Learn to be a witness of your Life and you will anchor in inner peace!
A friend sent me a WhatsApp message to share how much he was benefiting from the practice of ‘mouna’ which I talk about in my Book – ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’. His message made me want to share my learnings from ‘mouna’ here, on this Blog, one more time.
If there’s one practice that you want to develop in Life – learn to be silent for at least an hour daily. This practice is called ‘mouna’. Most forms of meditation require that you silence the environment before you begin to still the mind. But ‘mouna’ does not require the environment to be silent, it requires you, your mind, to be silent. It instils in you the capability to be just a witness of your own Life. Being a witness means not to pass judgment, not to evaluate, not to condemn and not to appreciate. A witness just is.
The human mind is always trafficking thoughts. Of all kinds – relevant and irrelevant, both at all times. 24 x 7. Research reveals that the average mind thinks 60,000 thoughts a day – and all of them are soaked in worry, anxiety, fear, anger, grief, guilt and, rarely, some of them are happy and peaceful thoughts too. ‘mouna’ helps in organizing this traffic and ensures that through your inner awareness, you detach yourself from your situation and simply be a witness of your Life.
Let me share a story that I have read in one of the books that Osho, the Master, wrote.
One morning Gautam Buddha was talking to his disciples. The king, Prasenjita, had also come to listen to him. He was sitting right in front of the Buddha. Prasenjita was not accustomed to sitting on the floor – he was a king, you see – so he was feeling uncomfortable, fidgety, changing sides, somehow trying not to disturb and not to be noticed by the Buddha because he was concerned that he was unable to sit silently, peacefully. He was continuously moving the big toe of his foot, for no reason, just to be busy without business. Some people are like that – they cannot be without business; they will still be busy!
Gautam Buddha stopped talking and asked Prasenjita, “Can you tell me, why are you moving your big toe?”
In fact, Prasenjita himself was not aware of it. Sometimes, you – and I – are doing a thousand and one things that we are not aware of. Unless somebody points them out, you may not take any note of it.
The moment Buddha asked him, the toe stopped moving. Buddha sought to know, “Why have you stopped moving the toe?”
Prasenjita said, “You are putting me in an embarrassing situation. I don’t know why that toe was moving. This much I know: that as you asked the question it stopped. I have not done anything – neither was I moving it, nor have I stopped it.”
Buddha said to his disciples, “Do you see the point? The toe belongs to the man. It moves, but he is not aware of its movement. And the moment he becomes aware – because I asked the question – the very awareness immediately stops the toe. He does not stop it. The very awareness, that ‘It is stupid, why are you moving it?’ – just the awareness is enough to stop it.”
This is really what ‘mouna’, and your being a witness, can help you with. It can help you realize that you too can be ‘aware’ – and so you too can stop doing many things that you go on doing, just like that. Worrying incessantly is one of those things that we all do – many a time without knowing that we are worrying. When you learn to still the mind and organize your thoughts, you learn to weed out worry. When you step outside the orbit of your worldly Life and assume the role of a witness, you will see the futility in squandering your precious lifetime thinking debilitating thoughts. When the witness in you becomes active, the mind becomes slowly powerless. Through your continuous practice of ‘mouna’, you eventually learn to fully still your mind, making it totally inactive. It is in that 100 % witness state that you discover the secret to living happily and being at peace with what is!
Now, practicing ‘mouna’ takes up an investment of one hour daily. Won’t you rather invest one hour to reclaim the remaining 23, which you would otherwise fritter away? Doesn’t that sound like an impressive, irresistible, unputdownable ROI on your time?
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Scarcity thinking, focusing on what isn’t, invites suffering that holds you hostage; abundance thinking sets you free!
At a conversation organized by the Indian Prostrate Cancer Foundation, Raja Krishnamoorthy, the moderator, asked us to reflect on the value of abundance thinking. He said a good state to be in, in Life, is where you can wake up and say “Kurai Onrum Illai” – no grievances or complaints whatsoever! I have a friend, who’s in his late 70s now, who uses this line as a response to the “How are you?” greeting! How beautiful, I thought,…if you can truly respond every time you are asked “How are you?”…saying you have no issues, no complaints with Life…“Kurai Onrum Illai”!
Honestly speaking, I could never get to this state until I learnt to rein in my mind. It wasn’t until I learned to practice daily silence periods – mouna – that I could see the abundance in my Life.
To be sure, the human mind thinks 60,000 thoughts daily. And, if the mind is untrained, it is pulling you in different directions – often illogically, randomly. From grief to anger to guilt to fear to insecurity to worry to anxiety the mind seesaws between the past and the future. By nature, the mind thrives only in the past or the future. In the present, as Osho, the Master, points out, there is no mind. There’s just you, the real you, immersed, in the now, in whatever is, in whatever is happening! So, the secret to celebrate Life, to soak in the abundance that you have, is this: you must bring your mind to attend only to the present moment. Like the physical body resists training in a gym, the mind will resist your attempts to train it. But the beauty is that just as you can train your body, you can train your mind too. So, over time, I taught myself the art of mouna, remaining silent (irrespective of the environment or circumstance I am placed in) for an hour daily. I can now drop anchor wherever I am – in a busy traffic signal, at an airport, in a courtroom or a boring business meeting and even when every shred of material security is absent. And, miraculously, when I am anchored, I see only abundance in and around me.
So, I can totally relate to Raja’s call to reflect there and to my senior friend’s greeting: “Kurai Onrum Illai”!
