Acceptance of our flaws is the first step towards self-improvement. If we keep a daily check, betterment will become a habit, writes Sant Rajinder Singh
A mountain-climbing team ascending a Himalayan peak has to remain focused to achieve its goal. Similarly, when we try to rise above bodily consciousness, our soul must be focused on the goal. To withdraw our attention to the sixth chakra, we cannot have any interference from our mind or body. If we move our body, our concentration is disturbed. If we have thoughts, our mind disturbs the concentration of our attention.
One blockage that is the root cause of slowing our progress is distraction during meditation caused by our negative thoughts, words, and deeds throughout the day.
Distracting thoughts due to anger, falsehood, lust, greed, attachment, and ego swirl about in our mind like a tornado during the time we are trying to meditate. If we can eliminate these negative traits, or learn to control them, our mind will be more balanced and calm, and our meditation will improve.
If we can eliminate this blockage, our mind will be in the calm and peaceful state necessary for successful meditation, and we will put an end to the layers of anger that add dark spots and hide the luminosity of our soul.
The first step in removing the blockages that cover our soul is to become aware of them. When we go to a doctor, we cannot be cured until a proper diagnosis is made. When we go to a teacher, an evaluation must be made of our current abilities before it is known what skills we need to be taught. When we go to a sports coach, our abilities must be analysed before we can be guided on how to improve. Similarly, we must know what blockages we have in order to begin the work on removing them.
Many saints, mystics, and philosophers of the past made a systematic effort to analyse their own blockages. Each day, they would review their thoughts, words, and deeds committed throughout that day. If they found they failed in the various ethical virtues, they made a resolution to improve the following day. Khwaja Hafez, a Persian mystic, would drop a small pebble into an earthen pitcher for each of his failures. After several days, he would be distressed if he found the pitcher had completely filled up. In India, some of the wise ones would throw small kernels of grain into a pitcher each time they failed in virtuous behaviour, or they would tie a knot in their clothing for each failure and at the end of the day count the knots. The Christian priest, St Ignatius of Loyola, suggested that every day people should analyse their faults. He recommended that we ask God to help us recall how many times we committed a certain fault each day and ask God’s forgiveness. Then, we should try to guard against committing that fault the following day. Reviewing our failures is like looking in a mirror to see what blemishes we have. If we list the various categories, such as non-violence, truthfulness, purity, humility, and selfless service, and each day count the number of failures we have in each category in thought, word, and deed, we would have a profile of what blockages are keeping us from empowering our soul. We should not do this self-analysis with an aim to chastise ourselves but with an intention to improve on the following day. This should not serve as food for depression and low self-esteem; rather the analysis should be a tool to help us see what areas we need to work on in order to meet our spiritual goal.
Once we know where we stand as far as our current blockages go, we can then take steps to eliminate them. We may wish to keep a record and follow our progress over time. We can aim for zero failures in the various categories of virtues, but we should not expect to eliminate them all at once. Change takes time. Old habits die hard. Our progress may be gradual, and that is all right. We may start out with incremental changes, such as one, two, three, or four improvements in a category each day. Or we may wish to start with one category at a time and concentrate on only improving in that area first before going on to other areas. It does not matter how we improve, as long as each day sees some incremental progress. The climb up a mountain takes place one step at a time. If we think we are going to fly to the top in an instant, we may become disappointed and discouraged because we have set unrealistic goals. Rather than becoming disheartened and giving up, it is better to take small steps at a time and find that we are progressing gradually. Before we know it, a day will come when we will find we have reduced failures in many categories.
So let us begin by analysing where we stand. Let us be honest in looking at ourselves. If we try to cover up our shortcomings, no one but ourselves will be hurt in the process. We delay our own progress by ignoring our blemishes. The more honest we can be in looking at ourselves, the sooner we can take action to rectify our failures and start to eliminate them.
By spending time daily in introspection about our thoughts, words, and deeds, we can see where we stand. We will find what blemishes mar our face and can then take steps to remove them. If we see that we have weaknesses in certain areas, we can focus on overcoming them. Being conscious of our blockages is the first step. Then we can take steps to be aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds and try to control them. Slowly and steadily we will be able to remove each blockage, one by one. Through meditation, we can speed up the process by coming in contact with the source of all goodness. The cleansing power of the light and sound of God helps us eliminate negative qualities. In this way, our soul can shine with all its beauty, light, and love.
The writer is a spiritual leader