It is a little ironic for me to be writing about this subject just now. Here at Ananda Village, in Northern California, we’re in the midst of yet another major storm, experiencing the greatest rainfall in over twenty years. The rivers are roaring, the reservoirs are full, the mountain snowpack is huge, and more is on the way. Maybe, just maybe, getting soaked whenever I step outside is what got me thinking about dry spells. But let’s move on from the weather and talk about those spiritual dry spells and how to deal with them.
What triggers a spiritual drought? Here are three important causes: lack of will power, a temporary drop in our “specific gravity,” and the effects of past karma. The way to deal with each of them is different.
Lack of will power. Paramhansa Yogananda defined will as “desire plus energy directed toward a goal,” and said that every test is a test of will. We might think that the solution to a dry spell of this nature would be to put out more effort. Generally speaking, this is wrong. Will power, it turns out, functions somewhat like a muscle. It gets fatigued by overuse and too much stress. It is stronger in the morning, when we are fresh, and wanes throughout the day and during the week. If you want someone to grant your request, try to ask him on a Monday morning.
Athletes know that overtraining leads to injury. We spiritual athletes, too, can push hard when we are fresh, but need consciously to relax when we’re tired. For me, this means that my morning meditations are longer, deeper, more focused on techniques, and more intense. I have more will power when I’m feeling rested. In the evenings, I tend to do more inward chanting and adopt a “softer” approach to my sadhana. But everyone is different, so work with your own rhythms. Self-discipline is absolutely necessary, but should be applied with discrimination.
Specific gravity is how light or heavy our consciousness is, how sattwic or tamasic. If your specific gravity is lower than usual, then be more careful to avoid people, places, entertainment, and even foods that pull you down. As with will power, our specific gravity tends to drop when we’re tired. Build in rest periods, do things that are fun and uplifting, monitor your energy level, and you’ll find that you will quickly pop back up to your normal buoyancy. Then you can try to go even higher.
The effects of past karma. Spiritual dry spells are generally due to past moods, indulgences, and lack of discipline. Counteract their effects by making the right spiritual effort now. What is the right effort? In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, “Yoga is not for him who eats too much or who fasts too much, who sleeps too much or who sleeps too little.”
In other words, efforts that are balanced and consistent gradually overcome internal resistance. When our energy flows without resistance, we find that we have plenty of will power and a buoyant specific gravity, and that past karma loses its force.
Finally, pray for God and Guru to help you in your efforts. Remember, they are on your side.
In joyful balance,