The Key to Success


Ronald Stilesby Ronald Stiles, written for VilNews

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”
/Swami Sivananda

Nestled quietly in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Buckingham County, lies the Satchdananda Ashram, also known as Yogaville.  My wife, Irmina Santaika, spent a week there last attending Sonia Sumar’s “Yoga for the Special Child”. Sonia, also known as Sivakami used yoga to help her daughter, Roberta, to overcome challenges that came with having Down’s Syndrome. Savikami eventually developed this methodology that has helped thousands of children with special needs over the years.
Roberta transitioned from this life at an early age. Her life and how, with her mother’s dedicated effort, she overcame Down’s Syndrome to live a fulfilling and active life, is in itself, a story of success. Perhaps, on some unconscious level, that is what prompted Irmina to use Swami Sivananda’s quote as the caption for a photo she posted on Facebook of Savikami and I. The photo was taken when we visited Savikami at Yogaville to present her with an Icon portrait of Roberta Sumar done on a small cedar plank that Irmina had painted.

Success.  What is it? There are many books written about how to achieve it. Roberta Sumar’s success in overcoming Down’s is certainly a living example of it. One definition from a dictionary states that success is “The favorable or prosperous termination of anything attempted; the attainment of a proposed object; prosperous issue.” I find this a rather cold and uninspiring definition. Perhaps this is because I associate success with joy and happiness in a person’s life. Swami Sivananda says, “Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”  I believe that a successful individual is one who does things that bring him or her satisfaction, things that allow a person to put their heart, mind, and soul into even the smallest act associated with the overall effort. Irmina paints Byzantine Icons on small planks of cedar, praying and meditating as she works. Her art is beautiful and inspiring, successful, because there is joy in her effort. Sonia Sumar used yoga, loving moment by loving moment, to shape her daughter’s life into something vibrant and fulfilling. These are examples of success.

Unless you are doing what brings joy to your soul, then it is difficult to imagine you can fully dedicate your heart, mind, and soul to the task. This can create a bit of a conundrum in our lives.  As we move through life, many of us gravitate towards occupations and hobbies that we enjoy. We are generally successful at them because we naturally put our “heart, mind, and soul” into them. However, is being successful at these core activities the same as the “success” that Swami Sivananda is speaking of? I purport that it is only an element or a portion of “success”.

There are meals to cook, grass to cut, dishes to clean, basements that flood, and a list of life’s interruptions and chores that flows along indefinitely.  You have to put your heart, mind, and soul into even these smallest that they may be performed successfully. If not, your success is limited to only a portion of your life, resulting in only partial satisfaction in life. This results in us finding dissatisfaction with aspects of our lives, and can rob us of joy and happiness. How to fix this?

We fix this by a change of perspective. It is necessary to realize that these smallest acts, such as cleaning dishes after the evening meal, have an important role in our life. We need to respect these chores and treat them with the same regard that we have for those things that excite us. Though I’m not a Zen master by any stretch of the imagination, I believe it would be accurate to say that we must reach a state of Zen in all aspects of our living and breathing. We must find joy each living moment regardless of the task before us so that we can put our hearts, minds, and souls into even the smallest act.

Luke 16:10-12   New International Version (NIV)

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”


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