The Narrow Path
Just keep following the narrow path,
I was told,
beyond the narrow gate.
Do not look right or left.
Do not look up or down.
Do not look for signs,
or flashes of light,
nor listen for heavenly voices.
This is the path of inner poverty.
You leave behind what is known,
and learn to trust what is unknown.
You leave behind all expectations,
and learn to be open to the unexpected.
You leave behind all notions of God,
and allow God to be what God is.
You leave behind all notions of self,
and see what happens.
The explorer and writer, Erling Kagge, wrote that the secret of walking to the South Pole was to simply put one foot in front of the other, and to do this enough times! For me that is what meditation is about. We are not trying to achieve anything dramatic, we are simply on a journey to God, to our truest self, and we do that step by step, along the narrow path. It is simply about saying the mantra, moving the bead, and breathing in and out. And to just keep doing that for the whole journey of the time of prayer. Erling Kagge also writes that once on the journey to South Pole, he made the mistake of calculating how much time he had to go before getting there; then, instead of enjoying the journey, he just began to stress about how long it was going to take to get there. He lost the enjoyment of what he was doing, just getting there became all important. It was not until he managed to refocus on simply taking the next step, and then the next, that the pleasure of his journey returned.
In meditation it is very easy to obsess with how much longer we have to go, we keep looking at our watch, or wonder when our timer will sound, instead of just focussing upon the mantra and the prayer. We also can begin to obsess with whether or not we are getting any better at meditating, or if we are any closer to God, or if it is making us more holy, or peaceful, or calm. We should take Kagge’s advice, and not worry about how long we have been meditating for, or the effect it is having, but simply learn to enjoy the journey, step by step. Just focus on the next recitation of the mantra, the next bead, the next breath. That is all we have to do. It’s a narrow path. Where it all leads to is in God’s hands.