Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Obviously a lot of people have a lot of time on hand as I received innumerable messages and mails related to my previous article on the dangers of oscillation while trying to walk the Path. So, the previous article was on how there are times when everything seems to be going right where our spiritual disciplines are concerned and then all of a sudden nothing seems to go as planned.
How do we try to safeguard ourselves from such lows after breathing the fresh air of spiritual heights or at least spiritual discipline? On my journey, I have learnt a few things and I share them with you. If it makes any sense to you and can help you on your Path, please go ahead and follow it, after you have tweaked my suggestions to suit your needs.
Okay, so bear with my seven rupee worth gyaan. Remember each one of us leads a completely different life. It is like there are as many worlds as there are beings that abide in Creation, as each one’s life, truth’s, fears, joys, state of being and inherent tendencies are all so different and personal. Thus, observe all, learn from the strengths and mistakes of all, be inspired by those who have lit one’s internal fire (I mean the spiritual fire), but always and I repeat always, do what works for you in the most natural manner. Thus, after going through the road map, chart out your own journey.
For some people penance comes easy. They actually shine when things get tough and look insurmountable. They thrive on challenges and pressure and if the scenario isn’t demanding, they seem to lose interest or invariably underperform. They like the big stage and more impossible the task their best shines forth with greater splendour. Good for them. That does not mean each of us has to take on a herculean task just to get things started and accomplished. But this category of folks, if the task isn’t testing, the best never comes forward. This scenario works for them. It may not for you and me.
Then there are some who like to take small bites. They divide their task or their day or their lives into innumerable compartments. One by one, they complete their objective and move on to the next. They don’t like to be hurried. They cannot handle pressure. They can’t multitask. But they are so methodical and disciplined that they go through their moment, hour, day, week, month, one step at a time. They are not looking for the big stage or pressures. In fact they can’t operate under the floodlights of scrutiny or expectations. They like to do their work, little by little, and before you know it, they have walked up the mountain to a considerable distance.
Some can only work when guided and under supervision. Give them a free hand and there is chaos. For some people chaos ensues the moment they are kept under the lens of regulation. Thus, first and foremost do not try to become somebody else. If we can just live the best to our own potential and individuality, that itself is more than enough. In spirituality nothing is of more paramount importance than being true to oneself. Honesty towards oneself is crucial if we want to walk this Path. For whatever reason, right or wrong, we can hoodwink the world but for God’s sake never try to mislead oneself. We might get away with the former. The latter will only lead to depression, void, frustration and you might be covered in glory but within there shall be only emptiness.
Thus, according to me first and foremost it is most important to be true to oneself. The best way to go about this is to know oneself. The easiest way out is, with brutal honesty, list down strengths, weaknesses and limitations of one’s self. Once we know what we are made off and then plan our journey onwards, it shall proceed with fewer road blocks. Focus and capitalize on our strengths, stay away or work on our weaknesses and try to overcome one’s limitations.
Oscillation in our spiritual pursuits very often comes about when we operate from overt eagerness or bite more than we can chew which usually comes about when we are not truly aware of our strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Of course, if one sets out to overcome one’s weaknesses or limitations and one refuses to accept defeat, then for certain, in this life or the next, success will be truly ours.
Take for example the issue about waking up before dawn to either meditate or pray or focus on some spiritual pursuit. One of the most common complaints on the Path is about waking up before the rooster goes completely nuts screaming its sweet lungs off to wake one and all. So often people have told me that they have given up spiritual disciplines as they cannot wake up early. Either we want it all or move away from the Path. That is an unmitigated disaster of an option thrust upon oneself, usually out of ego or even a good enough reason to not bother to walk the Path as for some reason many convince themselves that if they cannot wake up at a particular time, they are not ready to walk the Path.
According to my limited vision I would like to believe that this is a big error of judgment. Yes waking up before the milkman has tremendous advantages but one needs to operate from one’s strengths and also respect the rest one’s body and nerves crave for.
When I was young and stupid I had for some reason decided to wake up very early, every single dawn of my life to pray and meditate. After a few months I gave up trying to wake up early but also gave up the spiritual discipline out of sheer disgust with myself. Now I am old and more stupid and still continue to try new stunts on my Path and I religiously fall flat on my face. But now I go back to the drawing board and go through my list of strengths, weaknesses, limitations and I often realise that I must work with my own strengths, avoid areas of weakness and limitations and I often ask myself a question which my mother would always inquire of me….can you continue with this routine for the rest of your life? And if the answer comes yes, then I refuse to accept defeat and bring about the change, but if the answer comes no, could be because it is impractical or could be because the passion for that particular routine isn’t burning bright, I rework the entire procedure to suit my temperament, inclination and focus.
