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Spiritual Obstacles

    by Peter Brach

Most of us have no choice. We are living in this world and fulfill our responsibilities. Yet, after being swept out to sea away from my soul so many times, I do not believe that means that we can do whatever we want and also achieve a deeper Divine contact at the same time. The worldly ocean is filled with many very powerful currents, some subtle and some not so subtle. And we are being pulled unconsciously in many different directions. When we watch or listen to our favorite celebrities, respected political leaders and other heroes, we are imbibing their vibrations. We are rarely imbibing the vibrations of those who are steadily practicing “Prayer of the Heart." We are rarely gaining inspiration from great souls who are pure in heart, without guile and who give greatly to help others.  

The reason why we can’t live deeply focused spiritual lives, do whatever pleases us in the world and take our favorite drug of choice all at the same time is because we can’t! Those who have followed paths similar to mine know exactly what I am talking about. We will not be able to summon the forces within us to work in enough solidarity to achieve a sustained state of deeper Divine contact. The satisfaction we are getting from outer sources creates a sheath over our hearts, making it sometimes impossible to contact the pure, innocent love of our souls. When we are being swept away by desires and restless thoughts, it is very difficult to focus. Making conscious choices to deepen our devotion is not easy to do when we are living almost like in a dream, moving unconsciously from thought to thought and living at the mercy of the winds.

As already mentioned, I have been carried away by many powerful undercurrents many times. The one thing that has brought me back time and time again has been reestablishing a strong commitment to meditate and pray with focused attention, regularly and for longer periods of time. Once we get below the waves of turmoil and enter into quietude, reverence, devotion and prayer, we can reassess our situation. Even though we must remain in the world, we can learn to live more and more of our moments in a state of deeper Divine contact. 

One of the keys to overcoming the negative forces of this world pertains to how we use our free time.* First, and very importantly, we can use moments when our minds are not preoccupied to talk or pray to God. Obviously not while driving but when we are shopping, waiting in line or even washing the dishes, we can silently pray. We may be able to cut back on unnecessary activities to find more time for meditation and prayer. We can also take scheduled pauses during the day to realign our consciousness with our deeper values. I use the timer on my i-phone alarm to remind me to pause. We can volunteer time or give money to a worthwhile charity. All of this can be done in addition to maintaining a regular meditation practice.

At one extreme people are believing that maintaining deeper Divine contact does not require any effort. At the other extreme are those who left the world to live in seclusion to completely immerse themselves in unceasing prayer. Then, in the great middle people like you and I sit. This is where we work on learning the art and science of fulfilling our responsibilities while investing ourselves significantly in not getting caught in the many undertows that drag us away from our deepest and most important spiritual ambitions. 

* Dyamata, the 2nd President of Self-Realization Fellowship, during her life often urged Devotees to use all of their free moments to talk to God. I have found her advice to be very wise and helpful.

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