July 2016 By Nandini Sarkar When the mind is steeped in stillness, God speaks and grace flows,says Nandini Sarkar At age 26, Diane Comer’s world came crashing down. She was diagnosed with permanent deafness. She couldn’t hear a word anyone uttered; the loudest sound just passed her by in deafening silence. Diane was the wife of a Christian pastor or priest; the mother of three young children. She had been devoted to God from childhood. Her soul cried out to God in anguish: “Why me, God? I am still so young. How will I bring up my children if I can’t hear them? How will I help my husband to manage the Church? How will I talk to the seekers who come to our Church, if I can’t hear them?” But Diane found no answer from God. Nor did any treatment succeed. Depressed, embarrassed, a social outcaste and spiralling downwards into hopelessness, Diane felt deep anger and resentment towards God. She gave up her spiritual practice as a sign of protest at God’s injustice. But God does not let go of His children so easily. Behind the darkness waits the light; behind the pain waits the redemption. The light is all the more welcome because we have experienced the chilling darkness. Joy is all the more blissful because we have experienced intense sorrow. A person who has connected with God at some point in their life also finds it difficult to remain away from Him for long, such is the power of His amazing love. In Diane’s own poignant words:- “I fought God ferociously for what I thought was my right to hear. And finally, when I exhausted myself with all my whining and worrying and raging and demanding, God stepped in with elaborate grace.” He lifted me out of the pit of despair, Out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground And steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:2 This is how God stepped into Diane’s life. Early one morning, as Diane sat cuddled in a comfortable chair with a pot of freshly brewed tea, God spoke to her. People may laugh and think it was her imagination. But the soul that is touched by God, simply knows that this has happened. A spiritual experience can never be explained or justified to others. Only the transformation that life undergoes after the experience becomes the real testimony to the experience. Through her devastating illness, God taught Diane to listen. Listening to God, she poured out her weakness to Him and asked for wisdom to meet the challenges she was unable to conquer. Every day, early in the morning, with the Bible open on her lap and pen in hand, Diane asked God to speak to her and He lovingly responded. Diane’s true story is a real source of strength and can be read in her book, He Speaks in the Silence: Now that You have made me listen I finally understand. Psalm 40 Mother Teresa: Silence is the way to God, says this sublime devotee In an interesting episode, Mother Teresa met a priest, who was one of the best theologians in India. She said to him, “Father, you talk all day about God. How close you must be to God!” But the priest confessed that his inner life was barren. “I may be talking much about God, but I may be talking very little to God.” And then he explained, “I may be rattling off so many words and may be saying many good things, but deep down I do not have the time to listen (to God). Because (only) in the silence of the heart, God speaks.” Therefore, said Mother Teresa, the essential thing is to enter into the silence where God will listen to us and speak to us. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert and the mountains, communing for long hours with the Father in the silence of the night. We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God; to be alone with Him — not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything — to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation, Mother concluded. Neale Donald Walsch, bestselling author of Conversations with God, states that God finds our prayers very one-sided! We rattle off what we want to tell him and submit a list of favours we want from Him but we never, ever, wait patiently for His reply! But when we consciously enter the silence, speak to God from the heart, and wait eagerly for His response, God starts speaking. He becomes our partner and companion in the journey of life with its inevitable difficulties and ordeals. Yogi Bhajan, the spiritual teacher who introduced the USA to Kundalini Yoga, said, the greatest reward for doing sadhana or spiritual discipline is that a person becomes incapable of being defeated. Sadhana is self-victory, he said, a victory over time and space. When you get up in the morning for sadhana, you defeat a part of yourself because you didn’t want to get up in the first place. Getting up is a victory over time, and doing sadhana is a victory over space! He went on to say, “It is not that you have to find God. It’s very astonishing to me when people say ‘I am doing this to find God’. God has not to be found. God has not gone on holiday. You have to find consciousness. When you can eliminate your ego and find consciousness, you can find God in you,’ Yogi Bhajan concluded. Those who enter into silent communion with God experience amazing grace. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeva calls grace the “lubricant” without which no effort can be successful. He says, if you look at yourself as a machine, you have brains, you have body, you have everything. But without the lubrication of grace, you have a great engine but you get stuck at every point. Any number of people on the planet are intelligent, they are capable, but at every corner in their life they get stuck because there is no lubrication. Whatever is considered as ‘grace,’ seems to pervade some people’s lives, and for somebody else, everything is a struggle. Sadhguru says to become receptive to this grace, so that the process of life becomes graceful, the easiest way would be devotion. But the mind is very cunning; it cannot devote itself to anybody or anything. You can sing songs of devotion, but you have your own calculation, ‘All that is okay, but what has God done for me?’ Calculating minds cannot be devout. So how does one strike up this conversation with God without being devout or bypassing the calculating mind? The answer is sadhana. It all starts with a simple sankalpa or resolve: I am going to bring a little discipline to my life. I will enter the silence daily and experience grace flowing into my life, making life effortless. One of the easiest methods for entering the silence is Yoga Nidra. There are no rules for this practice. No getting up early in the morning or staying up late at night. Anytime is a good time. You just need a place to lie down in shavasana. Yoga Nidra is psychic sleep. It is the twilight zone between the waking and the sleeping states. All of us have experienced this state of being in “limbo” just before dozing off to sleep. Yoga Nidra teaches us to hold on to this transitory state consciously or at will for longer periods of time. In this twilight zone between sleep and wakefulness, the subconscious mind is at its most powerful and acts like a genie or wish-fulfilling tree. Whatever sankalpa we feed to the subconscious mind at this time, in this state of perfect relaxation, brings guaranteed results. For my personal practice, I listen to the great Swami Niranjananda’s (Bihar School of Yoga) guided practice of Yoga Nidra on YouTube. Completely relaxed, with my headphones on and following his audio instructions on my cell, I float in a world where there is no strife or struggle, nowhere to go, nothing to achieve, nothing to accomplish, no problem to solve. For beginners, it also helps to get into the mood by listening to some soothing music just before starting the guided meditation. Sometimes while doing Yoga Nidra, worries and anxieties enter my mind and cause rapid palpitations in my heart area. In that moment, I simply breathe deeply, using the double inhalation and double exhalation pranayama five-six times, and all is well once again. I refuse to allow stray thoughts to worry me because I have made my sankalpa not to be identified with my earthly life while listening to the Yoga Nidra meditation. I feed my subconscious mind with the sankalpa that by the practice of Yoga Nidra I will have the power to do sadhana daily, to keep the grace flowing in my life and lubricating it. I don’t want to live my life hopping from one problem to another problem. I want God’s perennial grace to be undefeated in the face of inevitable problems. Recently, I attended a Joy of Meditation retreat at the Govardhan Eco Village just outside Mumbai. At GEV, the soft lighting and the lilting, contemporary Hare Krishna chant would gently guide us into the “zone” and only then, the teacher would start the Yoga Nidra practice. Not only did my practice of Yoga Nidra get strengthened due to the presence of the wonderful and enlightened teachers at GEV but the urge to do sadhana also became stronger. Back home, I found myself getting up early in the morning, at 5 am, to connect to God in the silence. It felt wonderful to be alone and awake in the Brahma muhurta. The silence poured down on my being in blessing, I experienced being surrounded by light inspiring me to come back to it daily. Yogi Bhajan said that if we give one tenth of our day to God, God gives Himself or Herself to us totally for the rest of the day. In his usual inimitable and forthright way, Yogi Bhajan also tells us not to wait to be initiated by anyone. He says we should just take charge of our lives and do our own spiritual initiation. Truly, in the internet age, where
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