Focus of the Month: The Power of Commitment to Spiritual Life

"When you [commit], you will build your patience, your courage, your strength, your tolerance, your neutrality, your ability to relax, your confidence and your concentration. These qualities will all become vibrant and serve you, if you just keep up. Use this principle -- the rewards will be beyond all imagination and expectation."

Commitment is like the piercing sound of your alarm shattering the formless mirage of sleep. It tests our mettle; requires us to push past the fog of a mind in illusion and thought, dig deep, make a choice, stick to it, and get going. It’s the element that cannot be avoided if we desire to proceed, receive, and succeed. As we enter a new season, it is often helpful to pull back the curtain on what we’re actually committed to (revealed by our consistent actions) versus what we imagine we’re committed to, what we’d like to be committed to. With this reality in hand, we may be better prepared to heed the call of the heart and refocus commitment on the personal journey onwards, upwards, and soul-wards.

The most beneficial commitment we can make in life is a spiritual one. It stands the test of time, engages the essential part of us that is always seeking fulfillment above all else, and illuminates the mundane with an inexplicable joy, wisdom, and truth. For example, relationships based on what I can gain, what you can give me, and how we can benefit materially are subject to the laws of material nature; that is: birth, change, illness (or ‘issues’), aging, and death. If, however, we add the element of spirit in our ‘negotiations’, if we establish relationships around spiritual progress, connecting to and serving the divine, connecting to and through love, these elements are transcendent to the cycle of samsara, of entropy. This is confirmed by the seminal yogic text, The Bhagavad Gita when Arjuna doubts if spiritual work is met with ruin should we fail to achieve ‘perfection’. Krishna, his dear friend and Lord replies, “a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.” That is not to say we are not subject to the laws of nature, after all we as spirit, still occupy a material body in a material world. But the efforts we make in spiritual life are not ordinary, and when done sincerely, supply the foundation for true, eternal fulfillment. 

So, what good does commitment do, and what does it look like? Commitment, first and foremost, takes some measure of faith that what you are committing to can fulfill your ultimate goal or desire. It has to be made real for you. We all have different goals in life, and while we can say that our ultimate, shared goal, is the desire to love and be loved, we’re all at different stages of understanding and enacting how that works for us as individuals. Making small, manageable commitments on the path comes by consistent failure. This failure helps us recognize our personal pitfalls, and eventually, after so much falling, inspires us to properly address and avoid those pitfalls. 

Commitment naturally requires we renounce certain things. Yogi Bhajan, a major proponent of “keeping up” as a foundation of being fully human, and fully spiritual, said “[Commitment] means to consciously and permanently give up, in advance, the choice to ever change your mind about your commitment, for any reason. This may not be a popular rule to live by, but the results are not obtainable any other way. Demonstrate this kind of resolve; the trust that it evokes can never be matched. This is how honor is created; this is how others can be truly inspired... You must be flexible to keep up, as things always change throughout time and space. Yet your commitment is unwavering no matter what happens. When you can allow your small needs to bow to the radiance of this golden spiritual rule, the outcome is always a glorious reflection of the Divine.” 

Commitment to spiritual life need not be an austere negation of the things we love. While there are necessary standards to bear should we wish to maintain a helpful, productive head space (see: the Yamas & Niyamas & the four regulative principles), we can use our natural propensities in service of spiritual life, allowing our ‘small needs’ to bend and bow to commitment to spiritual life. We can invite our friends and families to join us (not realistic? Don’t fear branching out towards new relationships) make our work and the fruits of that work an offering, and spend our free time in ways better suited to support our consistent connection to spirit. 

If we carry on despite the inevitable doubts, the lack of resources; if we carry on and stay in the fire, we are making a statement loud and clear that we are committed, that, on some level, we believe in ourselves and those ideals and goals enough to hold fast. Sometimes we cannot do it all on our own. The Bhagavad Gita repeatedly encourages the reliance on the divine. And in chapter 9, text 22, Krishna says, “But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.”

Against all odds, may you remain committed to the essential in life, and find the diamond of spiritual life shining brightly to lead you forward. 

by Alexandra Moga