Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī, the medieval Sufi mystic, having experience of the soul’s magnificence, wonders why it is that we give ourselves over to worry. He writes: “O soul, you worry too much. You have seen your own strength. You have seen your own beauty. You have seen your own golden wings. Of anything less, why do you worry? You are in truth the soul of the soul of the soul.”
Worry stems from the anxious thoughts, images and emotions that arise when we perceive a threat, be it real or imaginary. It often concerns a personal issue such as health or finance, or it may be to do with broader issues like environmental pollution and social or technological change. Most people experience short-lived periods of worry in their lives without much negative impact; indeed, a moderate amount of worrying may even have positive effects if it prompts us to take precautions like fastening car seat belts or buying fire insurance for our home.
However, an endless preoccupation with the anxieties of life will not allow us to grow spiritually. For that, we have to expand our focus so that we are looking towards a loving Creator rather than at the uncertainties of the creation. This will give us the confidence that overcomes worry. In Saint Matthew’s gospel in the Bible we read:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Our Master makes the very same point today. And yet we persist in worrying – not just about present circumstances but about the past, our failings, and the mistakes we have made in our lives. Most of all we worry about the future and what it holds for us. There seems to be so much to worry about!
But worry is futile. It’s a waste of our energy, a waste of our heavenly Father’s gift of consciousness and of our efforts to find God within ourselves. We cannot change the past. What is done is done. We cannot change our future, our destiny. We must live through the life our karma has carved out for us.
For most struggling souls that is a whole lot easier said than done. Putting the case to ourselves intellectually will help to a certain extent. We can tell ourselves that the most significant thing that has happened in our lives was to be chosen by the Master for initiation. It is the greatest gift in all the world. We are truly blessed that he chose to bring us onto the path and to rescue us from the endless cycle of birth and death.
We can tell ourselves that throughout history men and women of all faiths and backgrounds have found the hidden way that led to the same destination, the heartland of the spirit within. The ways varied according to creed and culture, but the journey was the same. So, following this well-trodden path, we too must lay up our treasure in heaven. At the time of death, we leave the world empty-handed. We take absolutely nothing with us. We came into this world naked and that is how we depart this life. It is futile to amass riches and property as we will leave it all behind. Of course, we need to be comfortable in this world if we can be. We need a roof over our heads. We need clothing and we need to eat. Our status in life is however of no importance in the end. Fame and glory are of no consequence. In God’s eyes we are all the same.
That is the intellectual argument. But ultimately, we have no option but to put intellect aside and do our very best to meditate with love and devotion. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol II Maharaj Charan Singh made it clear that it is acceptance of God’s will that eradicates worry and meditation that leads to acceptance.
We worry because we want certain things to happen in the way we want them to. We have certain desires, certain wishes to fulfil. And we are always worried about whether we’ll be able to achieve them or not, whether we’ll be able to achieve those desires or not. That keeps us worrying. If we leave it to the Father, if we live in his will, he knows best what to give us. We just prepare to accept what he gives. Then what is there to worry about?
The purpose of meditation is just for that. The purpose of meditation is to train ourself to adopt that attitude. It’s not easy; it’s a lifelong struggle, no doubt. But that is the purpose of meditation to develop that attitude of accepting things as they come.
This leaves us absolutely no room for doubt. Maharaj Charan Singh says, to overcome our tendency to worry is a lifelong struggle. Achieving our return home to the Lord is also a lifelong struggle with the mind for all of us. But we must not give up. We have been given the method which, as the Masters say, even a child could understand. Although it is the job of the mind to worry and to be ceaselessly active, it is our job to quiet it through meditation.