Swamiji talks about spring cleaning our lives to make this season an offering to the Holy Mother who will visit us this summer.
Spring is upon us, and it is time for spring cleaning! Typically this means we review our circumstances, get rid of things we don't need, and try to clean up our environment. But although this external cleansing can be quite beneficial, it does not remove the clutter embedded in our minds. So how do we do a spring cleaning in our minds? That's the real question.
Amma says we must first take stock of our life: What are we doing? Does it make any sense? What do we need to keep doing? What do we need to get rid of?
On New Year's this year, Amma talked about some questions we need to ask ourselves, including "Am I being steady in my spiritual discipline and practice?" This is key for spiritual aspirants: discipline and steady practice should be a number one priority.
Over the years, I have heard many excuses related to Amma's question. One very common excuse I frequently hear from people is that they lack self-discipline and hence canít stick to their spiritual practices. Often, we give preference to the worldly life over our spiritual life. Our intentions might be good, but then we slide into thinking "I can do practices a little later" or even "after I retire, I will have more time to do my spiritual practice." But by the time you retire, you might not be able to even sit properly! Or various parts of your body might be aching with pain. We should not procrastinate with doing our spiritual practices.
Remember that Spring is a time for fresh beginnings: It is a perfect time to take account of our spiritual practices. If you havenít started (or if you need to re-start), do it now. Don't worry if you canít sit and meditate for long hours. Start by doing your practices for 10-15 minutes. The key is to stick to that discipline without fail, no matter what. Even if the sun rises in the west and birds start flying upside down, stick with your practice every day.
We often look at the spiritual world and the material world as two different things and put a divider between them, but Amma does not see it like that. Though the river appears to have two banks, it is one continuous plane underneath. Because of our mental divide, we see the spiritual and material as two. However, whatever we do in the spiritual plane will affect the material plane and vice versa. If we start doing our practices regularly and are self-disciplined, this practice will surely be reflected in our work and our daily life. Once a man came to Amma and complained that he wasn't able to get things done at work because there was always too much noise so he was getting distracted easily. Amma advised him saying, "Son, just sit and meditate for 10 minutes every day." That was a simple solution that Amma gave him. The man initially did not believe in it, but because Amma asked him to do, he gave it a try. As he meditated, even for just 10 minutes a day, he began to realize that what he lacked was discipline. His mind was wandering all over the place! So he realized that this was why he had been unable to complete his work properly. The moment he started focusing on discipline in his spiritual life, his work life improved. One affects the other.
Yet another excuse I often hear is " I am too busy." We find that even a 7- or 8-year-oldís life is busy. I remember visiting a devoteeís home one time and meeting a little girl there. I tried talking with her but she was in a hurry and only had time to say a quick hello. She quickly enumerated her to-do list, noting that she had to do her homework, catch up on Facebook, play with her friends and then read her book.
People feel like gerbils on one of those little exercise treadmills and we can't seem to get off of it! Nobody seems to know why and what makes us so busy and we can't even slow down enough to figure it out. That is why it is good to take stock of our lives, understand our schedule and find out why we are so busy. We might be setting wrong priorities, giving importance to less important things and ignoring matters that need priority. Spiritual practices can and do help.
There is the story of an important businessman who went to his Guru and complained that he was too busy and did not have any time for spiritual practices. The Guru gave him a mantra and asked him to simply chant it each day, but the businessman replied that he had no time to chant the mantra. So the Guru asked him, "What do you do when you get up to go to the bathroom?" to which the businessman replied, "Nothing, I just get up and walk there." Then the Guru asked him, "What do you do when you take a shower or brush your teeth?" and the businessman again replied that he was just thinking of nothing. "Canít you chant your mantra then?" asked the Guru.
So the businessman started chanting his mantra during these seemingly insignificant times, and he began to realize how much time he had been wasting! He not only found time to chant his mantra but was able to prioritize things properly. He gained time instead of wasting time. Like this businessman, if we prioritize incorrectly, we waste time. But by giving 10 or 15 minutes to spiritual practice, we gain a lot of time.
The other excuse people usually give is that it takes too long to see results from spiritual practicesÖ.
To be continued