Relax and Let Go
When you try to feed a baby for the first time with a spoon, what happens? You really want him to eat the food because it will be good for him, but he doesn’t know what you are doing. As the spoon comes towards him, he turns his head, dumping the apple sauce down his shirt and onto the floor. You try again, and this time he bends forward, spreading the spoonful onto his hair. He will not open his mouth even to taste it. You know he needs to eat, but you can’t force him. So what do you do?
Maybe you start opening your own mouth, and making yummy sounds as you move forward with the spoon, or you try coaxing him with sweet words; perhaps you make it into a game, playing with him and trying to make his mouth open in a laugh.
Aren’t we like that child, when the Master tries to coax us to take a little of what he’s offering? He has prepared a delicious meal and filled our plate; he has even given us the hunger. All we have to do is try it. He coaxes and cajoles us; he plays and makes us laugh. He knows that if we just took a bite, it would be so good for us.
That contrary child, to top it all off, will put everything else in his mouth except for that spoon: his fingers, toys, bib – anything within his reach. Isn’t that just like us? We are offered the delicious meal of heaven within us, yet we keep going out to taste everything else: watching television, browsing the internet, hanging out with friends. We are busy dining on the offerings of this world, while our Master keeps trying to get us to take a bite of the divine.
So what does he do? Well, he tries to reason with us. And he keeps it simple. To give us the support we need to take that bite, he gives us four simple instructions for living in this world. He has said that the four vows are three don’ts and one do (the don’ts all supporting the do): don’t eat meat; don’t use drugs or alcohol or partake of any tobacco products; don’t do anything immoral … and do meditate.
It’s the last one that we can find hard to swallow. We just don’t want to take a bite of that delicious food he has prepared. How he is coaxing us, so that we will just take a bite! One of the ways Baba Ji does that is to give us simple, easy-to-remember one-liners about this vow.
He used to say: Just do it! But maybe we were all too lazy to just do it, so the past few years he has been saying: Just do nothing! Or: Just relax and let go! And that doesn’t sound difficult at all. So, why don’t we do it? Just do nothing, relax and let go?
I remember once reading the newspaper comic strip called BC, which is set in prehistoric times. A caveman is slouching against a rock. A second caveman walks by and asks: “What are you doing today?” The first replies: “Nothing.” The second one says: “You did that yesterday!” The answer comes back: “Well, I wasn’t finished …”
That guy was so good at doing nothing that, when he wasn’t finished, he continued to do it the next day. We’ve been told to perfect the art of doing nothing. Why is nothing so hard for us to do?
Mikhail Naimy describes our dilemma in The Book of Mirdad. In this passage, Mirdad is speaking to his disciples:
The Word is the ocean; you, the clouds. And is a cloud a cloud, save for the ocean it contains? Yet foolish, indeed, is the cloud that would waste away its life striving to pin itself in space so as to keep its shape and its identity for ever. What would it reap of its so foolish striving but disappointed hopes and bitter vanity? Except it lose itself, it cannot find itself. Except it die and vanish as a cloud, it cannot find the ocean in itself which is its only self. A God-bearing cloud is Man. Save he be emptied of himself, he cannot find himself.
Mirdad describes the Word or Shabd as an ocean, while we are mere clouds, water condensed into a flimsy vapour. Without that ocean, we would not exist, for we are made of that same water, that Shabd. It is difficult for us to just do nothing, because we are so busy trying to prove we exist – as ego, as mind and body.
We waste our lives striving in vain to stop the inevitable destruction of our fragile form. If instead we can just let go of our attachment to that form, we will lose ourselves to find ourselves. That self that we must lose is the ego, and once it is gone we will find that only God remains.
When we cease our ego-driven struggles in this world, we finally see the truth of our non-existence, and realize God. We just have to relax and let go. Relaxing sounds easy, but we rarely achieve real relaxation, because we are so busy following the dictates of the mind. When we try to relax, we are continually interrupted by our mind’s interest in whatever our senses perceive around us. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, we read that someone asked Maharaj Charan Singh, “Is it all right to be relaxed on the path? Is this a good path to be relaxed on?” He replied:
When are we tense? When our mind is scattered. And we are relaxed when our mind is concentrated at the eye centre – we are most relaxed at that time. If you see your blood pressure before you sit in meditation and then after you get up from meditation, you will know how relaxed it makes you. Why should we remain tense? We should always feel relaxed. But you can’t have calculated relaxation, it has to come from within.
We can’t feel relaxed when our mind is scattered. Getting our attention to the eye centre is the best means we have for relaxing. Maharaj Ji is saying that we can’t just decide to be relaxed; it can’t be contrived. It happens when we gather our attention at the eye centre, and it comes from within. Maharaj Ji adds: “So the purpose of meditation is to relax our mind, to create that bliss and peace within ourselves.”
But when we sit down and shut our eyes, we may feel like our attention is not really there. Again a questioner asked Maharaj Charan Singh, “Master, when I try to concentrate in the darkness, my mind flits about. I’m wondering then if the attention can be in two places at once?”
Maharaj Ji replied, “Not only two places – the mind can run to a thousand places.”
So here’s the tricky part of doing nothing. As we know, the mind hates to stay still and do nothing. It runs out into the world, doing simran of anything and everything out there – until we can overpower it by doing simran of the Lord. However in Die to Live, Maharaj Ji says of simran: “Do we ever do it? We are only an instrument to do it. The Doer who’s forcing us to do it is always there.”
So we’re not really doing it. We are just the instrument through which the Lord is playing simran, the way one might play a musical instrument. And it is the means used to collect our attention at the eye centre, so that we can relax and find peace and bliss. No wonder we are told to just do nothing, just relax and let go. We are doing nothing. He is doing it all, and we are just sitting and closing our eyes.
We just need to be like that caveman, sitting and doing nothing until we’re done, day after day. And we’ll know when we’re done, because we will lose ourselves and discover the truth of the Shabd within us.
Even though we’re essentially powerless, still we must make an effort. Any confusion that this apparent contradiction brings may be allayed by hearing the perspective of a twelfth-century Persian Sufi named Jilani when, in The Sublime Revelation, he says:
You cannot make something happen, but you must play your part. Exert yourself and help will come from your Lord. Get moving in this ocean in which you are immersed, then the wave will lift you up and roll you towards the shore. The prayer is from you and the response is from him. The effort is from you and the aid to success is from him. Be sincere in your quest and he will show you the entrance to his nearness. You will see the hand of his mercy reaching out toward you, and his kindness, his generosity and his love all yearning for you.
Translated by Muhtar Holland
Almost everyone can identify some parts of his or her life which need fixing, but somehow never get taken into the repair shop. So many pressing demands. So much to do each day, and so little time to do it in. So few opportunities to sit back, take a deep breath, and calmly resolve to make those changes that, deep down we know should be made. When you die, which would you rather have in good working order: what is within or what surrounds you outside?
Life is Fair