I have been traveling quite a bit, it seems to be one of the themes of this incarnation for me. I’d like to share an experience that I had from my recent travel to Kerala.
Kerala, as you well know, has a lot of coastline and we go to an Ayurvedic resort every year, and we take groups of people there for a retreat, that’s based on yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. One of the experiences is to enjoy the sea and to walk along the beach.
Well, the waves in that part of Kerala, are quite strong, and they come crashing onto the beach. We like to walk through the water because it’s a bit too turbulent to go inside, but that way we get our swim and our bath. So, we walk or run along the beach and some of the waves really come crashing – they’re very strong and they pound down onto the beach and just overwhelm us.
I recognized that there were four different ways that I was responding to these waves, which I’d like to share here.
Four ways in which people respond to the waves
One way is that I would run away when the big crashing wave would come. You know, I would just run up the beach so I wouldn’t get taken by it.
The second way I responded to the waves was to jump over them. Because I was running, I had a little spring in my step and if the wave wasn’t too big coming up onto the shore, I would just kind of hop up over it and keep going and that was nice as well.
Sometimes the waves were quite high and they would surprise you and you weren’t just weren’t ready for it! And there you were in the midst of the water and I found that you could just trudge through it – keep going – not lose your momentum and just go through, and that was also a very good experience.
This is actually very good for the muscles to do this – it’s even an aspect of physical therapy. When I broke my foot some years ago, I had therapy in the water and that was part of it was using the resistance of the water to push through.
Sometimes, those waves were so strong and the water was so high. One wave would come in, another would come right after it and I found that I was just being surrounded by the water, pulling in all directions and the only thing I could do at that time was to stand still and let it finish. So I would just stand there and let it pass. And I enjoyed it very much.
How do we respond to tests in our lives
I realized that this is exactly the way we respond to the waves of circumstances, the waves of challenges and trials that come in our lives. And of course they do come!
When you go to the ocean, you expect the waves – that’s a part of the experience. You don’t want a perfectly smooth sea.
I remember in a letter that Yogananda wrote to one of his disciples is a little phrase that’s always stayed with me. She was telling him (and complaining a little) about two trials that she was going through, saying that God was not being just with her. And in response to this, he wrote – “A smooth life is not a victorious life”. This is good for us to remember this: when we incarnate here, our soul expects that there are going to be waves and they are going to come crashing down. And some of them are going to be more powerful and taller than others. That is a part of it.
A smooth life – a life without challenge, a life without difficulties and tasks, is not a victorious life.
It’s like a sports person who’s in competition – if he wants an easy life, he will play against people who have less ability. But he never grows, never becomes a champion.
There’s a young American girl right now playing tennis who is 15 years old and she’s on the international circuit. She recently she beat Venus Williams and she beat Serena Williams! She’s 15 years old and she’s playing against the great ones. She doesn’t always win, but she’s out there and she’s putting herself against the big ones because she knows that that’s what makes a champion. And that’s what God is expecting from us – that we be spiritual champions… that we be champions of life!
Let’s be champions of life
So as we wake up each day, let’s expect and not be surprised by the waves that are going to come, because after we learn or study something, what happens? We have quizzes and exams, and in those exams we see what we’ve learned and what we haven’t learned. And it’s then that we realize what we haven’t yet accomplished and that there’s more to do. And we go on. If there were no tests, we would never know how much we’ve actually learned in our lives.
So waves are very important – they’re part of the ocean and they’re part of our life.
There is actually a fifth wave
One way of relating to the waves in our life is to complain about them, and that really doesn’t get us anywhere because it doesn’t change the ocean. And the ocean is going to have its rhythms, its waves.
Our life has it’s waves, and they’re going to come – they are the waves of karma that are coming to us and sometimes they are karmic bombs and just explode like a very big wave and spray all over us. And there’s no use complaining.
One of the things that Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita is that this wisdom that He is giving to Arjuna cannot be understood by those of the carping spirit. So, when we complain about something, we are not receiving – we are not in tune with the opportunities that life is giving us.
We just heard in the reading – “To those who received him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God”. Well when we read that teaching in the Bible, we might say ‘Oh well if God comes knocking at my door of course I would receive him. You know, clearly if I hear the knock, I’m going to open the door and welcome Him in to my life.’
When was the last time God knocked on your door?
