Desperate Measures

There’s a story common to many spiritual disciplines of a man who goes to the master, seeking God. Doubtful of the man’s sincerity, the master takes him to a nearby lake and holds his head underwater. He lets the man struggle for moment, then releases him. As the man gasps for air, the master asks him, “What did you want more than anything in the world just now?”

“Air,” says the man.

“When you want God as much as you just wanted air, then you will find Him,” says the master.

It seems so unfair that we have to be desperate to find God, but that’s the way it is. All of our strategies for maintaining our personal stories have to be demolished. All of our pride has to be dismantled, all our ideals, too.

In short, everything that separates us from God has to be torn down, all those beautiful walls built with such care. Like a man being separated from air, we cannot stand another minute of the sadness and loneliness and confusion and pain that the separation entails.

Of course, the ego doesn’t like this solution. He’s here to help you avoid suffering, not look for it. But sooner or later, he can no longer protect you. It’s the separation itself that you’ll no longer be able to tolerate.

I wish there was another way, friend, but there just isn’t. One day it will happen to you, and I promise that you’ll long remember your day of “seeking for air” – first with agony, later with gratitude.

A merchant once met a Swami and asked him if he would teach him how to meditate. The Swami told the merchant to meet him at his ashram in another town, then returned there about a week later. He found the merchant sleeping in front of the gate. “Finally, you’ve come!” he said. “I’ve been here every day. Why did you make me wait all his time? I must learn the techniques. I’m desperate!”

The Swami responded, “Your desperation is actually the condition for learning the techniques.”

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