Take Time to Be with Him
In one of his essays, the American naturalist Henry David Thoreau describes the many different colors of nature as the seasons change from late summer to autumn to winter. He emphasizes that we will see the beauty of nature only if we actively look for it and are prepared to see it. He writes:
All this you surely will see, and much more, if you are prepared to see it, – if you look for it.… Objects are concealed from our view not so much because they are out of the course of our visual ray as because we do not bring our minds and eyes to bear on them.… The greater part of the phenomena of Nature are for this reason concealed from us all our lives.… Nature does not cast pearls before swine. There is just as much beauty visible to us in the landscape as we are prepared to appreciate, – not a grain more.… We cannot see anything until we are possessed with the idea of it, take it into our heads – and then we can hardly see anything else.… A man sees only what concerns him.
In the same way, saints and mystics throughout history have told us that we can only become aware of God when we deliberately look for him and focus our attention on him – when we are consumed with the idea of him and are prepared to appreciate and value his presence in our lives. And once we do become aware of his presence, we will hardly see anything else in this creation. Then, wherever we look, we will see him.
The mystics remind us that God is always with us. His love is all around us, his grace is always flowing, but we don’t feel his love or benefit from his grace. We keep ourselves so busy that we have no time left for God.
They explain that we are dividing our attention among too many different things, as we become endlessly caught up in a thousand and one distractions. Many of us spend hours each day on the Internet and social media, reading information that is irrelevant and maybe even harmful to the quality of our lives. Hardly a moment goes by without us checking the latest breaking news alerts or comments on our Facebook status and emails that ding at us from our mobile phones. We can barely tolerate sitting quietly in a room by ourselves; we’ve lost our ability to be still, relaxed, and focused.
Basically, our lives have become scattered, reactive, and confused. We are like ships lost at sea in this creation, unsure of where we are going and wandering around in circles.
Shams-e Tabrizi describes our confused state:
You have divided your being into a hundred thousand pieces; each piece is thrown in one direction and finds a dead end. If you do not unify your fragmented self and do not use these pieces to buy His union, you will end up losing your life without ever having discovered your own mystery.
Quoted in The Guru of Rumi: The Teachings of Shams Tabrizi
Baba Ji has said that there is a direct relationship between our ability to hold our attention still and our ability to be aware of God’s presence in our lives. He often says that it’s all a matter of becoming receptive to and aware of what is already there. That’s what we do through our daily practice of meditation: learn to become still, aware, and receptive. Meditation is the means through which we unify our fragmented selves and turn our attention fully and intentionally toward God every day – even every moment. “Don’t let a moment pass, says Sena, without remembering and repeating the Name of the Supreme Being,” we read in Many Voices, One Song.
In one of his poems, Rabindranath Tagore writes about taking time during our busy days to pause and to sit face to face with God. In Gitanjali, he writes:
I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side.
The works that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.
Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.
Today the summer has come to my window with its sighs
and murmurs; and the bees are plying their minstrelsy
at the court of the flowering grove.
Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee,
and to sing dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.
Over the years Baba Ji has encouraged us to slow down and take time out of our chaotic lives to be still and to reflect, to remember why we are here, to remember God. He has occasionally quoted lines from the poem “Leisure”:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
We miss so much by keeping ourselves overly busy and distracted. What if we were given a chance to pause from the busyness of our lives? The saints assure us that there is something positive in every situation if we are willing to see it. Maybe the pandemic gave us an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and reassess. It reminded us of how we want to spend our precious time. Maybe now we finally have “time to stand and stare” – and be with him.