Such a simple question and yet the answer is often unclear, vague or confusing. I have been spending time over the past few months reflecting on the next stage of life. In the background of this contemplation are the dramatic changes going on throughout the world. Much of what I thought was the “common sense” of how things work has proven to be incorrect.
One of the most powerful examples of a person who walked with certainty was the life of Mohandas Gandhi. A story that created a profound awakening in me was from Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda visited Maganvadi, Gandhi’s ashram, and during one of his conversations with the father of modern India Yogananda asked, “May one not kill a cobra to protect a child, or one’s self?”
To which Gandhi answered, “I could not kill a cobra without violating two of my vows-fearlessness, and non-killing. I would rather try inwardly to calm the snake by vibrations of love. I cannot possibly lower my standards to suit my circumstances.” With his amazing candor, Gandhi added, “I must confess that I could not carry on this conversation were I faced by a cobra!”
I have read this story before and each time I would have some inner dialogue that started with, “yeah, but”. Surely I thought it is right to kill to protect. As I read this again over the past few days, I realize that Gandhi’s power to inspire both Indians and those around the world such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela was because of his clarity of who he was and what he should for and his absolute commitment to deliberately live his values.
I also would say to myself, well that was Gandhi but I am a “mere mortal”. I can’t live a life like that. This simple and undermining belief has been a nemesis for much of my life. Why do I accept that I can’t, each day, begin anew the walk of my own truth? Why can’t I allow the purpose of my life and the values I hold dear to guide every thought, inform every choice and fill every action? No reason actually, except my fear of letting go of some things I think I need.
Could I, like Gandhi distribute all my wealth to the poor and live a life of simplicity and non-attachment? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is important for me to examine my foundation to make sure it is firm. The first stage of that requires impeccable honesty, courage and an open heart.
With that clarity, I then can clearly see what I am called to do. Then the real test of my determination will be presented. I will share the unfolding of this process with you.