Three Thoughts to Remember for Spiritual Life
Question: How can worldly people and lay followers like me who are not yet ready for spiritual life prepare for it?
First of all, you must have a strong resolve. Nothing can be done without it. Resolve comes with remembrance. Remembrance strengthens when you have an ideal setting.
Therefore, first aim to create a favorable environment in and around you. Find people who have similar intentions, and keep meeting them to exchange ideas and learn from them. Read books or listen to discourses. Know that aloneness is the true mark of spirituality. Hence, develop self-reliance and the freedom to be yourself.
You also need a good, thinking mind, which is free from prejudice and judgment. Hence, you have to develop an introspective, insightful mind. With introspection and mindfulness, you can think through problems and situations in your life and gain insight into them. They are opportunities to grow and expand your mind. Cultivate virtues. They are the foundation. No one can go far on the path without virtue or righteous conduct. Even if you are not ready for spiritual life, have the aspiration for it, and let that aspiration remain alive in your thoughts. Fuel that thought with prayers and devotion.
In today’s world, it is difficult for worldly people to practice spirituality or engage their minds in meditation and contemplation, or the practice of yoga. The distractions and temptations to fall in line with worldly people are numerous. Even if you have right intentions, you may not find favorable conditions for engaging your mind to think about God or experience peace.
Therefore, for spiritual people it is a huge challenge to remain engaged in spiritual and transformative practices such as yoga or to spend time in the contemplation of God and liberation. They have to be constantly on guard against negative and corrupting influences of the world. If you are one of them, here are three important thoughts which you should constantly remember and meditate to ground your mind in discipline and deeper awareness and prepare for spiritual life even when you are busy with worldly activities.
1. Remembering who you are
You are not just a physical being. You are an eternal Self, immortal, eternal, indestructible and infinite. Your nature is pure consciousness. In daily life, we usually forget this and remain focused upon our physical and material existence. We live and act as if we are mere physical beings, vulnerable to disease and death. This thinking limits us and keeps us restricted to a limited vision of who we are or what we can accomplish. It also increases stress and anxiety.
The body is a vessel. It is your first home, a temporary support and resting place provided by Nature. You live in it for the duration of your life. The Vedas proclaim that the body dies, but the Self does not. If you want to experience a sudden shift in your thinking or perspective, focus upon your consciousness and accept it as your true identity. You will at once feel lighter.
That consciousness is currently clogged with many impurities and modifications. If you can make it calmer, purer and stable, you will begin to experience an expansive awareness and an increased activity in your subtle mind. You become thoughtful, mindful, keen, restrained, rational, mature and analytical. If you persist, you will find that withdrawing your mind and senses from the world becomes easier and natural.
2. Remembering your mortality
We are life oriented. The longing for life is a very strong urge in us. It is what keeps us going when life becomes tougher. We learn from the study of space that the material universe is not conducive to life. Considering the number of destructive forces that are at work in this world, it is a miracle that life exists here, and we are able to survive the challenges that Nature imposes upon us.
The same Nature builds in us strength and resilience to survive the odds and focus upon living and surviving rather than death. In a way, it is good because it helps us cope with the problems of life and remain hopeful and strong rather than becoming discouraged or dispirited.
However, in spiritual life you must learn to come to terms with death and make peace with it. You must become indifferent to death and develop a stoical attitude towards it. Regular contemplation upon death helps you overcome the fear of death and strengthen your resolve to work for your liberation and freedom from death and rebirth.
3. Remembering the impermanence of things
Death is also a reminder of the impermanence of our lives. From simple observation, we can deduce that the world is impermanent. Nothing lasts forever. Things keep changing. Death, aging, sickness, destruction and change, they are the constant themes of our existence. The impermanence of the world makes our lives, behavior, thinking and relationships uncertain and unpredictable.
In order to deal with them we amass things and try to build the illusion of security and continuity into our lives. We also tend to ignore the problem and live in denial of it as if it does not matter. However, we know that those efforts do not fully ensure our protection against impermanence, and we are still vulnerable to many threats. Hence, we keep experiencing fear and anxiety.
Impermanence also has its own advantages. It makes change and improvements possible. It keeps the future open to all possibilities and opportunities. To people in adversity or to those who are in search of peace and happiness, it gives hope. By contemplating upon impermanence, you become grounded in the reality of life and realize the importance of cultivating virtues like detachment, equanimity, sameness, discernment and dispassion.
These three thoughts are helpful to broaden your thinking and attitude towards life and go beyond the surface reality of the world and your own being into their deeper aspects. They prepare you for soul centered life, fixing your mind in your identity as an eternal Self. Try to remember these three thoughts as frequently as possible. Contemplate upon them and realize their true significance. If you persist, you will notice the change.
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