Success or Failure
Thomas Edison is quoted as having said:
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
The difference between those who succeed and those who call themselves failures is often just one step. Anyone who is enjoying success today has faced failure, and not just once but many times.
What if Thomas Edison gave up trying to invent the light bulb after ten thousand attempts at finding the right materials and combinations? After all, ten thousand attempts is a lot of time and effort.
“How did it feel to fail ten thousand times?” a reporter asked Edison. “I didn’t fail ten thousand times,” Edison simply replied. “The light bulb was an invention with ten thousand steps. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations which wouldn’t work.”
His life certainly demonstrated his determination to succeed. Failure was not an option. His focus was on success, and he achieved it.
Unlike Edison, many of us dislike the prospect of failure. In fact we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity. When we do make mistakes we gloss over them, selectively editing out the miscalculations or mistakes in our life’s résumé.
So when Edison didn’t get it right the first time, did he immediately throw a wobbly and say, “I’m a failure”? Did he throw his arms up in the air and sigh, “This is just too hard. I give up”? No. When his experiment didn’t work the first time, Edison made a note of exactly what he’d done. Then he made an adjustment to the experiment and tried again. And when that failed he tried again, and again and again. He kept learning from every experiment. And each time he found a way that didn’t work, he knew he was closer to finding a way that would work. He simply had to keep at it, failing and learning, until he worked out the right way to do it.
Our spiritual life is not much different. Each time we try to meditate and feel as though we have failed, we have in fact moved closer to success – we simply don’t realize it. The moment we become initiated we receive all the grace we need to do our meditation. From there on, what counts is our effort. The Master will not do this work for us. We will go within only when we sit down for meditation, and settle our thought waves at the eye centre – which is something only we can do. Our actions must reflect our spiritual desire. If the desire for communion with Shabd is not reflected in our actions, perhaps we do not have a strong enough desire to evolve spiritually, for as Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji says in Spiritual Gems:
It is the business and duty of every disciple to make his mind motionless and reach the eye centre. The duty of the Master is to help and guide on the path. To control the mind and senses and open the tenth door depends on the disciple’s efforts. … The primary factor in this success is the effort of the disciple.
To succeed in anything in this world we must apply time, attention and effort. During our meditation time, the mind will come in and tell us that it is insane to do two and a half hours of meditation daily. But this is just a trick of the mind; if we are willing to challenge it, we will find the mind is all bark and little bite.
The Master has enjoined us to challenge it. We have to tell the mind: “We have wasted enough of our lives; we have wasted enough of this valuable treasure. The time has come to utilize this precious human form for its singular and most important purpose.”
It is time to follow the Master’s advice and take full advantage of the opportunity given to us. With our effort we show the Master that we care, and we become receptive to and worthy of his grace. We can put in the effort to work towards the inner life by doing our meditation and devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to attain self-realization, or we can commit half-heartedly and achieve half-hearted results. The choice is ours and ours alone. Grace is always there, but it is our effort that makes the difference.
We should take heart in the words of Saint Francis de Sales:
Do not be disheartened by your imperfections,
but always rise up with fresh courage.
There is no better means of attaining the spiritual life
than by continually beginning again.
Every day is a fresh start, another opportunity to forge on towards our goal. We should never look at our attempts at meditation as failures. No matter how bad we feel about our efforts, each attempt at meditation is to live in our Master’s will. Each attempt is one of the thousands of successful steps that will take us further along the pathway towards our home, until – like Edison switching on his light bulb – we finally see his radiant light within.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Thomas A. Edison