Lessons on the Road #6

Yesterday I parked my book box outside the festive merry-go-round. From morning to evening I heard the same 4-song playlist over and over again. These jingles hijack your mind! By the end of the day I found myself singing the line, “I wish it could be Christmas everydaaay,” in between meeting people! I thought about this special time of year when we make an extra effort to reach out. What if every month would be like this month? What if every day was a Christmas Marathon day?

We’ve travelled over 2000 miles in 25 days, up and down the country, meeting thousands of people and handing out hundreds of books. The marathon is coming to an end. Exhilarating but exhausting. A part of me would like it to go on and on, and another part of me is dying for a break! Without doubt, there is one quality that makes this month incredibly special – intensity! We eat, sleep and breathe with one single meditation in mind. In intensity there’s no time for distractions and diversions. In intensity we forget material conceptions and go beyond self-imposed limitations. In intensity we experience an absorbed spirituality that bursts with excitement, realisation and magical experiences. In intensity we gain a glimpse of transcendence. The beautiful Bhagavatam thus recommends we tread the spiritual path with great… intensity (tivrena bhakti-yogena).

Intensity, however, doesn’t come easily. Most of us are not bad spiritual practitioners, but just casual ones. We’re strict on a few things and loose on a lot more. We take a bit of this, add bit of that, ignore the uncomfortable, blend it together with half-hearted effort, and pray it’s the recipe for enlightenment. Doesn’t sound promising. Without intensity, how will we ever breakthrough in spiritual experience? Yet we shy away from it. Maybe we’re afraid we can’t sustain it. Maybe we’re scared that we’ll miss out on something. Maybe we observe others and veer towards the lowest common denominator. Maybe we just don’t have the conviction to put that much of our heart into it. For some, intensity sounds like insanity.

Today my heart told me that intensity means integrity. When our actions are integrated with our aspirations, we live a life of integrity. If we’ve actually registered the loftiness of our purpose, the reality of our situation, and the urgency of time, then intensity will naturally manifest in our actions. There is so much to do – no time to lose! Intensity is not for a day or month, but has to become a thread throughout our lives. As a month of intensity concludes, I’m contemplating what form that intensity will take for the coming year. We have to discover an intensity that fits with our personality, so we can maintain a consistency that will blossom our spirituality.