Can these things be of any help, or are they just pipe dreams?
There are two different ways of looking at prayer and meditation: We can say they are like medicine for what ails us, or we can say that they bring us peace, light, and joy.
When beset with worldly problems, we feel that in spite of believing in the things of this world, we need some relief from worry and anxiety. This is always true, but even more so in a time of world crisis, when there is much sickness and despair. At that time, no matter where we turn our eyes we see problems, problems, problems! But if we look within, if we practice prayer and meditation, then we get some relief from worry and anxiety, and we are better able to cope with the burdens of daily life. This is a practical approach, a good approach, but it does make prayer and meditation seem like medicine which we only take when we are ill.
The other approach is to make friends with the inner world, to feel that the inner world belongs to us, for us to claim as our own, in good times and in bad. We do not ignore or shun the outer world, nor do we blame it for not being perfect; only we say that the inner world has more light and truth than the outer world. Therefore we can get peace, light and joy from the inner world which we cannot get from the outer world, even under the best of circumstances.
These two different approaches are like two different attitudes toward God. In one approach, we are like children playing in a playground. We enjoy the slide, the sprinkler, and different types of games. But then if we fall down and scrape our knee, or if there are terrible thunderstorms, we run to the Playground Manager, who takes care of our injuries and consoles us so that we can go on playing.
But as we grow in maturity and gain insight, we realize that the playground is limited in what it can offer us. At the same time, something higher and deeper calls to us. God dried our tears and helped us to go on living in the worst of times, but should we only see His Face once or twice in this lifetime, during periods of crisis? He who has consoled us faithfully and unerringly is our Eternal Friend.
So, whether we turn to prayer and meditation in a time of need, to help relieve suffering, or whether we do so because we want to grow in wisdom and joy, and to be close to our Eternal Friend — either approach is right, depending on the individual. These approaches are not mutually exclusive. Often, people reach a crisis point in their lives where they desperately need spiritual help. Then, even after the crisis point has passed, they continue on with spiritual practice because they see the benefits. Continue reading