Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 : A Year of Hope and Opportunity; Chanting is Half the Battle

It is easy to be uneasy about the prospects for 2016. But uncertainty provides an opportunity for assessing one's priorities, and nothing like the New Year for new resolve and intentions!

Making predictions about the future is about the most ill-conceived use of one's time and risk to one's reputation as ever can be conceived. Fortunately, most predictions are soon forgotten and rarely held to account -- a lot like campaign promises, I suppose.

I feel safe in predicting less and less stability in all areas of human activity and life: political, economic, climate, health, technology, and so on. The opportunity in this is to become increasingly self-reliant and, as odd as this may sound, self-reliance includes making connections and commitments with others who are engaged in the same efforts and hold the same goals and ideals as your own.

Government protections will continue to erode, whether in emergencies, security, or in safety net services. But, have no fear because few people will heed warnings; most will simply react to present circumstances and will likely be unprepared or under-prepared. So, like Alfred E. Neuman used to say: "What, me worry?"

Spiritually, there's no one who comes around and makes you pray, meditate, or serve others selflessly. So many well intention-ed meditators therefore imagine they can do that later, when time allows, as they are busy with more immediate concerns. You can spend a lifetime putting things off, and many, if not most, do. (The classic example is preparing one's will and medical directives.)

When I returned from my seclusion during the first week of December I wrote a number of "Ah yes, I remember that! in my blog. One of them is the uselessness of 99% of our random and fleeting thoughts which are forgotten almost as soon as they pass by. 

Instead, I reaffirmed that the best use of my mind when not engaged in the task at hand or the person at hand is to chant and pray inwardly. When I think of the infinite variety of thoughts, activities, social positions, wealth, poverty, and circumstances in which billions of my fellows live, and when I think of all that as but a fraction of infinity, and as infinity as the just one aspect of the nature of God, why should I give my circumstances or my random thoughts so much importance or my thoughts, well, any thought at all?

The vibration (level) of my consciousness is everything. My consciousness and consequent magnetism infuses and empowers my actions and thoughts with appropriate consequences. All else is so much less. The support of the overarching energy and consciousness of which I am but a minuscule part is far more valuable than much of what I can bring to bear using only my ego-centric will power or mere desire. 

So, why not chant and be happy? There is nothing and no one who is not part of the fabric of reality seen or unseen which both manifests and hides the Infinite Spirit at the same time. There's nowhere to hide and nothing to fear. Armed with this veil-piercing realization, even if, at first, it is but fleeting, one's spirit and joy can experience a taste of freedom. 

It is no coincidence that Paramhansa Yogananda counseled that "Chanting is half the battle."

So, if chanting's half the battle, what's the other half? Why, silence, of course. Prayer, chanting, mantra, "japa," and mentally affirming the divine presence all have as their deeper purpose to prepare us to enter the Holy of Holies: inner silence. It is in silence that the voice of God, the presence of God, is experienced.

At first we are likely to have the impersonal experience of soul-satisfying states of awareness such as joy, unconditional love, deep calmness, the inner sounds and divine light. There comes a time in our soul's awakening when God takes human form: whether in vision or in person. But, in the end, God is beyond form and the particulars (whatever form of perfection we strive for, worship, or have experienced up to that point) must melt into the bliss of the Infinite Spirit!

So, when practicing chanting during the day, I always take it toward silence: even moments of silence. In meditation, of course, this is the Holy Grail prerequisite cup from which the true intoxicating "spirits" are to be imbibed.

This, and not success in the long list of my duties or improvement in my attitude or habits, is my New Year's Resolution. Give it some thought or not, but happiness is what we truly seek, whether we get a long or a short life. Or, an easy or difficult one. 

I just happen to know that if I "Seek 'Thee' first, all these (other) things, will be added" and my duties and habits will find completion, success or appropriate resolution with the power of divine help and power.

As Swami Kriyananda's great musical piece, "Life Mantra," affirms: "God is Life; God is Joy; Joy is Life; Joy is God."

Happy New Year friends!

Nayaswami Hriman