A recent post discussing the cultivation of the heart mentioned the example of paleo-farmers adapting to their purpose when learning to grow crops; the rhythm of life of a wandering hunter-gatherer is different from one who tends a field every day and guards the harvest from dangers. The hunter is tuned to observe certain signs and sounds in nature, whereas the farmer must learn a different tuning. Each method has its costs, its hardships, and each one has its outcomes, the consequences of the efforts and sacrifices made for the sake of the goal.
The relevance to the spiritual path is obvious. If we wish to reach the goal – whether one labels the goal ‘God consciousness’ or ‘Perfection’ or ‘Truth’ or ‘The One’ or ‘Self knowledge’ or ‘Liberation’ does not matter – we must expect to change, to adapt ourselves to our purpose. We can’t hope to go far if, for example, we say a prayer or two a day and then wait for ‘God’ to take over and fix our lives. The successful farmer, to continue the metaphor, develops an intimate relationship with the crops and livestock that sustain him, so that their lives in fact intertwine, and come to support each other. The olive tree has been one of the staples of Mediterranean life since the beginning of memory – and because of the care of the humans who depend on them, some individual trees have lived for as much as two thousand years. And we can think of the story of the boy, Farid, who went to learn from a spiritual teacher; when told to think about whatever he loved, he could only think of the little cow that he had tended, and he thought of the cow so deeply that in the end his ‘horns’ would not allow him to exit his meditation cell.
The seeker must hold the goal above other concerns, and be willing to let go of all that does not pertain to it. A person embarking on a sea-voyage does not need to bring a plow. It is not an easy task, but the seeker must learn to study him or herself to see what corresponds to the goal, and what is superfluous. What behaviours, what habits, what attitudes support my hope? And what burdens do I carry uselessly? In this way, we shape ourselves to our goal, to our desire, and it becomes part of us, as the shepherd is not separate from his sheep.
This willingness to adapt is the sign of sincerity. Without sincerity, we are divided, and we come nowhere; none of our impulses will find real success. If we sincerely focus our desire to a single point, the ultimate goal is assured.