You cannot measure the amount of energy inside an atom. Similarly, you cannot measure the full potential of a human being. The nature of a human being is quite similar to that of an atom. The core of an atom is positive. The negatively charged particles are only on the periphery of the atom. Similarly, the negativity of a person is not their true nature; it is just on the periphery. One is said to be “centered” when he or she is calm, steady and pleasant.
How do we know whether the knowledge that we have is correct or not? Even 10,000 years ago, people knew that Jupiter had 63 moons. They used the subjective way of knowing things – by intuition and quieting the mind. When the mind becomes calm (it is like being in a state of deep rest though one is totally alert), then an intention is taken. With that intention comes intuition, knowledge as well as inspiration. Using this method, ancient sages derived knowledge about the universe and developed mathematical techniques that are valid today. Age-old calendars can still tell exactly what time an eclipse will happen. Ancient societies in the East knew that the sun is at the center of the solar system and planets move around it. They used the method of intuitive awareness in which one feels that every cell in his body is fully alive now, and the mind is quiet. You call that Samadhi.
If we take out some time – say two or three days in a year – to keep silence and simply observe our own thoughts and emotions, then we get a sense of what quietness means. Freedom from the jugglery of thoughts is the basis of intuition. And, intuition is part of innovation.
In our normal lives, we are bombarded with so many thoughts and stimuli that attention and retention is simply not there. Today’s children have problems like attention deficiency disorder and so on. They seem to have lost the ability to focus on simple tasks. When you become quiet in your mind, it is not as if you lose your intellect. In fact, the intellect becomes very sharp and the attention span increases. The first outcome of mediation or any self-development technique should be to increase our perceptual ability, which in turn, should help us in expressing ourselves better.
One aspect is getting rid of stress, the other is seeing that stress doesn’t enter our system. For the latter, we need a change in our attitude towards things happening around us. We can bear the heat – with a sense of humor, a sense of ease, and with confidence. One needs to create barricades so that tension does not enter the mind. But it’s impossible not to have tension; it might slip in through some other way. Just learn to take it easy. The ease with which you are able to handle your environment, or the situation around you, is what I would call being able to utilize your full potential. When you are in touch with your full potential, nothing or nobody can shake you. You will have the smile and the confidence.
Attaining a spiritual mindset is simply recognizing that there is life everywhere, that there is spirit everywhere. I do not see a division between what’s spiritual, and what’s material. The finest aspect of matter is spirit. The gross aspect of spirit is matter. It is like body and mind. You see through the eyes, but actually the eyes are the means through which the mind sees. The mind is the spirit. The whole world is combination of spirit and matter. Therefore spiritual practices too are not something that are any different from you being spirited and being happy and compassionate and being in love.
The way of prayer is to be in amazement – looking at the cosmos and saying wow, how many planets! How many stars! How big is this Universe! Your consciousness expands, and this is meditation. The creation and the creator are not separate. The creator and the creation are one and the same. The creation is formed out of the creator, just like dance comes out of the dancer. I usually say we must have the 3C’s in our lives – cosmology, commitment and compassion. These three things make life beautiful.
Billions of years have passed since existence began on earth. Compared to it, the span of human life – 80 years or 100 years – is nothing! In this vast space, where are we?
Seeing yourself in the context of the big creation shifts you to a different level of consciousness. As per one of the scriptures in the ancient Vedic tradition of India, there are almost 112 ways of realizing consciousness. One of them is to observe the sky on a clear day, and let go, and relax. Wherever the mind goes, it makes an assumption and becomes quieter, as it assumes that space. And in that quiet state of mind, an intention fructifies very fast.
A calm and clear state of mind also has capacity to heal and to elevate itself. It is full of joy, ease and love. You can look at your entire past as a dream. Just remember all the activities you did in the morning after waking up. Isn’t it all like a dream? All of those activities are now an impression in your memory – and a dream is also just an impression. See your whole past as a dream. In future, in the next 10-20 years, you will be doing many things, they will all pass like a dream. Knowing this and being aware of it, the space within us starts to open up and we start experiencing heightened awareness. You start seeing another dimension of life. Just wake up!
(H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living)