(To a dear friend) Your fear of finding yourself wandering along the side of the road is not so unusual. I have visited that fear on a number of occasions in the past. Fear does that because it is about being powerless or having no control over your destiny. But you are not powerless. You can effect incremental changes in your life that will have an impact on that possible outcome.
When I was in India I went to Sita’s birthplace at Janakpur. It was fiercely hot but the temple was beautiful. I remember a wide white pavement as I walked around in my white Kurta (simple pyjama suit) trying to fend off the sun. An Indian man suddenly appeared out of the crowd and stopped me. In that familiar way that Indians have he good humouredly interrogated me. “Where are you from?” he asked and, “What is your career?” and “Where do you live?” I answered his questions and his curiosity satisfied he walked on ahead. At around 25 yards or so he stopped and called back to me.
“Yes.” I answered looking up.
“Courage and self confidence.” and he turned and was gone.
I was slightly bemused by this encounter but it eventually slipped from my mind. Weeks passed before our pilgrimage took us back home to Pinjore. When we arrived we found that a saint had come to visit. He was quiet, gentle unassuming man of 111 years old. Fitter than me and he was walking around India on a pilgrimage. I was introduced to him but we spoke very little. Days passed and one morning as I ventured out to visit the large underground hall in which I used to meditate he was waiting for me at the door.
“Hello.” I said a little quizzically wondering why he was waiting there. We struck a brief conversation. I asked where he was from and he said that he lived in one of one hundred and eight caves in Nepal. I asked if he practised yoga and he said that he used to practice and teach yoga but that he stopped when he was sixty almost half his lifetime ago. I then asked if he taught anything else these days.
He look at me and said, ”Not really. Only really teach courage and self confidence.”
The coincidence was not lost on me. Our conversation was brief and now over. I think he left us the next day. Mysterious things happen in India and particularly around saints. If one is receptive they can be a great help. I did not find it easy to gather my courage or my self confidence in those days especially since I felt that everything I trusted as my personal guide had abandoned me. But fear IS only mind’s darker aspect and though it is difficult to imagine ever being free from it there is a way to deal with it. Favour courage and self-confidence. Let all your choices be the ones that challenge you if only just a little. You can only end up as a bag lady if your choices in life are the ones that lack courage. If you constantly take the road that leads to despair then that road will assuredly take you there. As certainly as the road to God will take you to enlightenment.
And remember that it is still only your body and your mind and your ego that will be on the roadside weeping. Your Self will also be there but untainted and still beautiful. And remember also that wandering mendicants find themselves on the side of the road every morning and the only difference is that they choose it that way. So it is not about finding or not finding yourself on the side of the road. It is only about your relationship to fear. So just look at that sensation and do not let mind expand on it by telling you stories about destitution.