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All the saints and mystics tell you that the Kingdom of Joy is here, that it is within you and surrounding you, that it is the reality you have always lived in unsuspectingly. People have a vague idea as to what this experience might be. They have read books and consulted masters and experts in an attempt to find out what they must do to rediscover this elusive state called holiness, enlightenment, or spirituality. They pick up all sorts of methods, techniques, spiritual exercises, and formulas.
Then, after years of fruitless striving, they become discouraged and confused and wonder what went wrong. Most often, people blame themselves. They think, “If I’d only practiced those techniques more regularly, or, if I had been more fervent or more generous, then I might have made it.”
But made what? They have no clear idea as to what the holiness or spirituality that they seek is—but they certainly know that their lives are still unhappy. They still become anxious, insecure, and fearful; resentful and unforgiving; grasping, ambitious, and manipulative of people. Once again, they throw themselves with renewed vigor into what they think they need to do to fix themselves and attain their goal of waking up.
Suppose there is a way of getting rid of all of that striving, conflict, and confusion. Suppose there is a way to stop that tremendous drain of energy, health, and emotion that comes from it. Suppose there is a way through which we would truly love one another, and be at peace, be at love. Would you want that?
People ask me all the time, what do I need to do to change myself? If you are one of those people, I’ve got a big surprise for you! You don’t have to do anything. In fact, the more you do, the worse it gets. All you have to do is understand. The trouble with most people is that they’re busy trying to fix things in themselves that they really don’t understand.
Stop fixing yourself. You’re OK. Don’t interfere. Don’t fix anything. Simply watch. Observe. These things in you that you struggle to fix just need to be understood. If you understood them, they would change.
Most people have never stopped to consider this simple fact: Their efforts are going to get them nowhere. Their efforts will only make things worse, as things become worse when you use fire to put out fire. Effort does not lead to growth. Whatever the form it takes, whether it be willpower, habit, a technique, or a spiritual exercise, effort does not lead to change. It may change the outward behavior, but it does not change the inner person. At best, it leads to repression and a covering over of the root problem.
Just think what kind of a mentality it betrays when you ask, “What must I do to get holiness? What sacrifices must I make? What discipline must I undertake? What meditation must I practice in order to get it?” It is like a man who wants to win the love of a woman and attempts to improve his appearance, build his body, improve his manners, and practice techniques to charm her. And so it is with spirituality and holiness. It is not what you do that brings it to you. What matters is what you are and what you become.