Find your center … keep the faith … soldier on in peace!

The faster you find your center and anchor in it the more peaceful and happy you will be.  
Yesterday, I read a beautiful op-ed piece that was carried by The New York Timeslast week. Titled “Abundance Without Attachment”, the piece, written by author and President of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C Brooks, encourages us to move away from materialism and find happiness, abundance and inner peace through detachment. Brooks uses the metaphor of the wheel of fortune, rota fortunae, to explain 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, says Brooks, if you move inward, to the center of the wheel, you could be unmoved by all that happens to you in Life: “Fixed at the center was the focal point of faith, the lodestar for transcending health, wealth, power, pleasure and fame — for moving beyond mortal abundance.”
I completely relate to Brooks’ perspective. You can too. Just look around you. You will not find one human being who is not touched by this wheel’s movement. Around you and me are millions of stories of people who were once blessed with health, wealth and reputation who are now struggling with none of these. And you will find millions more, who were unknown, unheard of, making it to the limelight, gain wealth and living an abundant Life. The only thing constant about Life is this change of position if you are at the periphery. But if you choose to 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, unmoved.
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. I reasoned that I am rich with my experience, with my expertise and with my learnings from Life. It became clear to me that it just so happens, that for an extended period of time now, I don’t have money. This clarity emerged in my mind when I understood the power 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.
I still live, with my family, in the throes of our abject and challenging financial condition. But I must report that I have learnt to be at the center of my 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 inbuilt 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.
If you are struggling with an imponderable – a health, money or relationship situation – try finding and moving to your center. That’s the only way you can soldier on in peace!

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The way to heal our world

The death, last week, of Garry Davis at a hospice in Williston, Vermont, in the US, at age 91, would not have made news had it not been for what he did for the last 60 years of his Life. Davis worked relentlessly and passionately for creating One World, where people were not divided by nationality. His thinking was that if there were no nations, there would be no war. Davis was not the first champion of the idea of One World, but was its most consistent, visible and vocal protagonist. To be sure, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Jean-Paul Sartre and E.B.White too had led with that idea but Davis was the only one who persevered with it, establishing the World Government for World Citizens, a self-proclaimed international governmental body that has issued documents — passports, identity cards, birth and marriage certificates — and occasional postage stamps and currency. In an obit, The New York Times reports: “The quest for a unified earth was an objective on which Mr.Davis had trained his sights very early. It was born of his discomfort with a childhood of great privilege, his grief at the loss of a brother in World War II and his horror at his own wartime experience as a bomber pilot.”
Davis’ response to a divided and increasingly warring world may appear to be bordering on lunacy when we consider the impracticality and impossibility of the idea. But conceptually there is no other way to heal the world. Every day, as we struggle to digest news from the world over, of civil strife, terrorism, bloodshed and violence, the need for peace, understanding and brotherhood seems only more urgent. facebook may have shrunk the world in terms of communication but the distances between its over 1 billion users has only grown wider, not to mention the other 6.5 billion who are not even similarly connected.
Years ago, Osho, the Master, propounded the idea of a commune, which he believed was the right answer to fractured families, societies, nations and the world at large. Osho reasoned as follows:
  •     It is not about living together. Everyone, everywhere is living together. But where’s the togetherness? In today’s world, people don’t even know their neighbors. This is not togetherness, because there’s no communion. So the current societal framework has to be pulled down.
  •      The first institution whose myth must be busted is that of the ‘family’. The family is all about possession: husband possesses the wife or vice versa and together they possess the children. The moment you possess a human being, that person’s freedom is lost forever. So, families must cease to exist.
  •     And so must marriages. Because marriages are built on the tombstones of love. The relating, the love, between people has long ceased but people still remain trapped in the relationship, in the marriage. Love should be the only law between two human beings. If they decide to live together, only joy should be their binding force, not a social framework.
  •      Right now everybody is living according to the idea of others. Religions, nationalities and faith are dividing people and pigeon-holing them. Human beings must just be seekers, discovering joy and inner peace in every living moment!

Perhaps, drawing from both Davis’ and Osho’s concepts, we must pause to reflect:
  •      Are any of our beliefs divisive?
  •      Are any of our actions even remotely isolating people?
  •      What can we do to create a more understanding, caring and loving world _ beginning with our own circles of immediate influence?

These are not profound or global issues. These are simple baby steps heal our ecosystems and to leave this world a better place than we found it!