Enthusiasm, Fortitude and Stamina
On our journey through life, if we weigh ourselves down with a cargo of stones, we will be unable to reach our destination. If, like the mystics, we accumulate no cargo, then the winds of God’s love in the form of the Shabd will power our ship. To make the journey, we need enthusiasm, fortitude and stamina. There will be many occasions when we fail. The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, advises us to think positively, to rejoice that we are on a healing restorative path of positive action, rather than get caught up in our failings. He says:
Do not feel qualms or despondency or discomfiture if thou dost not invariably succeed in acting from right principles; but when thou art foiled, come back to them, and rejoice if on the whole thy conduct is worthy of a man, and love the course to which thou returnest.
It is because we carry around with us the baggage of our negative mental habits that we lose heart, lose courage and judge ourselves. We won’t let go of them and we even seem to enjoy the misery they bring. Such emotions will take us nowhere. Jesus advised his disciples to be as little children; when we are young we see life with open hearts and minds. Baltasar Gracian, a seventeenth century Spanish Jesuit and philosopher, warns us against a tendency towards sadness and self-pity, pointing out that such tendencies will harm us:
Search for the good in everything. There is nothing that does not hold some good if we but seek it. But the minds of some men are burdened with such unhappiness that, out of a thousand good points, they manage to strike upon a lone defect, and this they toss about like scavengers of men’s minds and purposes.… Be the man who, among a thousand evils, strikes upon the single good. Good finds good, but good that comes too late is as good as nothing.
While it is good to be self-aware, judging ourselves too harshly is dangerous and counter productive. With the same generosity of spirit and tolerance that we show to others, we need to be compassionate and charitable towards ourselves, too.
Our task is to bring our lives in harmony with our spiritual goal, but for this, we have to be patient. A child matures from infancy through childhood and adolescence into adulthood; likewise, for our long-term good, we need to be balanced and permit our development to take place naturally. If we strive to reach our goal by simply suppressing habitual negative tendencies, there will certainly be a reaction at some future date. Suppression and repression are not the answer. The process of putting our lives in order and transforming ourselves spiritually has to be seen as a lifelong, steady evolution towards our goal.
The wisdom teachings of the world put an ideal before us to guide us in this process of spiritual transformation. They encourage us to go step by step in the direction we want, to be practical and to reason with ourselves. We are living as part of the creation and we all have our own destiny which manifests as responsibilities we have to fulfil.