I’m a people watcher: I love observing people as they go about their business. I try to see what their faces and body language reveal, and then imagine what they’re like and what kind of lives they lead.
One thing I often observe is the restless movements people make while they’re waiting—to board a plane, for example, or for someone to join them in a hotel lobby. The nervous drumming of fingers, tapping of feet, and glancing at cell phones (“mobiles” here in India) are common sights in the frenetic age in which we live.
What is happening to our consciousness when we live in such a restless way? Repetitive, nervous movements of the body, eyes, and especially the mind break up our experience of reality and time into small, discrete units. When we measure it in quick little beats, life itself becomes fragmented and disjointed.
I had an unusual experience as I was finishing my senior year of college just a few weeks before I moved to Ananda. It was a beautiful spring day, and I decided to go for a walk along a large lake that bordered the campus. After a while I sat and gazed at the variety of activities before me: people picnicking and laughing together; families of ducks paddling and quacking boisterously; swimmers gracefully moving through the water; sailboats gliding swiftly over the surface; trees swaying in the breeze; billowy clouds; sunlight sparkling on the water.
Then, like the unexpected emergence of a hidden image in an optical illusion, my perception suddenly changed. Instead of many separate objects in the scene before me, I saw only one thing—an undivided whole. The thought arose in my mind, “How did anyone ever conceive of the number one, for there are no separate parts to be counted?” (Interestingly, the mathematical concept of zero originated in India.) This perception had a profound and lasting effect on me.
Shortly afterwards I found a passage in Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi that helped me understand my experience. In an explanation of maya, the literal meaning of which is “the measurer,” he wrote: “Maya is the magical power in creation by which limitations and divisions are apparently present in the Immeasurable and Inseparable.” As I was about to devote myself to a spiritual search, I was given a glimpse of the “immeasurable and inseparable” nature of reality.
Here are some tips to help you to stop measuring the “immeasurable,” or, to put it simply, to quit counting the pieces and look at the whole.
In Daily Life:
1) Whatever your circumstances, good or bad, don’t think about how many days or weeks before it’s over. When on vacation, don’t think, “Only one week left,” but enjoy what experiences come to you each day. When going through a stressful workweek, don’t project, “In two days I can rest.” Rather put out the energy that is required to finish the job.
2) When you’re with friends or family, train your mind to be fully present, and don’t dwell on thoughts like, “I have to leave in five minutes,” or, “I have three phone calls to make, so I’d better speed this up.”
3) When you begin each day, take stock of what needs to be done, then try to see your activities as a flow rather than as separate events. You’ll have much more energy if you see each day as a whole—supported by an underlying enthusiasm for life.
1) Swami Kriyananda said, “Train yourself not to move a muscle.” When you begin your meditation, close your eyes, and keep them closed until you’re finished. Don’t look at your watch to see how long you’ve meditated, or how much time is left.
2) If you’re meditating in a group, the leader will end it at the appropriate time. Relax your body and mind, and enjoy the peace.
3) If you’re meditating alone, there are two options. If you need to finish at a certain time, you can set a quiet alarm to go off at the right moment. If you have no time constraints, do your techniques and practice devotion for as long as you enjoy it.
Finally, try to live in the longer rhythms of life, in remembrance of the “immeasurable and inseparable.” As Swami Kriyananda says in one of his songs:
There’s joy all around us!
Why wait till tomorrow?
We’ve only this moment to live.
May your every moment be filled with eternal joy.