By Nayaswami Narayan
August 13, 2019
I saw a funny cartoon recently. Two cows are in a pasture and then notice a man up on the top of a grassy hill meditating. The man, presumably absorbed in inner peace, chants out loud a long, “Oooooom.” The one cow says to the other cow, “He’s got it all backwards.”
Aren’t we a lot like that? Sometimes we miss the point of life and think we have to reform others and the world around us. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “If you want to reform the world, reform yourself.”
How do we reform ourselves? Rather than a big dramatic step, lasting change happens gradually.
There’s a story I’ve heard second hand about Nayaswami Jaya that illustrates this point. Jaya was a young man in college and had just read Autobiography of a Yogi. He met Swami Kriyananda and they were discussing how Jaya could begin his practice of meditation. Swami said, “Can you meditate 30 minutes a day?” As a starting point that felt out of reach for Jaya and he said, “No.” Swami said, “How about 20 minutes a day?” And Jaya felt his mind was too restless to start with 20 minutes a day. Then Swami asked him, “What can you do?” With that simple question, Jaya was able to relax and commit to a practice that was doable for him at the time. That small commitment led to a titanic transformation over time. Now Jaya mediates for hours a day and is a source of great inspiration for others.
What can you do? I’ve been thinking a lot about this question of late because my meditation practice changed after I injured my achilles. At first I could not meditate in my normal seated posture. I had to lay back and elevate my leg. Also, I was only able to sit for short periods more like meditation sprints. There was the temptation to feel sorry for myself.
Through the grace of God this question came to my mind, “What can you do?” Ideas came in a flood like fashion. I can chant, I can practice the presence of God, I can focus on the spiritual eye, I can pray for others, I can be of service to others.
By asking, “What can you do?” my attitude shifted from little self absorption towards absorption in God. As Swami Kriyananda says In the Festival of Light, “Pain is the fruit of self-love, whereas joy is the fruit of love for God.”
Given the dire state of the world today, we can easily fall into despair and feel our energy levels drop. We can become susceptible to negativity and judgemental attitudes. The carping spirit will tell us: “What’s the use of it all? What hope is there for this world? For that matter, what hope is there for me!?”
We need to combat discouragement and indifference by furiously focusing on whatever positive step we can take. And that starts by asking the question: “What can I do?”
Perhaps you’re familiar with the “butterfly effect” in physics. This theory states that a small change results in larger differences at a later state. For example, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can later lead to a tornado.
How can you flap your wings of joy today? What can you do to effect a small positive change in your life and in the world around you? How about meditating for five minutes a day?
As Krishna promises through the Gita, “Even a little practice of this inward religion will free one from dire fears and colossal sufferings.”
One small effort you make can lift you into the jetstream of God’s grace. This will create a groundswell of inspiration from within and lead to the truest transformation: the redemption of your Soul.
What can you do?
As Lahiri Mahaysa said, “Doing, doing, one day done!”