Balance and Stillness
There's hardly a person who hasn't faced the dilemma of how to achieve a more balanced life. We all recognize the need for balance in order to effectively and objectively cope with the challenges life presents to us. When we lose our balance, we get pulled to extremes and emotional reactions, and we lose focus on our goal – spiritual realization.
The Master emphasizes that to find balance in our external behavior and actions, we need to bring our mind to a state of stillness, where we can experience peace of mind. If we find stillness within, through our meditation and a relaxed attitude to life, we will be able to concentrate and be receptive to our intrinsic spiritual nature. We will be able to throw off the worries and obsessions of the external, mundane world in which we live day to day.
Stillness is the key to spiritual knowledge, to finding God within. As the Bible says, in the book of Psalms:
Be still and know that I am God.1
God is within us, at the point of equilibrium, of balance. When we become still, in body and mind, and stop the mind from pursuing its infinite obsessions, we can find God within ourselves. Once our mind is quiet, our spiritual nature will reveal itself naturally.
But how can we do this? How can we bring the mind to stillness? For most of us, the mind seems totally uncontrollable. It barrels from one thought to another and hardly ever stops. If we give up worries, then desires march in, demanding to take their place. If we curtail some of our desires, we start obsessing and worrying in some other way. So our challenge is to quiet and calm the mind.
Mystics give us various hints on how to achieve this inner balance – how to find the point of equilibrium within, between the extremes; how to hold on to our inner axis.
There's a beautiful passage in the Book of Mirdad, in which Mirdad emphasizes the importance of finding that inner axis, as that axis is God himself, eternal, still, beyond the changing events of wheel of time. The axis also represents our spiritual center, our core. And it is from here that the Lord pulls us to find him. Mirdad says:
The wheel of time rotates, but its axis is always at rest.
God is the axis of the wheel of Time.
Though all things rotate about Him in time and space,
yet is He always timeless and still.
Though all things proceed from his Word,
yet his Word is as timeless as He.
In the axis all is peace.
On the rim all is commotion.
Where would you rather be?
I say to you, slip from the rim of Time
into the axis --
and spare yourselves the nausea of motion.
Let Time revolve around you;
but you not revolve with Time. ...
When one is dead to change,
one becomes changeless.
Most men live to die.
Happy are they who die to live.2
Happy are they who die to live! They give up their attachment to this changing world, and become happy. In order to hold on to the axis, the spiritual reality within, we need to detach ourselves from the wheel of time, the wheel of change and transmigration.
In Spiritual Discourses, Hazur Maharaj Ji urges us to let go of our worldly involvements, and return to the point of stillness and equilibrium within ourselves. He says that when we are engrossed in the external aspects of life, we are constantly spinning around on the rim of the wheel; but when we return to our inner core of stillness, through meditation on Shabd or Nam, it is like catching hold of the axis. He said:
Deeply engrossed in wife or husband and children, in friends and relatives, in wealth and possessions, you become part of the ever moving wheel. By deep devotion to Nam, you step out of the perpetual motion of the wheel and regain the axis with its equilibrium, its stillness, its ineffable bliss. You become one with the Lord.3
Here Maharaj Ji is giving us a method to become detached from the rim of the wheel, where we are constantly spinning, slaves to time, to anxiety, to death and rebirth; where we have no control, and where we are out of touch with our spiritual identity. And through devotion to Nam, by attending to meditation, we will get in contact with the Shabd, the source of stillness and equilibrium, the creative power. The Shabd nourishes us from within and is changeless and eternal.
A contemporary Sufi mystic wrote about the spiritual axis as "the constant center" that keeps the entire creation, and all beings – externally and internally – in balance. He says:
The divine message is heard on the horizons of equilibrium. Balance and equilibrium ensure stability, and are the result of the existence of a constant center.
If we consider the universe, it is easy to see how perfectly balanced the planets are around the sun, each in their own orbit, and even how balance prevails in the galaxies. If such perfection, balance and harmony are inherent in the universe, then surely human beings, as part of the universe and therefore bound to the same laws of physics, do not need to look very far to recognize this perfection, balance and harmony.4
In summary, the mystic is saying that we are a microcosm of the universe and so we too have perfection, balance and harmony within us. On an external level, living in the world, adjusting to change is essential – we need to let go of our obsession with control over circumstances, and instead focus on the divine Reality, our central core of spiritual strength, within. That will give us stability. The principle of equilibrium is inherent throughout the entire creation, from the microcosm of our individual beings, to the macrocosm of the universe.
