By Gopika Nath July 2003 If I start judging myself, then I can neither grow, nor progress. It is this relationship with myself that allows me infinite patience and understanding My practice has taught me to enjoy being human, to take care of the body’s needs and pains, before I attempt to go beyond Life is about relationships. But first and foremost, it is about your relationship with yourself. In a recent article Aluna Joy Yaxk’in, a motivational speaker, wrote: ‘‘I live a life most people would envy. I live in a beautiful place of my own choosing. I travel all over the world. I work when I want to, and I answer to no one but the Creator. ‘‘I have had many magical and mystical experiences in my life. The best of it was that I have a powerful and intimate relationship with the Creator… But… there is something missing. I feel emptiness because I do not have a deep and intimate personal relationship.’’ In this world there are many who have had mystical experiences, who have a great and wonderful relationship with their Creator, but are still unfulfilled. We seek bliss and happiness through our work, friends and our intimate personal relationships. There may be some, who like Aluna, even have a good relationship. And yet feel an emptiness. This is nothing but the lack of a really deep relationship with one’s self. Those of us on the spiritual path may have experienced moments of a deep connection with ourselves, and felt comfortable and self-sufficient. But in the mundane business of living our daily lives, the experience is difficult to sustain and perhaps we are not quite ready to give it all up, for we still seek security in the familiarity of the world around us. Most of us are just at the beginning of the path that leads us to the kind of beatitude and bliss that sages and munis have spoken of I think this recognition is fundamental for success on the path, because then we do not delude ourselves about our spiritual greatness. Aluna did not get it entirely wrong when she spoke of the need for a deep and intimate personal relationship, but even that may not suffice, unless she deepens her relationship with herself or her Creator. No matter what is missing, it will be fulfilled if our relationship with the Creator deepens. But what does this mean? How do we know when it is deep enough? This is the most perplexing thing of all, because the kind of silence needed to feel connected and to sustain it, is extremely difficult in the cacophony of the world. The one way I have found that helps a great deal is to have a long and intense monologue questioning myself, getting in touch with my feelings and then trying to understand and analyse these, to grasp where I am going, what I want to say or do and why. Sometimes it takes days for me to feel that sense of liberation, or relief, that tells me that I have truly done what my heart was telling me to. ‘Spiritual’ does not necessarily mean ‘conventional’ or ‘pleasant’ and therefore, I have needed to cultivate an open-minded, liberated relationship with myself, to even attempt to surrender my life and all its actions to the forces of life. This is tough to do when life around you questions your decisions, because they are not conventional or acceptable. Therefore, living a life, finally balanced between the material world that I still need, and the world of spiritual realm that I am just about begining to understand, is perhaps the greatest challenge that I face. A wise man once told me that only if we have fulfilled all our worldly desires can we truly make progress on the spiritual path. Through years of self-examination I have understood that to devote yourself with honesty to a life focussed on God is tough. It is not wrong to have desires, but it is the greed and attachment to them that causes us grief. It is fine to aspire for certain things as long as you are willing to work for them. It is also fine to want to have a comfortable life. I believe everything is all right if you can deal with it. Therefore, to me, rather than a deep and personal relationship with someone else, it is more important that I first have one with myself, and that I accept all aspects of me. Then the growth begins. If I start judging myself, then I can neither grow, nor progress. It is this relationship with myself that allows me infinite patience and understanding. But I have a long way to go yet, learning through sadness and pain, through laughter and sharing, the mysteries of life and my limitations and limitlessness as a human being. I enjoy my spiritual practice but I am not aspiring for sainthood. And neither am I a lesser or better human being. Years of spiritual practice have taught me that I have innumerable limitations and that above all that I am a human being. In accepting this I have found the secret to being more than that, taking great reassurance in the Vedantic tale of Shiv Nag the Cobra. Like many of us, in the beginning of our journey on the spiritual path, the snake put himself under great duress to be the epitome of perfection, forgetting his physical and emotional needs. Suffering through this, and by the enlightened vision of the Muni who guided him, he learned to live like a snake; hissing when under threat or siege, to protect himself, or killing, to feed himself and his family. It has taken me ten years of disciplined practice to comprehend this most fundamental lesson of all. Today I understand that to accept my humanness, embracing it and loving it is the way by which I can transcend the limitations it presents. I have learned that my perfection lies in being human, all the imperfections intact. My practice has taught me to enjoy being human, to take care of the body and all of its needs, aches and pains, before I attempt to go beyond, to understand the nuances of my being, to cultivate a deep and intimate relationship with myself, to even begin to live a deeply fulfilled and meaningful life.
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