Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 411 – Less is More
Date: June 9, 2010
New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
The spiritual path is full of contradictions and paradoxes. One teacher may
tell us to practice, while another may say that practices are not necessary.
"Just be," we are told. Sometimes we may hear these conflicting directions
coming from the same teacher, depending where we may be on our path.
So what’s the truth? The truth is that the path and its destination are to
large extent outside the province of the rational mind, and at the same time
the source of all joy and freedom from suffering in this world.
We each will find a way to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to ascend to
the ultimate human experience, which may be described as ecstatic bliss,
empty awareness (nothingness), being one with everything, or all
of these at the same time. The mind cannot
comprehend it, so it often lands in a riddle. Nevertheless, the experiences
are real enough, and our desire for truth spurs us on. It is the desire for
more that we know in all avenues of life, and it is also the bridge between
the life we are living now and the life we will come to know through ongoing
spiritual openings. There is paradox here also. Desire and attachment have
been called the bane of spiritual life, and at the same time the royal road
to salvation: "Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will open."
The whole journey is a doing without doing, a cultivation of stillness in
action. This leads us straight into another paradox we have often discussed
here: "Less is more."
While "less is more" may seem mystical, there are tangible reasons for the
apparent dichotomy. It has a practical side.
For example, as we sit in spinal breathing pranayama and deep meditation,
what are we doing? In both cases, we are refining our attention in the
nervous system, going to less and less, cultivating purification and opening
and a permanent expansion within, which eventually overflows into our
everyday life. By systematically going to less, we are bringing more into
our life – more peace, more energy, more creativity, more love, and so on.
This is the most basic demonstration of less becoming more, and we can see
it manifesting in daily life. It has found expression in all the traditions
of the world. Transcending outer life to the great reservoir within has long
been known to be the fountain of all happiness, whether it is put into a
religious context or not. It is also the principle behind all service. When
we give, surrender something of ourselves, the flow coming back is
multiplied. Less becomes more.
In practices, we have often pointed to the
practical application of "less is more" in discussing the principles and
practices of "self-pacing." This applies in all levels of practice –
beginning, intermediate and advanced. As we develop our abilities in
self-pacing, we can gain much more from our practices. The moderation of
practices for balance yields the greatest results. If we are aggressive in
practices and are purifying and opening too quickly, we will find less
results from the more we are doing. In this case, more is less. Overloads
can lead to long delays in daily practice, so a steady course that avoids
such episodes is the surest path.
Later on, when we have experienced an awakening of ecstatic conductivity
(kundalini), we will find a self-sustaining momentum
becoming active in our nervous system. While we continue
to benefit greatly from daily practices, we may
find that it will not take as much practice time or intensity to sustain the
same degree of ongoing purification and opening as in the past. We have
called this the "fly-wheel" effect, where our inner spiritual momentum has
become largely self-sustaining. This does not mean we are done with
practices, only that we may find ourselves to be
more on the "razor’s edge"
for sustaining good progress with comfort. This is when skill in self-pacing
becomes more delicate, with the demonstration of "less
being more" becoming very clear to us in daily
living. When we slip in overdoing practices, or in our conduct, we find out
right away. So moderation becomes the watchword in all things for the
At the same time, the flow from within us is increasing, and our influence
increases proportionately, even as we seem to be doing less. We have called
it "outpouring divine love." There is very little we have to do with it. We
just act naturally and life happens. In time, we may feel we are doing
nothing at all, even as everything is happening.
It is less becoming more. Taken to completion, it is nothing becoming
everything, stillness in action, the underlying principle behind all
existence. We are That. And now we are back to
the beginning of the discussion again.
The path is the cultivation of a paradox in our
ordinary life, with many practical steps along the way.
Within it, we find the most practical thing in the world –
The guru is in you.
For detailed instructions on
building and maintaining a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the
Eight Limbs of Yoga Book.