Efforts and Sincerity
By its very unusual nature, the way of yoga (or anyreal spiritual work) cannot be easy, and is, in general, beyond the capacity of the ordinary person whose interests and main source of pleasure in life are principally centered in the outside physical world. The profound sincerity, unrelenting efforts, and tenacious perseverance that are demanded of an aspirant can be measured only by the spectacular results conferred on such spiritual struggles.
In this domain more than in any other, whether it be artistic or not, a person can rise to the sublime heights of his being only insofar as he is prepared to give himself up--renouncing his inner dreams, ambitions, and the countless enticing pleasures the outer world offers him--to the pursuit of his spiritual quest, the fruit of which he cannot tangibly see nor even conceive at first.
It sometimes happens in life that very great creative artists have in them this exceptional inner force, unusual sincerity, and the capacity to sacrifice themselves to such an astounding degree as to accept the direst hardships and suffering to achieve their artistic creations. This may partly explain why the masterpieces of certain composers can impart such profound and sublime feelings that no words ever could.
When an aspirant has started this all-important spiritual work, it is vital for him to learn to distinguish clearly between the short moments when he is truly aware of himself during his spiritual endeavors, and the long periods when he only thinks he is aware. In the beginning, it is easy for someone to delude himself into the belief that he is making genuine efforts of presence while working at his Hatha-Yoga asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (special breathing), or any other spiritual exercise when, in fact, he is either lost in his usual state of absence and reveries, or--which is much worse--absorbed in fantasies about himself and enlightenment, projecting on the latter ideas that have no relation to reality, thus closing the door on any understanding of the real nature of his True Being.
The difficulty of breaking with their customary state of being and allowing something else in them to become apparent to their inner vision is truly immense for most people. It can in general be said that one never possesses sufficient strength nor the will to go beyond one’s ordinary self and become fully engaged in one’s spiritual work with the whole of oneself as one should. One has become so accustomed throughout one’s life to doing everything in a half-hearted or uninterested manner, most of the time lost in one’s habitual state of oblivion, that one now accepts this condition in oneself as normal, without feeling the need to question it any further.
The kind of presence needed for this work demands such profound inner sincerity from an aspirant as does not generally exist in the normal course of life. It is difficult for him to understand this because, when he first embarks on such a journey, he takes himself with him as he is, with all his baggage of complexes, desires, ignorance, and weaknesses. To be present to oneself with the utmost of one’s capacity when doing a Hatha-Yoga asana or during meditation has a very special taste about it that is unmistakable. One must really realize, from the depths of oneself, that this kind of effort, in its most intense and unalloyed state, can be maintained only for very short moments at first, but it will have an unforgettable savor about it, and will leave a deep trace in one’s being afterward.
Sincerity begins for the aspirant at the very instant when he sees his insincerity. The problem is that, generally, he will either refuse to face this unpleasant aspect of himself altogether, and even angrily deny it if it is brought to his attention, or he may see it for only a short instant and quickly brush it aside, hiding it behind all kinds of conscious or unconscious justifications. The very fact that a seeker succeeds in seeing himself as he is, feels remorse, and begins to suffer from it will of itself start creating in him the necessary conditions to permit the birth of a new way of being and pave the way to a true spiritual awakening.
It needs a particular kind of strength and courage to look unflinchingly at one’s own insincerity, a strength and courage that can only arise and become actual when inspired by the acute yearning for one’s emancipation. To look courageously at his insincerity will arouse in the aspirant a profound pain and sorrow--indispensable to make him wish to alter his way of being. And, paradoxically, the strength to become more sincere will come as much from the grief that arises from seeing this want of sincerity in him as from his longing for sincerity itself.
The sincere inner attitude and attentiveness with which a seeker performs his spiritual exercises can be the start of learning what “dying to oneself ” really means. This will in time give rise to a greater purity of being, which will inevitably have an effect on all his future spiritual strivings and meditations as well as in his relationship with other people.
By shielding others from his own insincerity, the aspirant will also safeguard the inner light he may--through Grace and his efforts--have found in himself against getting again through wrong desires, harmful actions, or a false way of being. The more sincere a seeker is, the more sincere he will be able to be. As sincerity is put into practice it grows and multiplies, like a grain of wheat sown in the soil, which, when nourished and protected, gives birth to innumerable other seeds.
“The Law of Attention is a remarkable book filled with clear guidance that presents a strong call for the total dedication of one’s life in the quest of supreme enlightenment. With Edward Salim Michael’s uncompromising emphasis on integrity and effort this is not a book for the fainthearted or dilettante, but I would recommend all serious aspirants to read this book again and again both for its inspiration and its precise instructions. Although not a specifically Buddhist text, the path mapped out and advice so meticulously given render it a suitable companion and guide for any spiritual traveler.”