A friend wrote:
“Through recent experiences I was able to get a tremendous insight into how the ego gets attached in the belief that the ‘Other’ is going to offer fulfillment. Now I fully understand the workings of the ego in human relationships.
“There has been a slow but steadily growing desire within me to find and experience the truth. Day and night all my mind can think of is God and meditation. As a result my performance at work has taken a huge beating. This has become worrisome! I am not a lazy person, but suddenly my job seems lifeless and futile. All this effort, twelve hours a day, for what? I’m no longer excited about my job and the rewards it offers. My mind is constantly engaged in thoughts of a simple life dedicated to yoga and meditation. What do you advise?”
From the little I know about you, I think you may be inclined to extremes. Am I wrong? For example, you write, “I fully understand the workings of the ego in human relationships.”
I am wondering if you should consider a more measured approach. Even though it is tempting to claim victory, profound truths are difficult to acquire. It is more likely that you have had a glimpse of the truth, instead of having made the truth entirely your own.
You say, “Day and night all my mind can think of is God and meditation.” If you had indeed attained the state of constant God-remembrance, your work would pose few problems for you, for God would arrange your life in the best possible way for your continued progress.
I find that when people are drawn to the spiritual path, often the first thing they think of is to leave behind husband, wife, and job.
(Cartoon: Until our hearts our anchored in God, our minds will wander in worldly paths even if we renounce them outwardly.)
“Now that I am spiritual,” seems to be the thought, “I have to leave everything!” Rarely – I would venture to say never, in my experience – have I seen this to be a good idea. It is too dramatic, too romantic, too distant from one’s actual state.
God has so arranged this world that we must live with others and work for a living. This is not a mistake. Spiritual realization has to be proved “in the cold light of day.” And home life and job are, definitely, the harsh light of day.
The skills we must learn in order to create harmony with others and success in the workplace are exactly the same skills required to find God. Our daily life develops in us concentration, determination, perseverance, the ability to relate to realities other than our own – not to mention creativity, energy, calmness, and courage. The list goes on and on!
As Paramhansa Yogananda said, everyone in the world is on the spiritual path, whether consciously or not. That you are on the path consciously is a tremendous advantage; but it doesn’t mean that you are ready to leave the school of life behind.
If we renounce our everyday lessons prematurely, instead of soaring in spirit, we tend to go in the opposite direction. We end up spending less time on spiritual pursuits, as laziness and lack of discipline set in and invade our body, mind, and spirit.
Instead of thinking that you must leave your job to concentrate on God, try to practice bringing God into your workplace. Talk with him silently about the problems that come before you. In this way, you will find that He is with you, and eager to help you even in small things.
If personal ambition has left you, consider becoming ambitious for God. See your work as a divine service, with a purpose to help others, to bring a calm and joyful attitude to your work, to help your fellow workers achieve their goals, and to earn money to support a spiritual cause.
When you have creative work to do, ask God to give you His inspiration. When you have mundane tasks to perform, ask God to entertain you with his joy. Practice japa – the constant repetition of a mantra, chant, or a name of God.
I believe the discipline required to achieve success in your job is the right training for you at present. It will teach you to apply yourself to whatever task God places before you. Living by our likes and dislikes – even our spiritual likes and dislikes – is not wholesome. Use your will power to demolish all sense of separation from God.
Also, can you afford to fail at your job? Did your parents sacrifice to give you the education to get a good job? Do they depend on you for their support? How would they feel if you throw it all away?
You say you are not a lazy person. That is good! But perhaps you need to learn to do with full enthusiasm whatever is asked of you. Your job is a fine place to develop that valuable ability. Once acquired, it will be your ticket to success in the spiritual life as well.