This morning Devi and I spoke with someone who was feeling overwhelmed and a little guilty because he couldn’t keep up with all the “should do’s” on the spiritual path. I doubt if there is a devotee alive who hasn’t had these same thoughts. On the one hand, there are hundreds of techniques, habits, and attitudes that could be helpful. On the other hand, we have to face the reality of living in this world with multiple responsibilities and limited time.
Paramhansa Yogananda presented us with a great variety of teachings and techniques. Because of his great magnetism and enthusiasm, they all seem to be good, and many essential in the quest for Self-realization. Yet he also said, “If you do one one-hundredth of what I suggest, you will find God.” This is so reassuring. It keeps us from feeling so inundated or overwhelmed that we just give up.
A friend recently shared something that can help us keep moving ahead. He said that some years ago the British national cycling team wanted to improve their world ranking. They hoped to become the top team within five years. The coach came upon this solution: We will improve everything we do by at least 1%. They looked at their equipment: bikes, wheels, helmets, and other gear. They reexamined their training, diet, and even got better pillows. They revised their racing strategies, and . . . well, you get the point. They did not achieve the goal of being the best in the world in five years. It took them only three.
If we apply this strategy to our spiritual practices, it will yield great results. First try to optimize some easily changed physical areas such as your meditation room, altar, meditation seat, malas, and other equipment. Improving some of these things may take very little effort and, once done, won’t need more attention. Try to improve every little thing you can think of by at least 1%.
Then move on to important habits such as regular meditation times and length, good posture, diaphragmatic breathing, starting each meditation with deep relaxation and concentration, and ending with a sense of expansion and joy. These may take more effort to improve, and will need to be revisited regularly. But, here again, if success is judged by making only small improvements, it can be accomplished relatively easily.
Finally, let’s look at the really important things: deep devotion, faith, non-attachment, and surrender of self-will to God’s will. These are the areas that bring Self-realization. They are also places where the 1% solution can make a big difference. If we just keep taking a step at a time we will eventually arrive at our goal. As the great householder avatar Lahiri Mahasaya said, “Banat, banat, ban jai! Doing, doing, one day done!”
In celebration of little steps,