When i was working on the second Bhagavat Commune property with my godbrother Radharadhya Prabhu and his family, i noticed something that gave me an important insight on life in general that i think most people who have ever been on a spiritual journey can relate to.
The 180-acre property that we purchased for our project comprised of about 120 acres of forest and 60 acres of thickly overgrown brushy pastures on rolling hills. Mixed in the brush were various types of small trees and wild blackberry bushes making the land virtually impassable and unusable for farming/pasture land. Those who have read our blog entry from October2012 may recall the photos of our tractor and bush hog clearing out the 9-foot tall brush in the back end of our property, transforming the area from a treacherous mess to a usable field with a lot of potential.
When we first started clearing the various areas around the property, there was a huge noticeable difference and a major sense of achievement as well as a more tangible and clarified vision of our goals for the space and for the project as a whole.
As we cleared more and more of the previously neglected overgrown pastures, however, the feeling of accomplishment no longer accompanied our long days of work. Since we now knew exactly what the areas could potentially look like, every time we cleared a few more acres, instead of appearing like progress as it did in the beginning, it just seemed like that was the way that it was “supposed to look”. In fact, eventually it started feeling like the more we cleared, the less we actually accomplished because instead of seeing the progress, we saw how much further we had to go before we had all 60 acres cleared.
We wanted to skip the rest of the first step and start the next (assembling the fences for the pasture areas, building barns for our prospective animals, planting fruit trees in the orchard area, etc.). The problem with that idea was that if we had done it that way, the other overgrown areas, which were already neglected for nearly a decade, would have transformed from very difficult to manage to nearly impossible. The wise and responsible choice was to continue our bush hogging until all 60 acres were cut down before we began the second phase of the fields’ transformations.
When we set off on our spiritual journey, several things happen. One of the things that happens is we immediately notice a substantial amount of personal growth and transformation. We tangibly experience the results of our spiritual endeavors and notice the progress that we have made compared to that of our previous lifestyles. In this way we feel validated and we enthusiastically continue our progressive march toward transcendence.
Unfortunately, after some time this sense of accomplishment can seem to slowly fade away causing many to question the effectiveness of the spiritual process. This is because, as in the example above, when we begin a long process we not only see the immediate results, but we also get a glimpse of the ultimate results of that particular step.
Having seen said future results, we feel as if we have already achieved them and therefore we begin to desire the results of the next step before we even finish the first one. Thus, when we fail to attain the secondary results we essentially place the blame on the process for not working instead of rightfully keeping the blame on ourselves for not completing the prerequisite step.
Although it is naturally tempting to jump ahead on the blissful and illuminating spiritual path, if we attempt to do so without first addressing our base material attachments we are doing the equivalent of grabbing on to a passing train with one hand while firmly anchoring ourselves to a tree with the other.
Material life and spiritual life are like oil and water… although they can superficially mix for some time, they naturally oppose one another and therefore they automatically separate. There is a period of transition where we dovetail our material desires with spiritual life, but it is imperative that during this process we let go of our material tendencies and latch onto spiritual ones. When we practice spiritual life in the material world we must carefully follow the guidance of a legitimate spiritual authority so that we can successfully transfer our consciousness from material to spiritual without getting lost in the mix. If we maintain attachments to both matter and spirit we will naturally be torn apart. This is why it important for us to finish the first step before we move onto the next.
This is also why we sometimes feel helpless in our pursuits. Although we have made ample progress, we have also seen a clear picture of what we will attain if we continue the process. Knowing that we must continue our efforts in order to gain said progress before we can move on to the next level can be daunting… it can feel like a tease. And so some people just give up.
Of course, when obstacles are thrown in front of us while we are pursuing our material goals we do not give up. On the contrary, we tend to conjure up super-human strength and abilities to rise up against the odds to conquer all of the adversity keeping us from our enjoyment. If we showed that much enthusiasm and vigor on our spiritual endeavors we would be in much better shape than we are currently.
So don’t give up on your spiritual pursuit, just take a closer look at what is really happening. The progress hasn’t halted, we have.