Actually, this approach to Life is neither philosophical nor is it metaphorical. It is a very real, very sensible way to look at your Life. Life operates on this principle of compassion towards all that it creates. So, the truth is, all of us, at any time, have everything that we need. It is only our desire that our Life should be different from what it is that makes us suffer. So, simply, we cause our own suffering. Now, my Life, for instance, is ridden with debt, and has been, for almost a decade now, despite our best efforts, often about struggling to meet and cover living expenses. There’s denial of work, rejection, public judgment (for our inability to repay our debt) and there’s so much pain caused by the legal and social course that a bankruptcy takes you through. So, if I look at what isn’t, if I allow myself to be steeped in scarcity thinking, I will end up being a nervous wreck – depressed and worthless. So will Vaani. Which is why, we decided to look at each other, our companionship, and our two children – who have grown up to be fine, well-anchored, young adults despite this time of intense strife for our family – and celebrate this blessing that we have – of each other’s presence! We reasoned that even if we have no money, we have the choice to be happy for just being alive and together. We also have the blessing of so many, many, many friends and some family members who love us unconditionally and continue to stand by us and support us – no matter what we are going through and however long it is taking! So, we see the need to be eternally grateful to Life. Just counting our blessings makes us deliriously happy! And we go about spreading awareness of this opportunity called happiness, that’s freely available 24×7, around us. We wake up every morning saying a big thank you to Life, and flow with Life as it flows that day. There’s no ‘like’ button or ‘dislike’ button in our Life anymore. There’s just a ‘be’ button. So, we just are.
Therefore, we know, “Kurai Onrum Illai” is a great way to greet Life and to live it fully – despite your circumstances!
PS: Prostrate Cancer is curable and a simple blood test to review your PSA levels is all that you need to do for early action!
Being silent is an art that is worth exploring, learning and practicing.
In response to my blogpost yesterday on living in a WhatsApp Group-ridden world, a reader pinged me to ask: Is silence a virtue or is it a sign of weakness?
Good question, I thought.
The normal human tendency is to rush to speak, be heard, clarify, demand attention or defend – as the situation or context may warrant. So, when people choose to remain silent, either not making use of an opportunity to speak up or not responding to a provocation, the popular inference is that the person choosing silence is weak or has something to hide. Well, to be sure, it may mean neither. Perhaps the person has nothing to say or believes that being silent is an answer or sufficient response in itself or recognizes the futility in speaking at that point in time.
I have learned the value of remaining silent, over retorting, defending, clarifying or expressing, through experience. There was a time when I would rush to offer my point of view – either in defense or to justify – in all contexts. I used to imagine then that if something had to be said, it had better be expressed then and there, loud and clear. Over time though, I have learned to believe otherwise.
In fact, I now revere, and am inspired by my own father’s ability to choose silence as a response each time that he could have spoken. I remember, with a huge sense of shame, once, many years ago, when there was a raging issue in my family, how I demanded to know from my Dad whether he was spineless. I asked that question brusquely – my tone was uncouth, violent and unbecoming of a son. We sat in a hotel lobby (because we could not speak in private at his home) when I asked him the hugely provocative and embarrassing question: “Why are you not speaking up for what is right, Dad? Are you spineless?” My Dad, much to my shock, and infuriating me no end, responded with a blank look on his face. He simply, yet again, said nothing, choosing to be silent. I came back from that meeting with my father disillusioned and angry. But today, perhaps wiser from learning from Life, I completely agree with my Dad’s choice with reference to the context we were all dealing with then – and now! I don’t think there could have been or can be a better response to situations that we are faced with as a family. And it is not just with my family or with a specific situation. In several situations in Life, remaining silent is perhaps the best response.
I am still learning this art though. And it isn’t always easy. Here’s what I have learned:
- Whatever be the course our lives take, based on decisions and choices we make, people will have opinions. They may cast aspersions on you. They may demand explanations. Or simply provoke you wantonly.
- Wherever you see no value being added with your expressing yourself, and of course when you think your speaking (up) will only confound the situation, it is best to remain silent.
- No matter what people say, remember, at the end of the day you have your Life to live. And if you can avoid potential, wasteful conflicts by choosing to be silent, why not go about your Life and business silently?
Of course, sometimes speaking up becomes a necessity, not an option. And in all such cases, a conflict normally becomes unavoidable. But such conflict is constructive and never destructive. How then do you decide when to speak up and when to be silent? A good rule of thumb is to make the choice of remaining silent not so much to avoid conflict__but so that you don’t end up creating one!
Silence is a great force. Because silence always speaks when words can’t or when words fail! It will ultimately lead you to a great, unimpeachable inner peace.
We are so used to a frenetic pace of working that when Life slows down we think something’s wrong. And remain keyed up about the slowness of things. Vacation times such as this season are opportunities to learn the art of doing nothing. Doing nothing here clearly means “not having any business to transact, or schedules to worry about”. But it doesn’t mean being unproductive. In fact, you can learn so much about Life without having to rush through it. You don’t even need to travel. You don’t need a resort. Even if you stay at home this season, choose to do what you would normally not have the time to do. Just examine your street from your window. Watch people passing by. Hear the birds. Listen to the music from the noise vehicles passing by make. Feel the air in your lungs. Spend some time on the pavement. Watch Life playing out in front of you. You will evolve and awaken more than you would while attending a Vipassana Program or a Silent Retreat. You will heal.