If we believe that everything that happens to us, happens as a result of our karmas, that it is our destiny, then we will understand that there is nothing we can change. We can adjust our attitude with the grace of the Master and the strength gained through meditation, but certainly we can't change the basic events of our lives, our relationships, or the circumstances we face. How could we worry, or be consumed by anything happening outside of us, if we accept that we cannot change our destiny?
So, the first step in achieving balance is to train our mind to accept our destiny. That will allow us to meditate with a relaxed mind. And by attending to meditation we will be able to accept our destiny. It is a never ending circle of love. Hazur Maharaj Ji said:
We have to face situations at every step in this life, and at every step in this life we have to explain to our mind to accept whatever comes in our fate smilingly, cheerfully – why grumble? It's a constant training of the mind.
This is also doing service, because that will help us in meditation. If we always feel perturbed with every little thing, then how can we concentrate, how can we meditate? If we make every little thing an issue the size of the Himalayas, then how can we concentrate? We have to forget; we have to forgive; we have to train our mind to take things easily, lightly, to laugh them away, ignore them. This is all training the mind.5
Hazur often reminded us to keep a balance. Accept your destiny, swim along with the waves, not against them. Adjust to life, don't contend with it. He said:
On this plane, there is a certain destiny we have to go through. But if we are attending to meditation, then our willpower becomes strong enough so that we can go through that destiny. And naturally, the decision has already been made. You are not making any decision at all. Whatever has to happen has already happened. You have to go through that, but you are now better equipped to face the situation, to face the events of life. You don't lose your balance in going through those events of life, but you can't change those events of life. So meditation definitely helps us. We should do our best and leave the result to the Father....
We must accept the events of life. You cannot change the course of the events of life, but you can always adjust to them. Adjusting to the events of life will always make you happy and relaxed. If you swim against the waves, you will drown. If you swim along with the waves, you will get to the shore easily.6
Hazur Maharaj Ji once elaborated on the balance between our lives out in the world and our meditation. He reassured us that our meditation would protect us no matter where our destiny places us. The Master is always with us. He said, in answer to a question:
Well, sister, if you are tied to a strong chain, you can move only within a limited area. So if we are tied to our meditation every day, no matter how much we're involved in other things, we will always remain within the circle – we will not be able to get out of the circle. If the chain is broken, then of course you are absolutely gone, you're involved. So the chain of meditation should not be broken.
Meditation must be attended to every day, and then no matter how much you involve yourself in other activities, you'll never be allowed to go astray at all. You'll never be allowed to get involved so much that you forget your real path, because your chain is very strong – you are just tied down to that bulldozer and it will not let you go anywhere. So if we don't compromise with that, then everything will be all right.7
In his conclusion to this response, Maharaj Ji said:
Meditation is a way of life.... Meditation should reflect in your whole life, your whole day. It becomes a part of your life, your way of life. That way your whole day is spent in meditation.
We can think about how this applies to our lives, no matter in what situation our destiny places us. If we attend to our meditation, we will find the balance we need in order make our way through life. The Master is an example for us.
When we meet the Master, we are seeing a person who is in balance. We use the term the true, perfect or complete Master. This means that he is complete; all his aspects are in balance. He is the ultimate example of how a person can live in the world, fulfilling all his duties, while still attending to his inner spiritual life. In that way we try to emulate him.
We need to achieve a balance, an equilibrium in our lives – both inner and outer. The point of stillness within is at the eye center, the third eye. If we still our minds and focus within, on simran and Shabd, as our Master has advised us, we will automatically be able to balance our worldly lives with our inner life. We will have the balance needed to go through all kinds of circumstances in a relaxed way. We just need to hold on to our inner axis, our intrinsic spiritual nature.
In the language of the Chinese mystics, this axis is the Tao – which means the Way, the path, the eternal and infinite creative power. The Taoists devote much of their spiritual literature to the importance of finding the axis or still point within, which allows us to go through life without being thrown off balance by circumstances or change. By holding on to the Tao, we can adapt to change while staying attached to our inner spiritual core. We won't internalize the events of our lives – they become external and less relevant to us.
