As one begins treading the spiritual path, how does one know that one is progressing?
Well, when people start calling you crazy, you are doing just fine!
There was a saint, a Sufi mystic, who was famous for most of his disciples attaining enlightenment. Somebody once approached him asking, “Is it true that all your followers eventually gain enlightenment?”
“Absolutely!” the saint replied. “It’s set in stone.”
“How can you be so sure?”
The saint responded, “Every evening, I dance like crazy for no rhyme and reason, and a lot of people dance with me. In the morning, those who say I’m a crazy guy and leave, I know, have attained enlightenment. They have found their truth.”
The first thing, if you walk this path, is to be prepared to be misunderstood always. Most people will call you nuts and make remarks that you are getting sucked into a cult, following this swami, going to that ashram, and so on. They will tell you that you are not on the right path.
Maybe they are right. Who knows? Give them the benefit of doubt.
That aside, how do you know you’re actually progressing?
The first sign is, you calm down in general. If you don’t feel that calm and peace in your heart and mind, you are not progressing, no matter what you like to think of yourself. You can look very dazzling and spiritual, but it doesn’t mean anything.
Second, you become somewhat grounded in everything. You slow down. The desire to run a rat race diminishes, comes down, and in fact, becomes heavy. You wonder – “Why am I running all over the place? What am I trying to attain by running from pillar to post?”
This can also happen if you’re depressed, by the way. This is a practical aspect. Depression will also make you feel like you just don’t have the energy to do anything. Tiredness is not enlightenment. People around you will become tired of your enlightenment, in fact.
When your sleep pattern is good, and you wake up fresh and calm, more importantly, when you feel happy and warm inside, life feels complete. When you feel this way more and more, it means you are progressing on the path.
The third sign is, you develop compassion. Before walking the spiritual path, there are only three dimensions of your existence that you are mostly concerned with – I, me, mine. “Where is ‘I’ in a situation?” That’s all you are worried about. And this is the first sign of a non-spiritual person. Such a person may have meditated for twenty years, but their self-centeredness will be the hallmark of an existence that is going to be eternally sad and depressed.
When you begin progressing on the path, that self-centeredness starts to fizz away and gives way to compassion. You realize your happiness is actually very much dependent on the happiness of those around you. You don’t have to only think about yourself in order to be happy. You also have to think about others.
The fourth thing you gain is wisdom. It is a very key point.
When I speak about compassion and goodness, I’m not saying that you become a doormat. It’s not that people will yell at you, and you say, “Thank you very much. I would like to hear some more of that.”
Wisdom is the ability to protect yourself wherever you need to and to be firm wherever you need to. And honestly, I cannot really tell you how, because I haven’t figured that out myself yet. I have never been able to protect myself. And you pay a big price for that. But well, maybe, that’s the price you got to pay.
A word used very often in many texts of yoga and advaita (non-dualism) is discrimination. It is developing the intuition, the wisdom of what is good and bad for yourself. You develop this wisdom as you progress on the path.
A fool is always sure about everything in life, an ignorant person always certain. A wise person, however, always leaves some room for doubt. So, when you think you have figured out life, your progress has stalled. When you rise above these concepts though and learn to flow with life; doing what you ought to do, not running away from your responsibilities, not using spirituality as a way of escaping the truth of your own life; you are certainly progressing on the path. Calmness in your mind and heart, finding your anchor, compassion and wisdom – if these four things flourish in you, you are progressing.
But if you still feel that surge of anger in you, if you still feel you have to get what you want at any cost, and the other person can go down the drain, grave challenges remain in your consciousness.
This post is transcribed from the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HilY61NTMQ
Himalayan mystic and best-selling author Om Swami has transformed thousands of lives sharing his insights, his experiments and experiences with anyone who is on the path of personal fulfilment, happiness and discovery. Today he spearheads a movement in the form of Black Lotus, a mobile app designed to raise the Kindfulness Quotient in the world through Kindness and Mindfulness.