It helps you to be unmoved when the wheel of Life inevitably turns.
The other day we bumped into a close friend of our family, Swami Suddhananda. We were meeting him after over a decade. So, I gave him a quick overview of our Life situation and presented him with a copy of my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal. Suddhananda held my Book in his hand and said, “Isn’t it beautiful how Life works? Without your bankruptcy, there will be no learning, no evolution, and without that, there would be no Book. So, everything in Life, every experience, is a way of making you better and better!”
Indeed. Through the experience of our bankruptcy and from being penniless in Life, I have learnt the value of finding my own center. I realized that I am not my bankruptcy; I just happen to be in a bankrupt state. This does not mean that I am poor just because I have no money. I reasoned that I am rich with my experience, with my expertise and with my learnings from Life. It just so happens, that for an extended period of time now, we have not had money. This clarity emerged in my mind when I understood the value of finding my center. I found my center thanks to a quote I read that is attributed to Swami Vivekananda (1863~1902): “Live in the midst of the battle of Life. Anyone can keep calm in a cave or when asleep. Stand in the whirl and madness of action and reach the center. If you have found the center, you cannot be moved.” Until I read this quote, I would be consumed by anxiety and worry, I would snap at every provocation and break down for the smallest of reasons. But Vivekananda inspired me. I took to the practice of mouna (observing daily silence periods). And through that practice, over a few months, I found my center.
In medieval culture, there’s the metaphor of the wheel of fortune, rota fortunae, which explains how as people, as a race, we have all been conditioned to cling to the periphery of Life, holding on to the material aspects of our lives – power, wealth and assets; and so when the wheel of Life turns, as it surely will, you are pushed down if you are on top and you are pushed up if you are down. Per ancient Roman philosophy, the Goddess Fortuna, rotates the wheel which has the picture of a king on top and a picture of the same man as pauper at the bottom. This basically means that as long as you are on the periphery of Life you will have to deal with the ups and downs, with the highs and lows, with gain and loss, with success and with defeat. But if you move inward, to the center of the wheel, you could be unmoved by all that happens to you in Life. That center is also the focal point of faith, where you understand the value of trusting the process of Life, of its roller-coaster nature. Then you go beyond the ephemeral and the peripheral – money, power, position, relationships – and are drawn to understand what matters most and why.
If you are at the periphery of the wheel you will continuously be changing position. But if you choose to move to the center and learn be detached, if you choose to let go or reach the state of willingness to let go, you will be unmoved by everything and anything that happens to you. Whether you are up or down, whether you are gaining or losing, whether you are on a high or a low, nothing will matter. Because at the center, you are untouched, and, therefore, are unmoved.
Vaani and I still live in the throes of our very challenging financial condition. But I must report that we have learnt to be at the center of our Life’s wheel. And, let me add, it’s a blessing to be at the center. Living at the periphery always has this feeling of inherent insecurity – what if you are blown away? But living at the center means you know you will be provided for, taken care of, and will be given all that you need. Being at the center also means, therefore, keeping the faith.
So, if you are struggling with an imponderable – a health, money, career or relationship situation – try finding and moving to your center. That’s the only way you can soldier on in peace!
‘Just being’ does not mean abdicating ambition or the pursuit of excellence.
A young man came up to me after my Bliss Catchers edition yesterday and asked me if “flowing with Life meant that we must ‘just be’?” “In that case,” he pressed on, “should we stop becoming, drop all ambition and allow Life to take care of us?”
Good question that.
First, let us understand that Life has been taking care of us all along. It is only our economic and social conditioning, our logical thinking, that makes us believe that we control Life or that we take care of ourselves. Learning to go with the flow of Life teaches us to appreciate the value of trusting the process of Life. Just being is not inaction. In fact, when you just are, when you just be, you are engaged in celebrating the moment. That is a lot of action. When you are in the now, in the moment, you are letting go of all that worries you or scares you. That means you trust Life to take care of those issues. Now, that again is a lot of action.
Second, you don’t have to necessarily be aggressive, competitive, and hyperactive all the time. This does not mean you must stagnate or vegetate. Be ambitious, work on your ambition, but do all of that with equanimity. By just being, by being calm, you are not going to become any less efficient or less focused on getting what you want or reaching your goals.
The thinker-philosopher J.Krishnamurti (1895 ~ 1986), has said, “Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” And he has also said, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” If you consider both of JK’s perspectives you will understand that in effect, in the so-called real world that we have created today, there is no more learning. We have lost all our learning ability trying to grow our earning potential. And, obviously, at the cost of not employing our intelligence, we have begun to love, and therefore cling to, things and use people, whereas, it should be the other way round!
Think of what the real world really is: a place where everyone is busy running a rat race, where the spirit of inquiry and learning is stifled very, very early on in Life and people are only keen on their GPAs and placements, where top draw salaries are a means to acquire all material comfort and where innovation and enterprise are sacrificed on the altar of quarterly earnings and wanting to be seen as the number 1 and not necessarily striving to be the best! Competition has become the very basis of Life. No doubt competition, like in sport, brings out the best in a person. But to obsess oneself with competition, with being street smart and constantly comparing with others can ruin the joy of living.
It is this obsession with comparing with others, with competing with a desire to vanquish others, that has made our world, this real world of ours, such a cold place to live in. Driven by the hunger to be successful you have stopped celebrating your uniqueness. Instead of just being, you are on this ‘becoming treadmill’ – wanting to become someone else or wanting to become like someone else. Running on a treadmill has an inherent pitfall – you keep running harder no doubt but, in the end, you are still at the same place! Comparison with others, being in continuous, endless, competition, breeds ambition. No problem with being ambitious. But when ambition makes you combative, restless and subconsciously violent – where you are fighting continuously with who you are because you are wanting to become someone else – then your inner peace and happiness are destroyed.
JK urged us to look at nature. He used to say that the flowers bloom for the joy of blooming; the trees don’t compete with each other, they simply enjoy each other’s presence and growth; the sun rises and sets because it simply has to – there’s no attitude to nature’s magnificence. Osho, the Master, went a step further to clarify: “All that is divine is non-competitive – and your being is divine. So just sort it out. The society has muddled your head; it has taught you the competitive way of Life…when you are non- competitive, only then can you be yourself. This is simple.”
So stop trying to become – something, someone. Just be. Then you will always be happy and at peace with yourself!