When my friend Paula was diagnosed with cancer, she took the surgery, but decided not to take chemotherapy. As she told her doctor, “I’m just not a chemo kind of gal!”
To me, she said, “I’d rather change my thoughts.”
I said, “You might as well fix the problem at the source! Your physical body is a manifestation of your thoughts. The question is, do you have enough time? Chemo is a way of buying time while you get your mind in order.”
Paula said, “You’re right – I don’t have much time. I don’t have the luxury to have a single negative thought.”
The dictionary defines “luxury” as “something adding to pleasure or comfort, but not absolutely necessary.”
Who gets pleasure from negativity? Who gets comfort?
If we are honest, we will admit that the ego does get pleasure from being negative, but only in the short-run.
It’s a relief to point out the faults of others, rather than look at our own. When something bad happens, the ego gets comfort from thinking, “I don’t deserve this!”
But the fruit of luxury, Yogananda said, is luxury – not freedom. The more we indulge our desires, the more habitual they become.
If our goal is inner freedom, we have to “travel light.” We can’t afford the luxury of carrying extra baggage. We have to pare down our load. Outward simplicity helps, but the true simplicity and freedom is inside.
In the end, even the body falls away, and all we have left is our consciousness.
Eventually, Paula died of cancer, ten years after the diagnosis. She was a pure soul, but in the final decade she became even more refined. I was at her bedside when she passed away – the room was filled with a divine vibration of freedom and bliss. She died in a state of grace.
The Guru’s goal is to help us become simple and free. Paramhansa Yogananda was not always “fair” in the way he treated people. Sometimes he would scold those who weren’t actually at fault – to see if they could take it.
I have seen Swami Kriyananda do the same thing.
Once, a complex misunderstanding developed among a large group of people.
Swamiji got them together. Instead of systematically letting each one declare his grievances and get the “facts,” he simply assigned blame to those who could take it, whether they deserved it or not!
Those who received the lion’s share of the blame were those who had the wisdom to accept it without protest. They simply didn’t care if their egos were dealt a strong blow – they were too simple and free to be concerned.
Harmony was restored, and everyone moved on.
It’s up to us to decide how we want to live. Shall we gnaw on the bone of negative thinking and self-justification? Is it a luxury we can afford?
I remember a talk that Swamiji gave, years ago. It was particularly deep and inspiring.
I sat close enough to see the look in his eyes. His body was before me, but his consciousness embraced a sphere that was vastly larger than the living room.
After the closing prayer, he looked at us and said with such sympathy, as if from a great distance, “You are going to get it right sooner or later – why waste a few million years?”
Joy and love to you.