LIVING WITHOUT PLANNING

Non duality, advaita, spirituality

Good morning to all, I welcome you from the bottom of my heart.

Many times I have spoken to you about the magic box. Have you read about the magic box? Because Atma Vichara (Self-enquiry) is the most important of all: being able to stay with yourself, being able to remain where you truly are. But some other things are necessary in order for the magic box to open.  Two things are needed, and they are interrelated: one is surrender, and the other one is opening yourself up to receive.

One of the ways in which the mind bosses us around and inflicts us with constant suffering, is by convincing us that we need to make a plan, that we need to plan things. The mind then tells us a string of lies: it says that we can achieve everything; everything you want, you can achieve it. You just need to struggle and fight for it. It says that we need to make a plan for our life, because without a plan there is no future. If we don’t plan for the future, it will never happen. And we believe that. Most of us have made a plan for our life, but by now we have realized that our plan didn’t work. Maybe some minor details of the plan worked, but the plan as a whole didn’t work out, because there is no question of us really deciding anything. We don’t have that capacity! It’s a matter of accepting what comes to us, what life has in store for us. This doesn’t mean that Grace has made a plan which overrides whatever plans we make ourselves. Grace doesn’t plan, it just drops us in the universe, just like it drops the Sun and the galaxies there. And each and every one of these things has its place, they find their orbit, they find their paths. Some take longer to circle around, and some others do it very quickly. Some have many satellites and others don’t have any. Each one gets what it gets, and everything works in an orderly way.

How can we counteract this untruth, this plan that we drew? Simply by taking it and throwing it away. And we do this first by laughing about it, realizing that “these things I had put in my plan, they were not for me; these things I wanted so much and thought I was going to get, they are not for me”. And the moment you surrender, you open up. We need to do both: you surrender and refrain from making another plan, and you stop asking Grace to give you this or that. Instead, you surrender and open up, so that Grace can give you the gifts that it has in store for you, because Grace always has gifts in store for you. The only thing you need to do is stop paying attention to your plan and simply open up, open yourself to whatever may be.

You may have the intention to accomplish some small tasks during the day: “I have to do this, I have to do that”. But if these small tasks don’t happen, you just surrender and do something else. Maybe you decided you were going to cook ‘caldeirada’ (a Galician fish dish) with hake. So you go to the fish-market, you ask for a hake, and the seller says “I just sold the last one today!”. Then you have two options; you can ask “so what’s the price of these soles?”, and change your recipe. You can’t make ‘caldeirada’ with sole, but you can do something else. Or you go the other way and start blaming yourself: “I arrived late, I should have gone earlier”. The mind wants you to do that. “Why, why? What I wanted was ‘caldeirada’!”. And you spend the whole day thinking about the ‘caldeirada’ that you could not prepare, when Grace was offering you a whole variety of fishes with which you could do anything else. We do this all the time. But if you surrender, right at that moment you forget all about the hake and go for something else, or maybe you go to the vegetable shop and make yourself a salad. There is no problem, no conflict, and most important of all, there is no self-blame. It was not a mistake of yours that you arrived late for the last hake, that was just how the universe went and, just by opening up, new things appear all the time.

These two things are very important. Because, if you do Atma Vichara while holding on to the small plan that your mind made, one thing goes against the other. You need to do Atma Vichara and at the same time you need to surrender, and you need to learn how to surrender, because many times we don’t know how to surrender. Then learn to open up, to receive gifts that were not on your list, because even when we open ourselves up to receiving gifts, we usually want to receive some gift in particular. And that’s not how it works. If you try, you will see that in the end everything is perfect. It was not in the plan, but it’s perfect.

Let me tell you a story. When I was young I had a plan: I wanted to be an opera singer. I loved opera, my father was an opera lover, I grew up listening to operas and I loved it. “That’s my plan, I want to be an opera singer”. Then I joined a music school, and soon enough I realized that I was working harder than the other students, I was practising more, but I didn’t do as well as they did. Without hardly any effort they were singing much better than I could. Then something opened up in me and I thought to myself, “that probably means I’m not going to be an opera singer”. Right away I surrendered, quite spontaneously. Then, around that time I got involved with a group of young people. They had a photography workshop, and I started going there. Right from the start I noticed that I understood things very quickly, it all came out well easily. I was turning in the best assignments, and it turned out that I had an innate talent for lighting and composition. So much so that six months later I was the teacher of that photography workshop. This is how a whole career started for me, forty five years full of satisfaction and artistic expression, during which I was very happy with my work. If I had stubbornly wanted to be an opera singer, I would have been a very mediocre one. I would have had a frustrating time, and it would have been difficult for me to make a living, because I would always have been quite bad. But I surrendered and then something appeared. Grace put it there for me and it was perfect. This is how I did it with other things as they came in my life. When you are receiving what Grace has in store for you, it’s easy. Mind and society tell you a different story: “If there is no effort there is no value. Things that don’t require much effort have no value.” That’s a big lie! It’s exactly the other way around. When you are doing what you are meant to be doing, no big effort is required, so if at some point in your life you feel that you are struggling, making a big effort, this means that you are swimming uphill and you are not going to get anywhere. Open up, turn around in the river and let yourself be carried… and you’ll see that further downstream, Grace has something prepared for you, which is perfect. How can we surrender? (Luis opens his arms.) Let it be, whatever it may be! Surrendering and opening up are nearly the same thing.

