Only when you empty yourself of your ego will you understand the essence of intelligent living!
Unknown to us we__you, me, everyone__carry a rather unnecessary sense of self-importance than we normally should or even need. Self-importance is different from self-respect or self-esteem. Self-importance means you think your Life is being controlled by you! The more self-importance you perceive of yourself, the lesser you will be closer to realizing your true Self and the angrier you will be with Life and with people around you!
|Theatre Nisha’s V.Balakrishnan (in yellow shirt)
with AVIS Viswanathan on “The Bliss Catchers”
I anchor a monthly Event Series called “The Bliss Catchers” which celebrates people who have had the courage to let go of “safe and predictable” careers to go do what they love doing. Earlier this month I was in conversation with one of India’s most talented theatre artistes and directors, Theatre Nisha’s V.Balakrishnan. Bala had given up pursuing his dream to join the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) to join the National School of Drama (NSD). I asked Bala how it was to be coached at the NSD in a craft that has come to define him and his Life over the years. Bala replied, “The teachers at NSD teach you to empty yourself. I went in with the notion that I had the greatest voice and that by throwing it I could be a master of the stage. But the teachers there taught me to first empty myself, they urged me to stop thinking I could master anything, they made me realize that above us all was the stage. And to be worthy of that stage, I learnt, you must empty yourself.”
So beautiful. This concept of emptying yourself is so beautiful. It is downright simple: only when you are empty, when your mind is open and empty, can it receive any fresh inputs. When you are so full of yourself, you can hardly learn anything new. Emptying yourself also means being willing to unlearn so that you can learn – anew!
Several years ago, things were going horribly wrong for me at work. My team was playing truant. People were quitting. They were sharing information with competitors. And there was a whole deal of negative energy flying around. The final nail in the coffin was when one member of my team, an office assistant, filed a police compliant against me for non-payment of a statutory due. It was a particularly ignominious moment. We had, as a Firm, picked up that kid literally from the street. We had supported his education helping him acquire a degree in Commerce and an MBA in Marketing through distant learning programs. I was heart-broken when he did what he did. For one there was no truth in his complaint. Second, he had done that to me!
Over a drink, I shared my grief with a very dear friend, Deepak Pawar, whom I will call Guruji!
“You know how much I have done for this boy,” I lamented. And continued: “I have helped him financially when his mother was in hospital and later when she died. I have bought him clothes every quarter. I have paid for his exam fees and his tuitions. I have enrolled him to a computer training program and helped him become tech savvy. And he still did this to me?”
Guruji smiled back at me calmly and asked, “Are you finished with your tale of woe, AVIS?”
“Are you finding something funny with my plight,” I shot back, quizzically.
“Indeed. I find it funny that you think your team is the problem. To me you are the problem!” said Guruji bluntly.
“What are you saying? I have been a good employer. I have led with care and compassion. I have uplifted the lot of my team. I have provided them with rewards, recognition and opportunity. And you say I am the problem?” I roared.
“Just count the number of times you have used ‘I’ in this conversation AVIS. You are so full of yourself. Empty yourself of the ‘I’ in you. Be humble and you will grow and glow!” said Guruji.
It was as if a ton of bricks had fallen on me. I was devastated. But over several days and weeks of introspection and rumination I understood what Guruji had meant. I realized that is we who come between us and our opportunity to grow spiritually by imagining that Life happens because of us. The entire principle behind Life is that it happens despite us and never because of us. I soon learnt how to empty my cup. But the interesting thing is, when you empty it, the cup doesn’t stay empty. You have to keep on emptying it. It is a continuous process.
Each time someone slights you, each time someone rubs you the wrong way, your mind will tell you “How dare he or she?” Immediately, remember Guruji, remember Bala’s teachers at NDD, and empty your cup. When things are not going according to your plan, and you are getting angry, irritable, disturbed and your inner peace is destroyed, empty your cup. The more you stay empty, the more grace you will receive. Because Life can only fill an empty cup with abundance. How can a cup that is full receive any grace or abundance?