A daily two-and-a-half-hour quarantine in the confines of our own mind is perhaps the greatest struggle that practitioners on the spiritual path have to face. People in today’s world are waiting for their quarantine at home to be lifted so that they can go back out and resume their normal activities. Disciples, on the other hand, perpetually wait for the veil of the mind to be lifted so that they can go and fulfil their purpose in the inner worlds. But more often than not, they end up escaping the quarantine from the world for the only visibly open exit – the one that leads right back out into this world.
We don’t care much for going out into the world and getting things done, because we know that this is not where our own personal treasure lies. We find ourselves in a state of limbo; we dwell half-heartedly in a world where we have to perpetually be cautious of exposure to its vices, allurements and temptations, and yet we have no other place to go – at least for now.
Perhaps this is why we are so comfortable when we are with the Master, for he allows us to experience our true home in the hereafter, with its comforts and joys, while we are on this side of the fence. It is the only means to find respite while we are stuck between both worlds. Let’s face it: after being with our Master and experiencing the bliss of his presence, we may never feel comfortable in this creation again. Our cup runneth over when we are with our Master; he makes us forget that we have a life out there, with troubles and challenges. After experiencing the vastness of his love, we may never be able to settle for the fleeting pleasures of this world again.
We may still try to fill the void with other entrapments of this world, but that will never make us feel good about ourselves. When we are away from him, the world becomes a cold and empty place. What does the soul care about the stock market or driving a new car?
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Sufi teacher, writes in his book The Bond with the Beloved:
The memory of the beloved is like the grain of sand in the oyster shell that creates the pearl. It causes a painful friction between the outer world and the inner world. The stronger the memory, the greater the friction.
We often may feel we are caught between the two worlds, sometimes wondering what to choose, but the truth is that the choice has already been made. Once we have experienced the Master’s love, there is no going back; the little drops have seen a glimpse of the ocean and intuitively know that they are meant to merge in it.
If the raindrop knew its fate,
And could see the ocean,
It would not remain an empty bubble
caught between two worlds.
Shah Maghsoud, quoted in The Sufi Book of Life
There is no magic formula that will relieve us of the discomfort in the interim, for there is bound to be friction, sometimes more and sometimes less. We just have to hang tight, do our best and patiently carry out our duties in this world until we merge with the Lord within.
There is only one remedy for our predicament, and that is persistence in meditation. We may cry, complain and brood, but that is not going to give us any solace – we might as well face our situation, make friends with it, and fight with dignity. In this battle between both worlds, one of them is meant to give in sooner or later, and the outcome depends on which world we are rooting and fighting for.
Sometimes also in meditation a stage comes when we feel a great void in our life, because the effect of meditation is that we get detached from all the worldly pleasures, worldly faces. They don’t interest us anymore. And nothing holds us inside to catch our attention or our thoughts, so then we feel a void. The world doesn’t please us, and we have nothing else to please us within.
Not finding anything within and not being attached to anything outside, we feel that void, but that should not cause us to despair at all. That is for our own good, our own advantage. We know the reality of this world, we know our real self, so we try to find the reality. This should help us to attend more to meditation, to overcome that void and emptiness.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II