Mark Twain once declared that he loved work so much, he could sit and watch it all day. His remark always draws a chuckle from me as I picture him in a rocking chair on the porch of a stately hotel, savoring his favorite cigar, lazily appraising the bee-like business around him. I suspect, however, the remark did not really describe him except as a wit.
Nor does it speak of me. I love work, and I cannot imagine the day that I would not. But here is the obvious disclaimer: I love the work that I love! Give me a task that appeals to me, and my energy for it will flow for as long as needed. But give me a task at the other end of the spectrum, and whether or not it falls within my range of effort and skill, I confess that I might grumble at first, if only to myself. The end may have its reward, but the journey to it will test my sense of enjoyment and good nature.
What brings this to mind is a helpful article by Gyandev McCord, written in 2005 for Clarity magazine. He offers how to revitalize our sadhanas when the well has begun to run dry. Let’s face it, striving to overcome dry or restless meditations can sometimes be the hardest of a long day’s work.
With self-honesty and humor, Gyandev highlights the subtle mental traps that seem to ensnare us all at one time or another. The question is, what do we do about them? How do we manage to pull ourselves out of falling into apathy? How do we get back on track with a greater sense of purpose and devotion?
The answer, for the most part, is to strive with a brighter attitude and a willingness to turn on the juice. But that’s the point where the petulant baby in me wants to throw a fit: “You’re doing enough already! This is too demanding. It’ll take too much time, and maybe it won’t pay off. C’mon, let’s blow it off.” And sometimes I have.
These little reactive tantrums, like sudden squalls, are not uncommon when threats to our comfort zone are proposed. I am not averse to taking risks when the odds are decidedly in my favor; when my confidence, that is, is sufficiently present. But in the absence of that, saying “Yes, I’ll do it” is a stretch. My ego hates to be at the wheel if there’s the chance of a crash.
Well, enough of that. It’s got nowhere useful to go, and useless isn’t an option. When I look at Swami Kriyananda’s life, aspiring to follow his lead, I know that I cannot afford to shrink from being a better example to myself. We’re surrounded at Ananda by other great souls as well, and I know what they had to do to reach where they are. They worked hard, took chances and pushed ahead when the noisy voice of inertia told them not to. Where would I be without them and the spiritual modeling they do for me?
Sometimes the greatest risk is not to take one, even when the outcome looks a bit murky. And if backing down would only cause your spiritual life to suffer, having farther to climb to recover would only add to the insult. Although we are not always ready to do what must be done when the doing is at hand, hoping we can do without it is folly indeed.
A good meditation starts with showing up. And showing up to do it is the one and only way to make it good.