A gift that the Lord has given to everyone is the opportunity to choose, and especially to make enlightened choices that bring us out of the dark periods of our lives back to a life of enthusiastic Krishna consciousness. It is never appropriate to say “I am a victim of circumstances.” I have seen in my life: no matter the circumstance we can always take shelter in Krishna. You may not always find relief, but you can always find shelter.
What do I mean by that? When we are tired we find relief by sleeping, when we are hungry by eating, when we are lonely we find relief in good company, etc. But, my dear devotees, you will be tired again, you will be hungry again, you will get lonely again…you will die again. Shelter is something categorically different – it supports and nourishes you in all circumstances.
Ultimately, shelter solves the problems of material existence – it solves it all. The process of seeking shelter is called saranagati – saran means shelter and gati means to move toward your shelter. How can we become better at making choices that move us toward our shelter? Leonardo da Vinci once wrote “From time to time step back. Look anew and you may see everything in a new perspective.” He wrote as a painter. If the painter stands directly in front of his work, he cannot see perspective and detail or notice any lack of harmony. But the moment he steps back, he will notice mismatching colors and proportions or if something doesn’t further the overall composition of the painting.
Are we not like painters who work on the painting of our life? We try to create something beautiful that suits our goals, and just like the painter we sometimes become blind and overlook mismatching proportions and details that are not in harmony with our overall purpose in life. Step back from time to time and look from a new perspective! You always have the choice to do that.
You can do this for example by taking a walk in nature, talking to a friend or seeking the guidance of your spiritual master. Look from a distance and check the details: what is out of alignment to the real purpose of your life? What is missing? What needs more attention? If you do this regularly your life will become what it is meant to be: a life full of happiness that is never exhausted.
When you step back from your life and take on a new perspective, first of all you need to look for and develop a vision for your life in Krishna consciousness – a vision in which a Krishna conscious life is possible for you. For this you need faith. When your faith is weak, you are lost. Never allow your faith to fail you. Go to people who have faith and who can help you repair your faith. Then you can have an empowering spiritual vision and can endure disappointments, health and relationship problems – anything, if you have faith! Secondly, you need to think: how can I implement my vision? What do I need to do in order to reach it? Develop a strategy!
And thirdly, you need to translate this strategy into small steps that you take every day. What are the next small steps in your strategy that you can take right now? We overestimate what we can do in a month, but we underestimate what we can do in a year. That is the power of small steps. These small steps are things you do in relationship to Krishna: your sadhana, your spiritual practice. It is from here that you enter into a relationship with Krishna. He has promised that he will take care of his devotees in the Bhagavad-gita (9.22). This daily spiritual practice is something that the world will not see – only Krishna sees it. We call it the roots in our tree of life model. No one sees the roots of a tree, but without them the whole tree couldn’t stand and grow. Thus, these roots, your daily spiritual practice, are very important in your life.
You always have the choice to come back to these three things: your vision – based on faith, your life-strategy and your spiritual practice. You always have the choice – in war, in strife, in terminal illness, in desperation – to come back to these elements because you are born with this gift from the Lord, the ability of choice. In Sanskrit it is called sva-tantraratna: ratna means jewel, sva means one’s own, and tantra means choice. No one can ever take this away from you. It’s always with you at every moment of the day. Even when things look very bitter, very bad and there are obstacles that seem insurmountable, take shelter at the lotus feet of Krishna. Take a step back and look at your life afresh – is it the ideal picture yet? Are there strokes you would like to add? Are there proportions you need to correct?