What Works, What Doesn’t
My favourite diet was one that claimed that all I needed to do was to eat foods that “sang” to me. Unfortunately, I did. An ice cream sundae always has and always will sing to me. Going with my instincts, I gained five pounds in a week. A lifetime of dieting has resulted in a new plan. I will eat what I like best from many different diets. The ones with portion controls allow you to eat anything you want. The high-protein diets permit great quantities of butterfat. The low-carb diets encourage nuts and olive oil. Apparently fresh fruit can act as an appetite suppressant. It should come as no surprise that by focusing only on what we like and rejecting what is difficult, demanding or sacrificial, we will be gaining weight at a pretty fast rate. And we will be deceiving ourselves.
While this might be glaringly obvious when it comes to weight control, it is surprising how many followers of spirituality use this same thinking when it comes to spiritual discipline. We think that we can pick and choose whatever we find attractive at the moment, and ignore anything that is difficult, demanding or sacrificial. We can be enormously appreciative of a moving story of a Radha Soami master or an eloquent poem by Rumi but then ignore what the saints say about how essential it is to meditate and attend satsang. The fact is that living a spiritual life requires discipline and sacrifice.
We cannot claim to love science, and yet choose not to employ the scientific method. The same would be true if we wanted to become a musician – we would need to practice incessantly and we can fantasize all we want about becoming a great athlete, but unless we’re willing to work out regularly, we will not succeed.
What is true in the material world also applies to our spiritual lives. Sant Mat has no dogmas, creeds or rituals. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t real consequences to the priorities and goals we focus on and how those priorities are reflected in our actions. The decisions we make about what is important and our beliefs about what is essential in our daily lives, make a difference in our outlook, our sense of perspective, and even in our capacity to sense the Master’s presence.
While we are naturally attracted to a God of love, mercy and grace -and as we depend completely on the Master’s compassion, forgiveness, and kindness – the path of the saints is also very demanding. We are told to do two and one half hours of meditation every day. We are asked to do as much simran as we can at other times. And we are constantly being offered opportunities to practise surrendering our own will and accepting the Lord’s. Every day and every moment, we are given the choice of turning in the direction of the world or turning in the direction of the Lord. As in any endeavour, as we continually refocus our lives, our attention, and our willingness to serve, we may discover a new strength. With better choices we might discover what we’d been looking for all along: depth, courage, and blessings.