In a recent conversation, the question arose about doing practices when we are in a bad mood – feeling angry, for example, or caught up in some other way in the turmoil of the world. On the one hand, we might suppose that our prayers and spiritual exercises will help us to overcome the cloud that surrounds us, but on the other hand, we feel reluctant – we might even say ashamed – to come before the Divine Presence in such a state: unwashed, and frankly in need of a change of clothes. So, what are we to do?
Of course there is nobility in wanting to show only the best to our Ideal, to our ‘Beloved,’ but if we wait for the perfect moment, when we feel peaceful and inspired, we might find ourselves praying very rarely! What is more, our visits to the altar of the heart are meant to be healing, and coming there only when we are already uplifted is a little like waiting to be in good health before we visit the doctor.
In those moments when we feel disturbed, when our mind and heart seem full of shadows and ‘unspiritual,’ the best approach is simply to admit our condition, and ask the Divine to help us let it go. Admitting faults and shortcomings is a great step in the spiritual path, and it is by this lesson that the truly wise become ever more humble. It must be accompanied, though, by a second great step, which is to allow the error to be washed away by the stream of forgiveness, so that we can start life anew. If we have the appropriate attitude, that newness is always waiting for us. Hazrat Inayat Khan was fond of quoting a certain poet, who wrote : Every moment new, new, fresh, fresh!
Often this acceptance is difficult for us because we have an ‘ego-stake’ in the anger or resentment or whatever it is that gave rise to the cloud that obscures the light. That is why we need to practice the lesson that was shown by Jesus when he taught his followers how to pray: forgive us our errors as we forgive others. If we are reluctant to admit our limitations, and accept the answering smile and embrace of Divine welcome, it may be because we still are reluctant to forgive the faults of others. In that case, it may help to remember that in some translations, the prayer speaks of ‘debts.’ To cancel a debt is a concept that the materialistic world can easily understand – that we simply let go of our expectations of others. By this we clear the books of an account which would probably never have been paid in any case, and by this generosity we learn to know the leniency of God toward us.