How can I have God all the time?
Many of the techniques we practice on the spiritual path are so simple that we can all too easily fail to see how powerful they are.
We imagine that if something is complex and hard to understand, it must be powerful. If there are lots of things to remember, and if you have to get the syllables just right, then it must be important and powerful. Yet the techniques of this path are simple and powerful.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re easy. Practicing the presence of God is simple, for example, yet it’s a challenge.
You find that the more you practice, the more the boundaries of your ego dissolve, and the more you discover that you are part of a greater reality. And then your intuition develops, so that you find that you’re aware of that higher reality in everything.
Several years ago, Swami Kriyananda challenged us to keep our minds on God for just five minutes a day.
I was very embarrassed, because he was asking us to think of God without letting our minds wander: “I’m hungry,” “I want to get that blue dress,” “Oh, there’s a spot on my pants,” “What am I going to do tomorrow?”
We all know how it goes. You’re sitting there trying to meditate, repeating the mantra, and all of a sudden you aren’t. And you’re not sure exactly when you stopped doing the mantra.
That’s why we say we “practice,” because we have to practice bringing our minds back over and over whenever they wander away.
Yogananda said that if you take care of the minutes, the incarnations will take care of themselves. The problem is, we think we have to look past the minutes and take care of many important things. But if your consciousness is uplifted and centered here and now, you find that your life flows beautifully.
One of the reasons we chant is that singing the words is a wonderful way to keep our hearts engaged and our mind focused. When you repeat the words with feeling, the mind wants to practice the presence, because it sees how enjoyable it is.
When Brother Bhaktananda was a young disciple, he spent eight years constantly repeating a simple phrase: “I love you, Guru.” One day Yogananda saw him and said, “I love you, too.”
Swamiji’s book Affirmations for Self Healing gives us many wonderful phrases we can repeat to keep our minds in the present, on God.
I possess the creative power of spirit, the divine.
The infinite intelligence will guide me and solve every problem.
The sunshine of divine prosperity has just burst through my dark clouds of limitation.
I go forth in perfect faith in the power of omnipresent good to bring me what I need, at the time I need it.
When life’s laundry list tries to fill up your mind, you can start saying your affirmation and everything changes.
Frank Laubach was a protestant missionary in the Philippines. Rev. Laubach began to suspect there might be something more to religion than anyone had told him. He began to try to be constantly in the company of Jesus.
In his book Letters of a Modern Mystic, Laubach describes all the things he did to be aware of the presence of Jesus, and how difficult this simple idea was to practice – and how magnificently it turned out for him.
There’s a book called The Way of a Pilgrim by a Russian peasant who became a saint by practicing the presence of God. He had read in the Bible that we are supposed to “pray unceasingly.” And in his simple religious fervor, he set out to discover what it meant. He took as his mantra the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
At first he repeated it a little each day, then more and more, until he was saying it unceasingly. And then he began to discover that his breath, his heartbeat, and everything in the universe was the same. His prayer became all of creation, and he became nothing but that prayer.
These stories open startling possibilities. You realize that if we pick up these simple tools, how much can happen.
We think we have to do something big and important. We have to move somewhere and change our job so we can make more money and go on more retreats. But none of those things have to happen. You can find God if you step out the door of your mundane habits and start saying your chosen prayer.
It’s a thrilling process. Once you recognize the power of it, then you can have the presence of God anywhere. If you’re in a prison cell you can be with God. If you’re ill and can’t sit to meditate, you can do your practice and have God. If everybody in your family is screaming and won’t give you a moment’s rest, you can do it. Silently practicing the presence of God is the devotee’s secret weapon in the battlefield of life.