Very young children believe that bigger must equal heavier. If you show them a large empty box and a brick, they will be sure that the box must be heavier because it is bigger. It is only with more experience that we come to understand that density also comes into play. That was the discovery of the Greek mathematician Archimedes, who, while climbing into the bath, realised that the quantity of water displaced was equal to his volume, and not to his weight.
Throughout our life we search to establish reality for ourselves, to know what is reliable, what is certain, what is correct. We adopt various principles, based on our experience, on reasoning, on what others say, and from these, with more or less consistency, we organise our life, choosing careers, mates, ways of life and so on.
Inevitably, though, we encounter moments in which events do not turn out as we believe they should. Human nature being what it is, we easily pass over the times that things come out better than we expect, but when we are following our rules, when, for example, we are fulfilling our duties or pursuing a career that we believe is good for society, and something unseen stops the wheels from turning, we feel it as a blow. These shocks may be more or less challenging, forcing us to reverse course, and perhaps to invent some revision to the codes we have been using, but when we are travelling a spiritual path they may bring us to a complete halt, as we ask ourselves, ‘Then, what is reality? I thought I knew, but here, nothing that I believed seems to work.’
Despite the feelings of confusion and even desperation, there is a precious value in such moments, for they can help us to a better understanding. In Nirtan Gamakas, Hazrat Inayat Khan says, When the unreality of life pushes against my heart, its door opens to the reality. It is also a lesson we can find in the poem of Allama Prabhu, which takes us from one overwhelming catastrophe to another – a rain of fire, a flood, and so on – until the very last flood that will sweep away all the world, and there, the remedy, or the escape, is to give up our self, and become the Lord.
If we are facing serious difficulties, then – and who is not? – look to the heart, for there is the door to reality, and it is only in the light of reality that our hardships will be understandable, and we can find a way forward. Not ‘our’ way, but the real way, the way of the Lord.