Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #30 – The Road Less Traveled

July 27th, 2020

I woke up last week to an unexpected thought: “Your sādhana has crashed. No excuse!” Since my health challenges began, my chanting has gone down, and my deity worship has been manasa-pūjā (done mentally). I began to reflect on what happened.

 

One rarely starts meditation with full absorption and taste. You need a little effort and discipline at the beginning to gradually come to that stage. Deep meditation is just like a car that cannot begin in fifth gear, but instead must first rev up through the other gears. Not being able now to sit comfortably made that initial discipline of chanting much more austere, giving my mind the excuse not to make the extra effort needed for taste. As my energy level waned and my chanting became more of a struggle, my practices were reduced to my minimum vows.

 

“No excuse” is exactly the loud message I needed to hear. The mind always looks for the easy way out, or the road less traveled. The phrase “the road less traveled” is derived from a line from the poem “The Road Not Taken”[1] by former American Poet Laurette Robert Frost, and later became the title of a best seller by Scott Peck, a prominent psychologist. Scott Peck used the phrase to indicate that on the path of true fulfillment one often avoids the essential components of that path, delayed gratification and personal responsibility, which today, unfortunately, is too often the road less traveled. For me that meant to abdicate spiritual responsibility to some degree by the excuse of poor health.

 

The Yoga Sutras explain that we do āsana so that the body is happy and steady, so poor health can, and usually will, reduce one’s ability to adopt the austerity and discipline of spiritual practice. That’s natural. What I did, however, was use health as an excuse to reduce my discipline and spiritual responsibility beyond what I now think I was capable of performing, even if that capability was less than my usual standard.

 

If we are just a little mindful, we will observe a multitude of ways that our mind justifies avoiding the challenging work often needed to move to the next step in our spiritual life. For example, I have become vigilant about how powerful victim consciousness is, taking the easy way out of blaming the cause of one’s own failures on others, rather than doing the hard work of purifying oneself. In general, my health challenges just made me more aware that I need to take full responsibility for my spiritual life.

 

I have again picked up my practices. My health has also somewhat improved, but it is not just that. I heeded the warning of “no excuses!” I also see the gift of health challenges. When you lose physical power due to health, your engine of determination must come more from the heart, which now has a much deeper voice of dependence on mercy, and that is the real impetus for full absorption in the holy name, whether you are healthy or not.

 

“No excuses!”

 

“People who are evil attack others rather than face their own failures.” – Scott Peck

 

“Rationalization is intelligence in the service of the false ego.” – Dhanurdhara Swami

 

 


[1] Scott Peck adapted the name The Road Less Traveled from the last lines in Frost’s poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/ I took the one less traveled by, /And that has made all the difference.”

 

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