The Tao is the source of strength, the point of equilibrium between the extremes. If we don't find that equilibrium, that center, within ourselves, we will be pulled apart by the centrifugal force of the ever-moving wheel. We will lose our focus and get absorbed by mundane events.
In an early Chinese Taoist classic, the Huainanzi, the axis is also called the pivot and the handle of Tao. Here are a few lines:
If one regulates the external from the core
of his person,
His various affairs will not end in failure.
If he gets at the core,
He can nurture externals.
The sage, having scanned all around
and left nothing out,
Remaining whole, he returns to guard
what is within.
He manages the four corners of the earth
Yet always returns to the pivot.8
He manages the four corners of the earth, yet he always returns to the pivot. He guards his inner treasure. In other words, if we hold on to the core, the handle of Tao, we can nurture whatever is external to us without losing touch with our true self, our inner treasure. We can meet the demands of daily life, and not get lost, but remain whole no matter what is happening. We can stretch and bend, but not lose balance; we can live a composed and serene life.
We normally live between two extremes. In all our activities in the material world we are buffeted by the tension between these extremes. By holding on to the inner core, the Tao, we can become detached while going through life in this world. We can "go with the flow."
At the end of the Chinese text, the author summarizes how we can live in this world happily, adjusting to change, without losing our balance. He says:
Defer to what is natural and preserve one's genuineness. Take external things lightly and return to one's nature as it really is. It is as easy as turning a ball in the palm of one's hand, and enables one to find personal happiness.9
As easy as turning a ball in the palm of one's hand – This is a wonderful image. How do we go through life, generally? We internalize everything that we should leave external. We grasp the world tightly. We hold on to every experience and relationship. We need to loosen our tight grip, our need to possess things and people; to let go of our cherished opinions and self-importance – even our fear of death – so that we can attend to the needs of our soul – our true self. Then living in the world becomes as easy as turning a ball in one's hand. The ball just rolls around. Our hand relaxes and the ball rolls freely. We are not worried about anything.
To close, let us remember the reassuring words of Tulsi Sahib, the satguru of Soami Ji Maharaj. Tulsi gives us a perspective on the great gift the Masters bestow on us struggling souls. It is the Master who so generously guides us on this path. So when we feel we can't possibly control our mind, he reminds us that the Master himself has come to lift us out of the morass of this worldly existence and take us home. He is always there to help us. First the master introduces us to the path, and then he takes us by the hand and never leaves us. Tulsi wrote:
Such is the nature of saints – they ferry souls
across this ocean of existence to their true home....
The destination of this path is love,
and reaching there is not difficult.
For the one who removes all difficulty
stands before you
and has given you his hand.10
Tulsi's words are meant to inspire us in our meditation. Sit in meditation with a positive frame of mind. Be mindful of the Master's love and compassion. Love for the physical Master will eventually lead to love for the inner Master, the Shabd, which is the true Master, and that love will liberate us.
To conclude, let us remember three important things:
- Let go of the rim of the constantly spinning wheel of change and hold on to the axis. Let go of the externals and hold on to our inner core.
- Cultivate a balanced and relaxed attitude, so we can live happily. Then life becomes as easy as rolling a ball in the palm of our hand.
- Third, to quote Tulsi Sahib, "The one who removes all difficulty stands before you, and has given you his hand." The Master is waiting for us to take his hand. Let us not keep him waiting any longer.
- Bible, Psalms 46:10
- Mikhael Naimy, The Book of Mirdad, pp. 68, 69.
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses, Vol. I [1987), p. 52
- Hazrat Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha, “Balance and Equilibrium in Sufism”, in http://www.mto.org/aos/Main/All/en/balance.html
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, # 265
- Ibid, #258
- Ibid, #218
- D.C. Lau & Roger T. Ames, Yuan Dao: Tracing Dao to its Source [first section of Huainanzi]. NY: Ballantine Books, 1998, p. 113.
- Ibid, p. 7
- Tulsi Sahib, Saint of Hathras, 4th ed., 2017; p. 231