My grandmother used to tell me the story of a proud mother who stood beside her at the passing out parade of soldiers who had completed their training in the First World War. "Look," this mother exclaimed, "They're all out of step but our John!"
Often while treading the spiritual path, the path of personal integrity, I feel like John - and my mother, looking on, sees me out of step with the "regiment" of which I am a part. I am delighted! Rather than being a conditioned soldier I feel I have more in common with my stone aged ancestors. Like them I don't strain to obey authority or move in step with the masses, rather I am free, flexible, cunning (in a good way) and inventive.
The recession is now in full swing and people are complaining everywhere. They want someone they can blame and they want someone, somewhere to do something about it. They look to clever politicians or their granny's inheritance to rescue them from the mess they are in. They will consider any option short of becoming self reliant by drawing on their God given talents and guidance. Their nice little controlled world, the world of aspirations, expectations and plans, is falling apart. The battle is descending into chaos. They can't find their commander and they are at a loss to act on inner guidance - or even to know that such resources for personal empowerment exist.
The enlightened live in this world too - they are not sheltered from its effects. However their affinity is closer to the stone-age hunter gatherer than a regimental soldier. The enlightened do not need a "commander" to tell them what to do or how to behave now that the battle has started. Like their stone age cousins, the enlightened listen only to the "commands" that well up from deep within and it is these subtle inner prompting to which they give their complete allegiance, and to which they have surrendered their life. This "inner commander" springs into action and brings them insights and understandings to deal with any situation.
Nor are the enlightened troubled by misfortune. They know that 98% of suffering is self generated in the mind. So even if they are threatened with losing their job and their home they still sleep soundly at night and remember to have fun.
The enlightened have learnt to love uncertainty and not to take life too seriously. Like Buddha they realize that it is their attachments to their plans, partners and possessions that cause mental suffering, like Christ they take no thought for tomorrow because they know that tomorrow will take thought for the things of itself, and like Sai Baba they know that there is some good in every situation. They see the flip side of every adversity.
The regimental masses have little inner discipline, or awareness, because they have their minds focused on the world. It is this persistent and insidious outward focus that causes their confidence to shrink as the world falls apart.
Because of this many people are disturbed by this recession and identify with a distraught Shakespearean character when he says, "Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Many people today, surrounded by "sound and fury," find their life increasingly meaningless. With their focus on the recession babble of the media and their thoughts on anxieties, generated by tortuous future imaginings, the regimental masses are all marching in step. I invite you to surprise your mother, and even win her admiration, by marching to the beat of a different drum. By focusing on your "inner commander" be out of step, like "our John!"