by Roger Mock
A yoga teacher in a video I have used begins her class with these words:
“There are two primary forces at work in our life:
The ascending force of action and effort, and the descending force of grace.”
In yogic terms the practice is about balancing and blending two forces in the energetic body (called “prana” and “apana”) in order to awaken a third force, the energy of awareness called “kundalini.”
It’s like the reaching out of the leaf to receive the nurturing rays of the sun. We’ve all seen the way an entire large plant, when placed near a sunny window will ever so gradually incline itself in the direction of the light. The spiritual life of a human being works the same way. If one desires spiritual growth, yearns for God, for Oneness, for the Beloved, for fulfillment beyond what this world offers, then one makes small calculations, changes to the daily routine, little inclinations of the soul towards its Source.
The effort in this sense is not about working “out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” as St. Paul admonished to the Philipians. It’s not about trying to be extra extra good, trying to live up to some impossible standard, pushing some sisyphean boulder up a mountain. No. It’s about doing something small and easy, but doing it regularly, applying a bit of discipline. That’s what makes you a disciple.
It’s about getting yourself near the freaking window, that’s all. I remember seeing a bumper sticker back when I was in college: “Feeling far from God? Guess who moved?” We’ve all moved. We’re all that prodigal son. In the parable, the son has squandered his life in far off lands and when he’s hit bottom he does a 180. And it seems like he’d have an awful lot of terrain to cover to get back home, but Jesus said that wasn’t really the case, because the father instantly knew the son was returning and ran out to meet him.
All that’s needed is that willingness to say, “Enough is enough,” and to turn around. The Greek term for that kind of shift is metanoia, the transformative change of heart. Sometimes in a person’s life there are really big metanoias. But mostly, if you’re on a homeward path, it’s a daily thing; a constant turning around from a distracting side road, probably the same one over and over. Oh yeah, that’s right – I’m goin’ this way.
The “effort” required, the willingness, often just plays out as a simple request for help. Asking. The thing about asking is, you have to stop in your tracks, admit you’re lost and then be open to receive. This has been called “doing the two-step.” Let go, let God. Step back and allow Wisdom to prevail, allow Spirit to lead.
The other day a friend shared some writing from Tibetan lama Sogyal Rinpoche. He quoted Christ’s “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find” discourse. But he pointed out how hard it often is for us to come to the point of asking. He said, “In one way or another, we are all addicts of samsara; the moment when help can come for us is when we admit our addiction and simply ask.”
Addicts of samsara. That really rings true. Samsara is the Sanskrit word for the cycle of birth and death in this material world. So, in other words the human condition. That far country the prodigal son thought he loved so much until he realized there wasn’t so much love there.
Day by day, stone by stone, build your secret slowly.
Day by day, you’ll grow, too. You’ll know heaven’s glory.
(Quote from a song from my favorite film, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.)
The cool thing is, we’re not alone on this road, not by any means. “We’re all just walking each other home,” to quote Ram Dass. Thanks for walking with me.
Love and light,