Every day… and receiving the waves and the challenges that life brings us is receiving God. God knocks on our door giving us a chance to come closer to Him, to show us where we are, and to see if we actually have put into practice what we’ve been hearing, studying and learning.
So let’s cancel that from the way of meeting our life’s waves.
Do not complain. Just accept. There’s an affirmation about acceptance by Swami Kriyananda and it is: “I accept with calm impartiality, everything that comes my way – free in my heart I am not conditioned by any outward circumstance”. I accept with calm impartiality everything that comes my way and when we do, then we have the chance to grow. So let’s eliminate from our life complaining – it doesn’t get us anywhere and it certainly doesn’t bring us closer to our higher self.
So, how can we meet the waves of challenges in our life?
- Face them with Faith:
We can run away from them. Sometimes we don’t want to get wet – just don’t want to get touched by these difficulties – so we run away. And we know that that doesn’t work because we can run away and maybe this time not get touched by something, but it’s going to come again. Those waves are cyclic and if there’s something that life wants to teach us, it’s not going to be discouraged by our running away from it.
It’s better just to face it with the faith that if life is bringing a circumstance to my life right now, it is intelligent and merciful and it’s coming at exactly the right time. Because our karmic tests come to us when we are able to meet them even though we don’t recognize our ability, we might think that we aren’t ready, but God knows that we are. And we have to find the strength. So don’t run away from the waves. Don’t worry about getting your feet wet, your clothes wet – after being on the beach every day we just would get to breakfast dripping wet every day – so let’s just let life bathe us, and make us wet. And let’s just get in there, get into the ocean.
- Jump over them
The second is that when these challenges come, we jump over them! What does that mean?
Whenever a wave comes in our life, a karmic boomerang, it is coming with a certain level of energy. It is the level of energy that has been created by our past actions, and it has a charge that has a karmic energetic charge, and if our energetic charge at that moment is greater, we just jump over the test.
So what that means is that we need to keep our energy up! The waves are going to come and not every one of them needs to knock us down – because we have the strength to go over it many times.
So let’s keep our energy up and then when the karmic waves come to us, we’re ready, we’re bigger than the wave. If not, or if we let our energy drop down, the wave will take us.
- Banat Banat Ban Jaye
The third way was walking through the wave and sometimes that’s just what we need to do with the tests in life. We need to persevere – we need to not be discouraged, give up, avoid it, but we need to just keep going forward even though it may seem like we’re not getting anywhere because we’re shackled by this karmic bomb. But we need to just keep going one step at a time.
There’s a dream of Master’s that perhaps you all know very well, as Swami’s written about it in “The New Path”. Master is in a market place and there’s this high mountain and he sees people looking up to the top of the high mountain where there’s a beautiful city and a beautiful palace and each person looks up longingly and then hangs his head down, turns around shakes his head and says ‘no it’s too high’.
And so Master, in the dream, turns around, looks up the mountain, sees the palace on the top, and the same thought comes to him – no it’s too high. I’ll never get there. And at that moment another thought comes in his mind – it might be high, it might be far away, it might take a lot of energy, but I can put one foot in front of the other and eventually I’ll get there – “banat banat ban jaye”. So, that’s the third way – the banat ban jaye way of meeting the tests in our life.
- Be centered in yourself
And the last way is just to be centered in yourself, knowing that what comes is going to go by. To know that life is a dream and that it will pass – no matter how hard, how difficult, how unreasonable, how unjustified, how difficult something seems, it’s not going to last forever.
It’s going to go by. And instead of getting all excited about it, elated or depressed or you know whatever it is – you just stand in your Centre and let it pass.
There’s a beautiful chant which is very good advice from St. Teresa of Avila and it’s called “St. Teresa’s admonition”.
This is often the best way to meet the tests of our lives. Let’s absorb and hold close to us the advice of this great Saint:
“Let nothing disturb you, nothing afright you
All things will pass, but God changes not
Patient endurance,brings you to victory
Once you have God, you’ll want nothing else!
God Alone! God Alone! God Alone’s all we ever need!”
(This blog is an excerpt from a talk by Nayaswami Shivani given in Ananda Pune, Feb 2020. Click here to view the talk)
(Nayaswami Shivani also has an Online Course – “Overcoming Habits” which many people are benefiting from tremendously! Please click here if you’d like to learn more about it.)