When you and I were just learning to walk, we wobbled and fell repeatedly before we got the hang of it. Yet, we stayed with it, because something in our makeup said that walking was going to be useful and that crawling for the rest of our lives wouldn’t get us nearly as far. That experience – the process of it – vividly illustrates how we have gone about learning new skills from that day to this one… by trial and error.
It is no different on the long trek to God-realization. In fact, the wobbling and falling are a lot more frequent, even as many as multiple times a day! Learning to walk is one thing; learning how to live a yogic life is about a thousand times harder, and if we don’t stay with it, it gets even harder. The errors at the end of each trial keep piling up.
Why is that? Why do we continue to fall when the reasons are so easily identifiable? Are we really so susceptible to delusion? Evidently, we are.
The short answer to why we fall is one of two possibilities, which are actually one and the same: (1) lack of attunement to our own divine nature, or (2) ego indulgence to the point of ignoring God’s call within.
How do we know if we’ve taken a spill? We know because the result is a measure of suffering. It’s all exceedingly simple, but unfortunately only in concept. We have a karmic list of trials to face, and they continue until all the errors have been overcome.
We know by now that falling from grace is not the result of some huge, satanic impulse that suddenly steals over us. Nor, conversely, do we rise to our freedom in God through a single act of devotion. These directional moves, up or down, are choices we make every minute. As we seek our happiness outside ourselves, in worldly pursuits of egoic motivation, we enter delusion’s arena, and if we linger there, we pay a spiritual price. It’s really just that simple.
But stating the case does not make solving it easier. Trying to stay higher attunement is no small task. Society’s ideals and incentives oppose us almost every step of the way. Our political and corporate systems are intensely materialistic, supporting a culture of competition and greed. “Get what you can for yourself” would seem to be the mantra that most people recite, especially in the West.
It can be terribly hard to let go of what we long to have, especially the people in our lives who are dear to us and die, leaving a difficult loss to grieve. But were they ever really ours? Coming to terms with the answer is hardest of all. Our loved ones, like everything else, are given to be shared “of God.” Nothing is ours after all.
Each of us is unique, but growing up, and even as adults, we develop by learning to follow, by imitating those we admire. The question is always: From whom are you learning? With the best intentions, as we cultivate traits and skills that will serve us well, we are also apt to take on other manners that prove problematic. A true story about a female dog and her pups illustrates this tendency in us too.
When the dog was pregnant, she was hit by a car, leaving her hind legs permanently disabled. She otherwise recovered from the accident, and later gave birth to a litter of healthy puppies. But the mother, when she walked, could only drag her two back legs. The puppies had no such infirmity, and began walking normally on all fours. But as they grew, learning from watching their mother, all of them started to drag their back legs.
We are shaped by the culture we are raised in, and here in the West that tends to leave us with much to overcome. Although presented with moral values to live by – the Golden Rule, for example – we often find these compromised by the very people teaching us to adopt them. Qualities and their corruption are part of our conditioning, and thus functionality is partially based on a structure of dysfunctional logic. In short, we develop habits that prevent us from realizing our divine potential. True happiness, peace of mind, and the avoidance of suffering are largely about unlearning how we have been schooled.
Everyone is a child of God, made in God’s image. The soul that abides within us is perfect as God is perfect. It cannot be otherwise. The soul is like a piece of elegant software, designed and thoroughly beta-tested without a mortal flaw. It’s the ultimate operating system, but over the course of a lifetime, and of countless previous incarnations, it gets infected with “viruses.”
There’s about a million virus variations, but all of them have a common origin. I call it the “I can’t” virus: I can’t do that because… I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, young or old enough, healthy enough, good-looking enough, etc, etc.
In accepting these excuses, we forget the one principle that can start to disinfect our entire operating system, and it is this: There is never anything wrong with us that cannot be fixed by what is right with us.
It’s time to hit the “delete” key when those “I can’t” excuses pop onto your screen, especially the ones that inhibit your spiritual progress: “I can’t meditate.” Delete. “I can’t do more than I’m already doing.” Delete. “I can’t change how I feel.” Delete.
Did anyone ever tell you that you’d never be good at something, and you believed it? What was the result? You probably avoided that “something” altogether, or performed poorly whenever you had to face it. Well, here’s an interesting fact to remember whenever you’re hit with a challenge and you think to say “I can’t.” Did you know that from a purely scientific standpoint, the bumble bee cannot fly? Its aerodynamic design is incapable of leaving the ground, because its plump little body is too big for the size of its wings. But nobody told the bumble bee, so it just takes off, heading straight for the honey.
One of my heroes is a friend of mine. Stephen is totally deaf. He doesn’t know the sound of a human voice or anything else, but he does know what it means to live an amazingly rich life. He learned sign language; he learned to read lips and to speak clearly, though he cannot hear a word he says.
With that extraordinary driving force, he became a Wall Street investment broker, then later an author and a motivational speaker, giving workshops throughout America to inspire the deaf and hearing impaired. He simply never accepted that he couldn’t do these things. Delete, delete, delete.
I’m sure that Stephen wobbled and fell many times in his quest to rise above his inherent limitation. And he, like the rest of us, undoubtedly runs into situations that are simply beyond his means to overcome. But he does not dwell on those. Stephen continues to focus on the possible. His goals, although extremely demanding of his will power, energy and perseverance, are nonetheless realistic. Because that’s how he makes them.
Stephen also focuses on his attunement to God, which draws from God the grace to succeed. He doesn‘t waste time on fruitless fantasies, like wishing he could be a great musician or a famous movie star. So many people spin their wheels wishing that things were different than they are. Stephen has put his mind to making a difference in the lives of others. Like the bumble bee, he went straight for the honey, and he’s finding more joy in that than any pursuit of fortune or fame could ever provide.
What are you too big or too small to accomplish? Delete.
Say “I can’t,” and God won’t intervene. Say “I can and I will,” and He will be there to help. He simply cannot resist when our true motivation is to serve Him by attuning to our own highest potential.