Overcoming Laziness on the Spiritual Path

person hiding under bedsheets, arm draped over top

Written by: Madhusudanadas

You all, who have the blessing of God to have an urge for practising your sadhana, an urge of feeling a Love greater than what the whole world thinks of as love, don’t waste time! This is one thing that a lot of people do: waste time. They think that later in life they can do everything. 

Paramahamsa Vishwananda

Laziness is something I have fallen victim to on my spiritual path and it still catches me off guard at times. About five years ago, during a casual conversation with Paramahamsa Vishwananda, He told me He doesn't like lazy people. In my pride and ignorance, I quickly replied: 'Yes, me too!' He repeated the same statement and I repeated the same answer even more quickly. The discussion quickly changed to other areas and it was forgotten at that moment. It was only a few months later, during the silence after my Atma Kriya Yoga practice, did my tube light come on and it occurred to me that I was lazy one!

We all know that we should be doing our chosen spiritual practice and why we should do it, but yet we still don’t do what we know will be of great benefit to us. Why? Because it’s much easier to choose laziness over effort. When we are lazy in our spiritual practices, we will most likely also be lazy in many other parts of our lives as well. Laziness is Laziness, period!

Laziness is often thought of as choosing to put our feet up or an unwillingness to do our spiritual practice, but it can also take on another very salient form called procrastination. When we try and be very busy and distract ourselves with all other small daily tasks to postpone and avoid doing our required tasks, duties or follow instructions from the Masters, we can be said to be lazy. Often, instead of first allocating time to do our spiritual practices by putting in the required effort and time to open our hearts to pure Love, a higher priority is given to other things and our practice lands more or less at the bottom of the “to do” list.

In the beginning years of practising Atma Kriya Yoga, it was a struggle for me to get up early. For many weeks and months, I continued to press the snooze button of my alarm many times wanting to lie longer in bed for just five more minutes which turned into sixty more minutes. In the process, I was also inconveniencing my family for many months with the constant noise of the alarm. I am now finally able to wake up without an alarm at an early hour in the morning. It was a challenge to turn off the TV in the evenings when sitting on my recliner to do my second set of practice; put away seeing the phone when I wake up – still very tempting to want to see messages, Facebook and social media and once you view your phone, the chances of continuing to use it are higher than that of starting Atma Kriya Yoga practice. I used to keep my phone near my altar place at night to avoid looking at it upon waking up.

One of the ways to convince the mind to overcome laziness is to see that difficult things are part of the learning experience within our eternal purpose to get closer to Divine Love. Any time we avoid a difficult situation, we miss an opportunity to learn, gain wisdom and transform ourselves. This also means that we need to choose discipline over comfort.

We may need to change the purpose of our practice from 'my quiet time away from the world' to 'my time to transform myself to be able to Love God.' 

Laziness still does get the better of me sometimes and succeeds to deceive me by keeping me inactive, in the process making of me a spiritually lazy yogi who wants to stay off the rough and tough experiences in life trying to secure a peaceful cocoon away from the world. In short, securing a spiritual retirement from the world. There is a great danger in not wanting to be stirred up, being in our comfort zone and keeping an aim of using meditation for the purpose of finding a quiet holiday instead of using it as a tool for self-transformation and experiences of God. The true test of our spirituality occurs when we face ingratitude, attacks to our reputation, and all other turmoil in our surroundings. Finding shortcuts to avoid or escape these difficult experiences makes us lazy in not wanting to or postponing to deal with them.

With continued discipline, over time I was much surprised to see how much of a greater purpose my life possesses than watching TV and being on the phone constantly.

Creating a special time and space for your spiritual practice, where the distractions are minimal can help overcome laziness. Once you are at that special space look for ways to get into the zone before you start your spiritual practice. For some listening to music or singing may help them get into the zone. For others, a small ritual or reading a quote from the or gazing on a picture of the Divine might help get into the zone. Try alternate ways and find whatever works for you. 

Consistency with this “get into the zone” approach over time will convince the mind to look forward to this time. Don’t be the occasional visitor but a constant dweller with an established relationship with the practice.

All these ways and means have definitely helped me fight spiritual laziness. However, the very first and most important step for all of us on the spiritual journey is to be able to acknowledge and establish the presence of laziness where it exists, often well hidden, in our daily lives. We need to see it as an obstacle and turn it into an opportunity. A very important question that one should truthfully ask and analyze every single day is – HAVE I BEEN LAZY TODAY?