Passion and Perseverance
Passion and perseverance are two characteristics that seem to distinguish the highly skilled from the mediocre. We often think of passion as a trait that inspires people to reach difficult goals and perseverance as the fortitude to apply the necessary effort.
Passion can direct our spiritual course when we are clear about what it is we really want in life. Living Meditation addresses the importance of this clarity:
Our true being is boundless. It has no limitations. But we have shifted our attention from that boundless absolute nature to the limited, relative, ordinary condition of our personalities. As long as we keep our attention away from our true nature, we will continue to live in duality, ignorant of the bliss that is within our reach. We waste our lives distracted by the world and its objects. Again and again, we fall under the material world’s illusions and spells.
Many of us can likely remember the days and months after our initiation when zeal was high and hopeful anticipation of our success was in the forefront. But that euphoria may have waned all too quickly. Years and even decades later, we can find ourselves simply going through the motions mindlessly – such is the enticement of the world and the distractions of our own minds. In doing so, we can easily lose our ability to prioritize the essential from the non-essential.
Meditation is essential. If we remember this one essential thing, then everything will be fine in our life. Meditation should be our passion in this life. Baba Jaimal Singh in Spiritual Letters advises, “Do not waste time uselessly. Be concerned about time spent in vain, and regret why so many breaths were wasted, since they were utilized neither in worldly affairs nor in spiritual pursuit.”
While we must fulfil our worldly obligations – which typically involves earning a living, supporting our family, being a good citizen – none of our worldly endeavours address our deepest yearning to be one with the Lord. No matter how many accomplishments and accolades one may achieve, often a sense of emptiness and loneliness creeps in. This feeling of loneliness can act as a catalyst to inspire passion in us to reach our spiritual goal. In Living Meditation, the author says:
Feeling lonely is the cry of the soul for its true home. It is the cry of our true self to be given the space, the environment, the atmosphere in which it can feel at home. No amount of going places, keeping busy, entering new relationships, climbing the social ladder or buying more things is going to silence that cry. The only remedy is to give the soul what it craves by developing the habit of sitting daily for meditation.
Like the skilled athlete or artist who needs the help of a good coach or teacher to make headway, we have a living Master who has provided us with resources that support us in our spiritual work. We have the Sant Mat literature, fellow brothers and sisters, and most important satsang. While it seems that we often hear different versions of the same advice in satsang, we need to be reminded continually of where our passion in life must remain – doing our meditation so that we can be freed from the cycle of transmigration. The distractions of the world and of our own mind are so strong that these constant reminders are essential to keep us on course. The inspiration we derive from satsang lifts our spirits when we feel discouraged, strengthens our resolve to continue onward when karmas are difficult, and gives us hope that the end result will be worth all of the effort. We need to regularly remind ourselves of what we truly want to achieve in this precious human life. Then we need to support that passion with whatever means we can. Although success in both worldly and spiritual endeavours starts with the passion we have for a goal, passion alone is not enough. That passion must be accompanied with practice – steps we take to make the attainment of that passion a reality. Research shows, however, that not just any kind of practice will do. We can mindlessly go through the process of practising a particular task year after year and still see little improvement.
For example, if you were a runner, you might get up every morning and run two miles for ten consecutive years but still not see any improvement in the amount of time it takes to go that distance. The lack of improvement may cause you to feel discouraged and give up running altogether. This phenomenon can happen with our meditation as well. We might say to ourselves, “I’ve been doing my meditation regularly for years, and I’m still not farther ahead than when I first started. What’s the point of continuing?” In response to this question, we have to remind ourselves first that worldly achievements cannot be compared to spiritual achievements. The Masters tell us that every time we sit for meditation we are making progress even though that progress may not be apparent to us. Failures are part of the process. For this very reason, Maharaj Sawan Singh encourages disciples to bring him their failures. Failures were at least an indication that one had been practising.
What can help us, however, is to engage in our meditation by means of what is called “deliberate practice.” Four basic principles in this type of practice include having a clearly defined goal that stretches our abilities, applying ourselves to that goal with concentrated effort, repeating those efforts as long as necessary until the efforts become second nature to us, and suspending judgment on the quality of our efforts. We can use these same principles of deliberate practice in our meditation just as easily as can an athlete, artist, or entrepreneur.
Maharaj Charan Singh confirms the benefits of this kind of deliberate practice in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II. When a questioner asks, “Master, what is the practical use of doing simran all day?” Hazur replies:
The practical use is that when we sit in meditation after having done simran during the day, we are able to concentrate much better, sooner. Otherwise, if we let our thoughts spread into the whole creation for the other twenty-two hours, it becomes difficult to concentrate in just one and a half or two hours. So when we don’t let our thoughts go out in the world and keep our mind in simran, at the time of sitting, it becomes easier to concentrate and we concentrate sooner. We get concentration very soon then.
Once we establish a goal for our meditation, we continue practising until the efforts we are applying become easier. Then we can establish another goal for ourselves. Gradually practising these smaller goals adds up to the attainment of our ultimate goal. It is important that we avoid unnecessary judgments about our meditation. While we should periodically take stock of our efforts and make any adjustments necessary to reinforce our initiative, we should not feel guilty or discouraged, as that would breed negativity. Instead we should maintain a positive outlook about our spiritual practice. The Master always encourages us to just keep trying, no matter how inadequate our efforts may appear. It is not for us to judge.
In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Ji tells us, “We have so many pitfalls in life which we have to face, very unpleasant things. But if we keep our destination before us, the path before us, and the determination to follow it and reach the destination, then you are able to do it.” These encouraging words assure us that we can be successful – provided we just keep getting up each time we fall.
Coupled with the passion to return home to the Lord, perseverance keeps us going. We are destined to reach our true home. Maharaj Charan Singh assures us of that when he tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
There are no failures on the path. One who does not make a start at all has no chance of falling, but then he is not getting anywhere. One who runs has a chance of falling, but he only falls to get up and run again. Pitfalls here and there do pull us back, but as long as we try to overcome those weaknesses, we again get up and again go ahead. We have to do our best under the circumstances. When we are sincere, the Lord comes to our aid and nature also helps us in our environment, in our atmosphere, in our circumstances. The Lord’s guiding hand is always there whether we are conscious of it or not. We should never lose heart when we have pitfalls or when we have fallen or think that we are being driven from the path. He never leaves us.
We are on our way home. The Lord has marked us to be released from the wheel of birth and death. The journey itself can become one of joy and hope if we fuel it with our passion and perseverance. We have the blessed assurance that Master’s grace will give us the strength, courage, and endurance to continue on until we are reunited with our Father, the supreme source of light, love, and peace.