Sometimes the simplest advice can change your life.
In my early years at Amritapuri, Amma gave me some really precious and life-changing advice. She said, “Amma wants you to erect two pillars in your life: your morning practice and your evening practice. Learn to make them strong by regularity, and by developing a love for your practice.”
She said, “You develop this love for your practice by experiencing how much you benefit from that regularity. Day by day, the depth that comes from your practice starts to carry over into your work, your service, and everything you do.”
Amma said, “If you do this, you will automatically start to change and live with more awareness. You will automatically start to adjust your life to help your practice. Those pillars will support you and keep you stable and strong even through hard times.”
I have found that taking this suggestion from Amma has been extremely powerful in my life. With these few sentences, she had given something I could continuously hold on to.
By making a vow to erect those two pillars in our spiritual lives, even if it starts with taking just 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening every day, or just sitting quietly alone in the car for few moments before and after work, we can slowly begin to connect those two pillars with that very personal inner spiritual search and with that deep inner longing that Amma says is inherent in each one of us. When our time of practice starts to become our time to be alone, our time to commune and to pray, to learn to touch a deeper part of ourselves, then we automatically start to adjust our lives. No one needs to push us. We start to adapt our lives on our own to make them more conducive to our practice.
This one act of erecting those two pillars in our day quickly starts to put everything else into place. We naturally become more disciplined and regular even in simple physical ways. For example, if we experience that we are more alert or have better yogasana or meditation when our stomach is relatively empty, we may find ourselves beginning to adjust even when and what we eat in order to help our practice.
In the same way, we start to observe that when we mentally “lose it” during the day in various situations, we actually just “lose” our own peace. If we spend the day gossiping at work, getting angry with the afternoon traffic, or losing our patience with our kids, what happens when we sit down for our evening practice? When we sit and look within, we begin to realize how restless we actually are, and we automatically start to introspect and think, “Now what did I do to get into this state today?” “What has made me so restless today?”
When we know we will have to sit and face our mind at the end of the day, we automatically start to live with more awareness. We pay attention to the things we talk about, the things we read, the images we put into our heads. We see how all of our actions carry over and affect our practice, and we very naturally begin to adjust our lives.
Once these two pillars become more solid and established, we can slowly begin to connect them with the thought of God all throughout the day. There is a saying: “Your evening practice shouldn’t be like having dinner with a stranger.” We shouldn’t have to start from scratch every time. We should learn to carry those effects and that presence throughout our daily life, so that when we sit for practice, we find our mind is already flowing in the right direction.
In this way, those two pillars can become like bookends connecting everything in between our two practices. Amma says that if we form this habit early on in our spiritual lives, we will find that we can lean on those pillars when we need them most. And if we do this in that spirit of love, this one vow cannot only keep us balanced and disciplined day after day, but with the same regularity and devotion, it can really help us deepen that very personal and intimate relationship between us and the Divine.
Author: Rishikesh Matthew Petrilla