never wrap our hand around the stem and pull it to us, as all the thorns would cut our hand and leave us bleeding. And if bees were flitting around the roses, we would not get too close for fear of being stung. That is like the world. We can enjoy the beauty and fragrance of it but not grab it. And when the rose fades, and the petals drop off, we see that it is gone. We are not sad, because we enjoyed the rose for a little while, and it gave us pleasure before it died. And this is just what happens in our lives – the world slips away from us, or putting it more positively: Focusing on the Lord loosens our attachments here and allows us to slip away from the world. With the Lord’s grace, he grants us our freedom and salvation from the world. We are no longer slaves here. We are becoming enlightened souls preparing to go home.
However, this enlightenment seldom comes to us quickly or easily. As we begin to get a glimmer that this world offers little, and we push our boundaries to be open to the possibility of a much greater destiny of returning home to the Lord, often we are initially elated. Yet, as we plod along, despair may set in. Sometimes people run away and attempt to deal with the pain by distracting and dulling themselves – maybe with alcohol and drugs, extreme sports, dangerous situations.
But the Lord works with us to give us the encouragement and strength to keep going. We are drawn back, again and again, to that fundamental question, “Is this all there is?” Finding the answer to that question keeps us searching for deeper meaning. That search pushes us beyond our normal boundaries, and we typically question the purpose and meaning of life. We need a search and rescue operation to put us on the path to salvation. And that’s what happens when we come into contact with a Master – a true teacher. Without a living Master to guide us we are hopelessly lost and adrift in this world. We cannot reach God under our own steam. The importance of a living mystic cannot be overstated. A mystic is like gold – something to be treasured. The saints explain the teachings in a simple way that we can understand. And they inspire us by their example and the beauty of their teachings.
Sometimes we may think that we can’t do what Masters ask of us. Some initiates tell the Master that they want to resign from the path. But he tells us that there are no resignations that can be tendered in Sant Mat. The Master has made a commitment to take us home. And he never falters in his commitment, his seva to the Lord. And if we think about it, why would we want to resign from Sant Mat? It is the only “gift that keeps on giving.” We just need to develop inner resilience.
Recently there was an interesting magazine article that explored the topic of resilience based on the research of two prominent scientists. The scientists’ premise is that we can do a lot more than we think we can. The research of these two scientists came up with ten tips to enhance our resilience – each of which we can apply to living a spiritual life.
1. Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake. This is what happens in Sant Mat. Disciples have a deeply held core set of principles and beliefs based on direct personal experience that over time nothing can shake. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives Vol. II: “If you have experienced personal knowledge that this is a horse, let the whole world say it is a cow – you will never believe it.… Personal experience creates depth in our faith.”
2. Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened. By following a spiritual path we get real meaning in life. The question “Is this all there is?” is answered for us. This puts things in perspective so we can handle stressful and traumatic situations. We learn to “roll with the punches” of life and live in the will of God.
3. Try to maintain a positive outlook. The Master teaches us to “light a candle” rather than curse the darkness. As we relax into Sant Mat, we trust the Master, and our outlook becomes more and more positive. Master continually reinforces the point that having a positive attitude goes hand-in-hand with spiritual progress.
4. Take cues from someone who is especially resilient. Masters model resilience for us – whether it is their ability to go through illness without losing balance or by their lifelong commitment to serving the sangat. By tuning in to their example we gain strength. We are always influenced by the company we keep; and when we remember the Master, we can become like him.
5. Don’t run from things that scare you. Face them. The Master tells us we have nothing to fear. They teach us clear thinking which helps us to be fearless. And knowing that he is there for us helps us to be brave and more steadfast.
6. Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire. We do this every day with our meditation and our way of life. Simranis always available to us. And by attending satsang we are part of a support group of like-minded people all seeking to move upwards.
7. Learn new things as often as you can. The Master urges us not to be locked into lifeless concepts but instead to have our owndirect experiences, to delve deeply within ourselves and broaden our consciousness. We have a lot to learn, and he is there to guide us.
8. Find an exercise regime you’ll stick to. Our spiritual exercise is meditation. We stick with it day in, day out, year in, year out. We get to the point that we feel we can’t live without meditation – even if there are no visible results. Meditation becomes the most precious part of our lives.
9. Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past. The Masters tell us this all the time. Don’t get bogged down here. When we are having a tough time, don’t get obsessed with it. Go beyond it. Just forget about it and move on to something positive.
10. Recognize what makes you uniquely strong – and own it. What makes us strong and resilient is living the Sant Mat way of life. Through meditation we are waking up, we are becoming alive again. We have been given a gift, and it’s that gift that is our core strength.
The Master gives us all the tools we need to be resilient on this path, to keep trying. Let’s cherish what we’ve been given and focus on breaking the bonds this world has on us. There really is nothing here worth holding on to. So let’s keep pushing our boundaries and open ourselves up to the Creator within us.
If your desire is to find your soul
look for it among the People of the Heart
so you too may become what they are.