(Long pause)

Later in my life something similar happened again. In this wonderful career that I had, I set myself a goal: I wanted to win an Oscar, once, for the best photography. I went to one of the world’s best cinema schools in London, then I moved to Hollywood. I started from the bottom and worked my way up bit by bit… until at one point I realized that I was not good enough to win an Oscar. I had talent, I was a very good professional, I had lots of work and made lots of money, but I was not quite that good, and I was not willing to work quite that hard. Then I surrendered. And after a short time Ramana Maharshi reappeared in my life; then at some point Robert Adams appeared in my life, and what I was really seeking started to make itself evident. I started to discover what I was really interested in, the call that I felt, what I really longed for, and it was not my career, it was not success: it was finding myself. If I had stubbornly tried to win an Oscar, I would not have managed it and I would have wasted my time. But by surrendering, a new experience opened for me, which was much more important than my career or any plan of mine.

(Long pause)

In my last trip to Mexico when I was giving personal interviews a young Spanish lady came to talk to me. She came to tell me her plan: since her childhood she had wanted to be an actress. She was very pretty, she looked the type for an actress. In Spain she had tried again and again, and things were not working out, so she decided to move to Mexico thinking that the field might be more open there, there might be less competition. She had been in Mexico for three or four years already, and the same thing happened: she went to castings, tried and tried… and I told her the same thing I’m telling you now. Maybe, even though she had made a plan when she was young, even though it was a big dream for her to be an actress, maybe that was not what she needed to be doing! I never heard again from her (Luis laughs). She didn’t like the answer I gave her, she didn’t like the explanation. She wanted me to give her a magic formula to get her acting career going. Many people think that spirituality is for the purpose of getting things, or that it amounts to asking for things. They believe that they have not been asking for things right, and there has to be a correct way to ask for things so that they will get what they desire. But it’s not like that. This is why I stopped doing personal interviews, because people came to tell me their problems expecting me to give them a solution, but they never liked the solutions I gave.

(Pause)

Of these things I’ve been talking about —Atma Vichara, surrender and opening up—, the most essential is Atma Vichara, diving deep into yourself. That is the foundation of the whole building, because in order to surrender you have to be able to do it from your whole being. You cannot surrender mentally because the mind doesn’t want you to surrender, so you first need to find this place from which you can surrender. And you cannot open yourself up mentally, that would not work at all, because you’re giving this task to the mind and then the mind can do what it wants with it. The most essential thing, the foundation of it all, is diving deep within yourself. Stepping out of the bubble, and then from that place you surrender and open up. It’s very simple, completely natural.

(Long pause)

Atma Vichara, surrender, and opening up — you are not going to free yourself by doing these three things, because you are not the one who can free yourself. Liberation is a gift of Grace, and you need to be open to it, but no action that you undertake is going to liberate you, because you are not the doer. Yet, by doing Atma Vichara, by surrendering and opening up, your life will improve, your personal life, your work life, your career, your relationships with your children, with your family, with your partner or spouse… as long as you do Atma Vichara, as long as you surrender and open up, and you accept what comes, all these things will go well, and most of all your spiritual search will go well. Especially when it comes to your spiritual search, don’t set yourself a goal, because if you do that you are trying to be the doer, and that will never work. Do your Atma Vichara, surrender, open up, and Grace sooner or later will manifest in all its astonishing beauty. Don’t doubt this, but don’t make a plan.

(Long pause)

This is the song that Robert Adams used to play the most during his last weeks in this world.

“Always on My Mind” (Willie Nelson)

Go in peace, I love you unconditionally.

Om Shanti Shanti Om

Luis de Santiago

Satsang in La Coruña, 23rd August 2020.