Have you ever seen “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks? It’s an old movie where he and his wife purchase a fixer-upper only to find their new home is beyond repair. My favorite part is a recurring interaction Tom Hanks’ character has with a number of Italian construction workers who are not the most honest of fellows. Whenever he asks any worker how much longer the job will take, they respond (usually with a thick Italian American accent): “Two weeks.” The “Two weeks,” of course, becomes a running joke as the job is never ending.
Perhaps it’s because Dharmadevi and I are in the process of moving to Ananda Village that this scene has been popping into my mind. When people ask how long until we move to the village, I’m always tempted to reply, “Two weeks!” Partly because we don’t know the exact date. Perhaps more so I like to say, “Two weeks,” because it brings a smile to my face and reminds me to surrender to things out of my control.
And, yet, don’t we think a lot of the time that we are in absolute control of our lives? One time, Swami Kriyananda visited Disneyland with some friends. As part of their excursion they rode on “It’s a Small World.” If you’re not familiar, you get in a little boat and travel “around the world” with a theme song that I hope is not now stuck in your head too! The little boat is on tracks so it appears that you are driving, but it’s actually automated. However, Swami would laughingly recall someone he saw holding onto the steering wheel with consternation and a furrowed brow. The man asked everyone on his boat to be quiet so he could concentrate on driving!
When we exaggerate our authority and control, life becomes tense and stressful. On the path to Self-realization Paramhansa Yogananda emphasizes the importance of balancing our self effort with Divine Grace. God does not want us to be passive. At the same time we don’t want to be an egotist and shut Divine Mother out by saying we can do it all on our own. Our goal is to dissolve the ego, not enlarge it!
How then can we learn to apply the appropriate type of self-effort so we can surrender upward to the flow of divine grace? In a recent class on service and how it helps dissolve the ego, Nayaswami Jyotish shared a profound secret to right action. He said:
“The attitude with which we serve is more important than what we do.”
This simple paradigm shift is life changing. I’ve been experimenting with it this past week and it works wonders. No matter what I’m doing I can always bring the right attitude of enthusiasm, willingness, and joy. Doing the dishes becomes fun with the right attitude. When I’m rushing, however, I find I get impatient because my focus becomes more goal oriented rather than enjoying the present moment. Jyotish reminded me that what we do is actually secondary to how we are doing it.
When we can serve in the rhythm of God’s presence, we experience the eternal now. Yogananda describes this supernal state in his poem, “Samadhi” as:
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
So, it’s our choice. The construction job of Self-realization can be a hellaciously long, never-ending “two weeks” because of an impatient bad attitude. Or with the right attitude of willingness we can surrender upward with divine joy in the eternal now.
“Two weeks” or the Eternal Now? I know which job site I'll be visiting!