Those of you who read my old blog know that I have a strong faith of some kind, but wonder now and then about my Christianity. One of the faith practices that I come back to again and again with great reward is not particularly emphasized in Christianity—meditation. I have been following the meditation practices of the Self-Realization Fellowship for 30 years now. I have to say that my closest and most trusted avatar is not Jesus Christ but rather Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of SRF. That certainly would disqualify me in the eyes of many, perhaps most, Christians. Yet I feel confident that I am on the right path to both attend Trinity Episcopal Church AND practice SRF meditation. I give you this background because I am about to relate to you one more meeting of myself and the Divine Presence in my life.
It’s been hard lately even finding the time to think about God. I am the major caretaker for my partner, recovering from some serious stuff. This has a way of filling up one’s time every day—and I quickly add I am glad to do it. But I am also discovering in no uncertain terms that I MUST make the effort to include both physical exercise and discipline and spiritual practice and discipline into my daily routine. If I do not make time for these two things every day, I simply don’t feel as well emotionally or physically. You’ve heard it before, but the three things I try to do regularly are 1) 20 minutes of SRF meditation, 2) 8 minutes of Tai Chi Chuan, Yang Short Form, and 2) 20 minutes of a modified form of East-West Stretching and Limbering Exercises (could be known as “Yoga for dummies”).
I am rereading for the manyeth time Paramahansa Yogananda’s world-famous Autobiography of a Yogi. On some particularly full days, I will just pick up the book and read two facing pages at random. It’s all inspiring to me. This morning, just before my meditation, I read part of Yogananda’s tale of how his guru guided him through his college exams with spiritual advice when he had been so busy in devotional practice that he had avoided studying for a whole academic period. It’s a neat story, but the main advice of the story is: do your best, do your duty and trust in God. Somehow, even when I have doubt, Yogananda’s stories can inspire me to follow that advice.
I read the story just before my meditation. For Yogananda, meditation is putting out a soul call to God. But you can’t hear what God has to say if your mind is so busy with incessant and basically trivial (on a world scale) concerns that you can’t let go of them to focus on God. So you must learn the discipline of first quieting your mind to the silence of a crystal clear placid lake, and then perhaps you are prepared for the miracle of God’s communication with you. I have to say that in my spiritual practice of thirty years, sometimes it feels like the meditative score is: busy, distracted meditation sessions, 10,000, communion with God, 2.
This morning, and partly because of the inspiring story snippet from Autobiography, I felt the communion score went up by one. And this is really what I would like to share with you. Actually the core of my inspiration is fairly simple and straightforward. If we are intent on learning to meditate, we must follow the advice of Yogananda’s teacher, Sri Yukteswar, and even when meditating, do your best, do your duty, and trust in God. Even when you have been distracted again and again by thoughts of breakfast, shopping, internet pursuits, half-remembered grudges, worries and anxieties, neck pain, you must redouble your efforts. Think of that smooth, placid lake, look beyond it to God. You will eventually ascend into some form of meditative state.
But this is not the whole story. God is to be found within us, and God is to be found outside us. Particularly, God is to be found in the Other—other person, spouse, friend, neighbor, hated political figure or despot. You must be as diligent in realizing this about others as about yourself. You must, in effect, learn to meditate on the God in the Other, too. Probably your spouse or friend isn’t having too much more success in being their best than you are. And when they fall short of the mark, again and again, even when the score is short of the mark, 10,000, hit the mark, 2, you need to still look for the God in them. It is looking for the God in the Other that most helps the Other to have success in their own spiritual endeavor.
This is like looking clear around the Universe, when you do it. Look right through the other person’s eyes to God and then on around back through your own eyes. It’s a fulfilling connection when you can do it. This is not an original though by me. Jesus Christ (Matthew 18:22) and many others thought about it first. But it is the first time I have remembered it in quite a while.