Just Be with Him
In the early hour as I sit in your presence,
my heart sings to you.
Please accept this little offering,
and forgive all my failings.
I only have you to turn to.
Enfold my heart with your constant presence,
and fill it with the sweetness of your love.
As the years go by on the spiritual path, each disciple goes through different phases – there are days when we are enthusiastic and inspired to attend to meditation, and there are other days when we feel numb, and our spiritual practice becomes a cumbersome task. However, whether one feels inspired or not, each disciple retains a deep-rooted desire to please the Master and makes every effort, in spite of the struggle. But what can a disciple give his Master, especially when he thinks that he is failing on the spiritual path?
Our courteous Lord does not want His servants to despair even if they fall frequently and grievously. Our falling does not stop His loving us.
Julian of Norwich, as quoted in The Art of Prayer
When we go through our spiritual struggles, the Master does not stop loving us. Each time we try to stay awake in our drowsy state, each time our sluggish mind wanders and we fight to bring it back, each time we push ourselves to sit for meditation, we invoke more grace from the Master. We may not always know it, but he is aware of our every effort. We do not need words to tell him what we are going through, for he knows.
There is no such thing as a prayer in which ‘nothing is done’ or ‘nothing happens’, although there may well be a prayer in which nothing is perceived or felt or thought.
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
What does ‘failing’ really mean to a disciple? One of the main problems we all face is the inability to maintain our concentration. As we sit for meditation, all kinds of thoughts disturb the mind. Within minutes of starting our simran, we mentally add items to our list of things to do; we dwell on the past or on imaginary events; we worry unnecessarily about trivial things and so forth. When concentration is difficult, our meditation becomes a struggle.
A wandering mind at the time of meditation is mostly the result of what preoccupies our mind throughout the day. Thus, we need to redirect our daily lives by reducing our preoccupation with the many worldly interactions and distractions that leave an indelible mark on our subconscious, and instead focus our daily thoughts on the Lord and His love. The Master tells us that concentration will be perfected with practice; to him our lack of concentration is never a failure. In fact, he tells us to bring those failures to him so that he can turn them into successes. The Master is more concerned with our sincere effort and loving devotion.
In time, we learn to meditate without calculating, without analysing, without doubting. We build the conviction and faith that the Lord hears our heart, our longing, our every regret and every gratitude. It is as Maharaj Charan Singh once explained:
Mechanical words are not necessary. Prayer should come from the heart, and the heart speaks without language, without words. No set prayers move Him, but the prayer from the heart moves Him. We should be in tune with the Lord, with our heart, from within.
The Master Answers
This becomes the essence of our meditation, to be constantly with Him. Our goal in meditation is not to make things happen the way we want, but to become aware of His presence. He does not ask for perfection; He only asks for our time and attention. As we move forward in our spiritual journey and gradually learn to silence the mind, we learn to stop looking for results, to stop thinking about how our meditation feels, and instead focus on spending that precious time with Him.
The challenges and struggles on the spiritual journey do not affect the true disciple. Eventually, the disciple becomes ‘comfortable’ with the struggle and does not wish to part from the pain, for that becomes his driving force. Mother Teresa, in the book Come Be My Light, writes:
The greater the pain and darker the darkness, the sweeter will be my smile to God … I want to smile even at Jesus and so hide if possible the pain and the darkness of my soul even from Him … Pray that I may love God with a love with which He has never been loved before.
In the same light, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux writes:
Should my roses be gathered from amid thorns, I will sing notwithstanding, and the longer and sharper the thorns, the sweeter will grow my song.
The Little Flower of Jesus
Ultimately, the Lord gives us the grace to put in the effort towards our spiritual practice. The lack of concentration, the temporary dryness in our love, and the darkness are not in our hands: they are in His, and none of these are our failures. What matters most is that we serve Him with a simple, childlike heart and just enjoy being with Him.
While He strips of everything the souls who give themselves absolutely to Him,
God gives them something which takes the place of all – His love.
Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Art of Prayer