When you ask yourself why you are doing something, you may well end up not doing it!
Wonder if you have thought of this. Why do people speak on the mobile phone while driving – especially when riding a two-wheeler in India, where they hold their phone between their shoulder and ear, even as they navigate through busy roads? Is it that these people don’t know that what they are doing is inherently dangerous – not only for them but for other road users? Or is it that these people are mindlessly doing it?
Of course, it is a cultural issue in India that if there is a law, the average Indian citizen will violate it. But beyond the general tendency to not be law-abiding, there’s a reason why people behave this way. That reason is best explained by understanding how the human mind works.
Most of the time, you are just doing stuff without realizing what you are doing. Because if you realize, if you evaluate, for instance, the safety hazards in speaking on the phone while driving, you possibly won’t drive when on the phone or you will stop to speak and then proceed. It is not as if you don’t know it is both legally wrong or unsafe, yet you go on doing this – speaking on the phone and driving. All the time. You don’t realize that you are not even present in the moment when you are on a call! Either you can be engaged in the conversation or you can be engaged in the moment. You can’t be doing two things at once. Which is why, speaking on the phone and driving is discouraged and disallowed. Let me quickly clarify that the issue here is not just about speaking on the phone and driving. In most contexts we are absent from the now, from the present moment, because we are either clinging on to the dead past or we are anxious about the unborn future. This is why, while we know many things are ruinous, we go on doing them. We know overeating is ruinous, but we overeat. We know worrying is futile, but we go on worrying. We know waking up late will kill the exercise regimen, but we go on snoozing the alarm. We know surely what is integral to our inner peace but we go on doing stuff that vitiates it only because we don’t immerse ourselves in the moment. So, pretty much, most of the time, we end up not being aware of what we are doing!
If you carefully observe yourself and your thoughts through a full day first, and then over a week, you will see a pattern. You will recognize that you know that you should not be doing several things that you are doing currently. But you will also realize that despite knowing it, you go on committing hara-kiri with your Life.
The rider on the two-wheeler, often not even wearing a helmet, with a phone clutched between shoulder and ear, with the head tilted awkwardly to prevent the phone from falling off, is but a metaphor. Of living stupidly – of knowing what must not be done and of going on doing it; simply because you are not aware, you are not living in the moment.
Living intelligently – knowing what you are doing and staying immersed in the now – can be achieved by consciously, and continuously, training the mind. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are about to do – maybe eat an extra helping of dessert, maybe drink and drive, maybe lose your temper on someone, whatever! When you ask yourself why, you often end up not doing what you were setting out to do! Training your mind means to learn to invite it to pause, soak in the moment and only then act – every single time! This pause is what makes the crucial difference between living intelligently and living stupidly!
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