I have struggled with the notion of sleeping early and waking up early, far longer than I care to remember. I have always, since childhood, had an issue about sleeping early. I can get away with very few hours of sleep but the philosophy of early to bed, early to rise, makes me a very disgruntled chap. I enjoy staying awake at nights. That is my so called me time. I do not wake up late but there is no way I can wake up at the crack of dawn for a lengthy period of time not because I can’t but because in reality it is not about just waking up early but it implies an entire change of my own personality. It is about modifying my entire day and inherent nature to be able to wake up early, as then it would necessitate me to sleep much earlier than what I would like to or care to.
I remember I was to do a particular spiritual exercise that made it mandatory for me to wake up at four. It was a simple twenty minute spiritual routine which had to be done for a particular number of days. Twenty years ago I would have forced myself to sleep early to be able to wake up a little before four and sit for the spiritual routine. But now as I know myself better, I did what I thought was the most practical thing. I can stay awake through the night or for a large part of the night. Thus, I would stay awake till four, do whatever I had to, and then sleep without pressure and then wake up at my usual time. The important thing was not to wake up late just because I had slept late. That is taking the easy way out and when you have a young daughter who needs to go to school and only wants her father to drive her to the school, there are no alternatives to work with. I knew it would make more sense to sleep early and wake up early but knowing myself, a disciplined early to bed early to rise was never going to work. But working with my strength of sleeping late without disrupting my day’s schedule worked for me. Of course that is also because I had to do this spiritual discipline just for a few days. Would I have been able to continue with this for a lengthy period of time? I doubt it.
It is said that dawn or Brahma Mahurat, which comes about at four thirty or five each day, depending on the sunrise, is the most fruitful time for spiritual pursuits. The fact is that Brahma Mahurat comes about an hour and a half before sunrise. Thus, if sunrise is at six, Brahma time would be at four thirty. If sunrise is at six thirty then the auspicious time would be at five. If you are staying in a country or a place where the Sun rises at five or so, then Brahma Mahurat won’t be four thirty but three thirty. Thus, first and foremost, I have learnt that we need to get our facts proper. Just don’t follow any idiot who writes spiritual blogs. Unless that idiot is me. Then all the more, triple check the facts.
As I have said earlier, the main mistake we make on the Path of spirituality and spiritual pursuits is that often we don’t work with our raw material but get inspired or fascinated by others, forgetting that the others are working with their resources at hand, while we are trying to ape them but with our resources. It is important to first know oneself. If you are very clear that waking up early in the morning is something which you need to do for your own growth then do so. Put in your heart and soul. If you are convinced that this is the answer to your spirituality then keep trying and trying and if you are focused and thick skinned you will succeed.
But make certain that you are aware that this is not just about waking up very early in the morning. It is about reworking one’s entire life style. It is about knowing how many hours sleep is good enough for one’s wellbeing and then making sure we get those particular number of hours of sleep; which would mean rescheduling one’s sleeping pattern. That could mean giving up on simple pleasures that add to one’s quality of life. Something as simple as reading a book when all are asleep or just watching our favourite sitcom undisturbed or working on something that needs solitude and silence which the night allows. It would mean no more late nights unless you can manage without the requisite hours needed for being able to give one’s best to the day. It could also mean altering one’s diet. A very heavy meal might not be the answer for an early night. I believe if somebody is determined to change one’s very inherent nature, then determination and a never give up attitude will result in success. It might take time but persistence and passion will see us through the finishing line. If we are determined to change I do believe most often we will change to what we want to become or achieve.
But if for whatever reason either the determination is not rock solid or the wisdom behind the move isn’t overwhelmingly convincing, then work out a new schedule. Instead of the lift, we will have to use the stairway, a far slower process but the destination shall be reached sooner than later and may be the climb will have less oscillation and heart break.
We need to work out the time where body, soul, spirit are in greatest harmony and then go ahead and maintain that schedule which we will be able to keep up for the rest of our lives. May be that is why the ancient Ones have given us various times of the day which are considered auspicious. So we have dawn, then we have sun rise, then there is mid day, sunset and twilight, nine to mid night and yes, the mother of all auspicious times, two thirty to dawn. But we need to find that particular time of the day that suits our inherent ability and tendency, if one can’t give the rooster an inferiority complex.
We shouldn’t stop spiritual pursuits just because we can’t wake up at a particular time. It’s like discontinuing all dairy products including milk because one can’t wake up early to milk the cow. We need to know what we truly want, what we are honestly capable off and then do the best with the resources we have in hand, which is one’s own self and go ahead to do what we are capable of.
I have known many who have discontinued spiritual pursuits because of a simple reason like not being able to wake up at a particular hour. Either discipline oneself or find oneself an hour that works best. Let us not give up the Path in anger or disgust just because of a particular scheduling issue. It would be like cutting the nose to spite the face.
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha