Here’s why I relate to Girish Karnad’s approach to living – and why I celebrate the beauty and simplicity of his final journey!
Non-worrying is an intelligent choice you can make.
If you are on an Indigo flight the next time, pause as you board and glance at the cockpit door. A little blue sticker advises the crew to leave their worries out of their work: “Flying is a serious profession, do not carry your worries beyond this point.” Even as I shot a picture, our flight attendant and Leading Lady Vaishali said, “I follow this advice all the time, Sir!”
That’s an intelligent choice Vaishali makes. But the sticker’s message is not applicable only to the flying profession. The way I see it is like this: “Living is a serious business. And we must not let our worries come in the way of living our Life to the fullest!”
Worry is a human invention; it is not a part of Creation. We worry only because we are not in control of our mind. The human mind thinks 60,000 thoughts a day. Now, you can’t get rid of thoughts. They will keep arising in your mind just the way waves arise in the ocean. And the nature of the mind is such that, in its untrained state, it thrives in the dead past spewing thoughts of anger, grief and guilt or it races to the unborn future painting dark, worrisome, fearful scenarios that cause you to be steeped in anxiety, insecurity and stress. When you train your mind to anchor only in the present moment, it becomes powerless. In its powerless state, the mind learns to live fully in the present moment. In the now, the past and the future are both irrelevant. This understanding, and a disciplined practice of any form of meditation to train your mind, are what can lead you to be non-worrying.
Simply, there are only two kinds of problems in Life. One kind are those problems that you can solve. So, why worry? Another kind are those problems that you cannot solve. Again, why worry? Either way, worrying is a completely futile activity. Worrying has solved no problem – ever!
Yet, to be sure, you cannot get rid of worries. But you can choose not to pick up a worrisome thought when it arises in you. Only when you attend to a worry, only when you pick it up, does it control you. Non-worrying is when you choose to ignore a worry. So, worrylessness cannot be attained; but you can surely learn to be non-worrying.
To me, the little blue sticker on the Indigo cockpit door is the simplest primer available for Life. It reminds us that Life is a one-time, limited-period, offer. And encourages us not to squander our Life either by worrying or being held hostage by negative, debilitating thoughts.
Be eternally grateful for what you have.
Someone I met yesterday asked me this question: “What is the simplest way to be in peace?”
And the simplest answer is this: be eternally grateful for what you have.
But an elaborate answer requires that we examine why we are not able to practice gratitude daily, consistently. The fundamental problem is that our minds are not nurtured by us. We almost continuously keep hurting ourselves by thinking negative thoughts, by pining for what isn’t there, by worrying. We are all badly bruised, battered in fact, within us. When you are injured within, you must first heal yourself for you to see the value in being grateful.
See, it is like this. When we injure ourselves physically, say with a nick while shaving or a cut while chopping vegetables, the body heals itself. If there is a deeper injury, with some care, we are back on the road. The truth is when the body is affected, it receives attention. The truth also is we injure our minds all the time but we don’t give it the care it needs to heal. Every angry thought, every remorseful thought, in fact every thought that is not centered around love, peace and gratitude, is injurious. Now, ask yourself, how many such thoughts on love, peace and gratitude, do you think out of the 60,000 thoughts that occur to you each day? Unlikely that we even think loving, peaceful, grateful thoughts for weeks on end!! Consider therefore how battered the mind must be and how much healing needs to happen for it to be ‘normal’ again. Unless we heal from within we cannot feel grateful.
‘Mouna’, the practice of silence periods daily, is the best way to heal our minds, to help it anchor in faith and patience. The 13th Century Persian poet Rumi couldn’t have said it better: “In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.”
Stop weaving here means to stop worrying, to stop wanting to control your Life, to stop the continuous chatter in your head; it means to pause and reflect. When you are this way, you can only be grateful, you can only be peaceful. So, to be peaceful, stop battering your mind; heal it by anchoring in silence, love and gratitude!
Is it even possible – this intelligent living business?
A young man walked up to me after one of my workshops recently and asked, “Is spirituality the key to living intelligently?” He confessed that he did certainly see value in embracing the spiritual path but felt that he was unable to stay on it. “How does one motivate oneself to stay focused – consistently,” he enquired.
Let’s understand spirituality first. It is not to be confused with religion. Spirituality is the flowering of inner awareness. It is an awakening, a realization that everything is transient, impermanent, including your Life. When you realize that Life is a limited-period offer, you are gripped by this sense of urgency to want to live a full Life, instead of squandering it in merely existing. Embracing the spiritual path is intelligent living.
Interestingly, spirituality demands nothing from you. It just invites you to be – living with what is, living with the way your Life is, living being happy despite your circumstances. So, at a conceptual level, everyone appreciates the spiritual path. But they struggle with everyday living issues. How can you break-free when worry holds you hostage? How can you overcome fear, insecurity, anxiety and stress? What do you do when Life socks you, numbs you with a crisis? How do you stay calm in the face of a storm? Is it even possible – this intelligent living business?
This is where training the mind comes in. The human mind thinks up 60,000 thoughts a day. And it behaves pretty much like a dog. If it is trained, it obeys the master – which is you. If it is untrained, it runs amuck, it pulls at the leash and it leads the master. You can train your mind by practicing meditation. I employ a simple ritual – mouna – which involves being silent for spells of time daily. With mouna I have been able to organize and direct my 60,000 thoughts daily. I no longer allow my mind to lead me astray or hold me to ransom with debilitating emotions. My 60,000 thoughts are invested in staying immersed in the moment. To be sure, like you, I too have a zillion problems that I am dealing with. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) But in the throes of my challenging Life situation, I am calm. As they say, in the center of a storm, there is always calm. I have found my center – I have learnt to be non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. So, I now am truly happy despite my circumstances.
As I told the young man at my workshop, you too can learn this art. You can stay on the path too. You just have to learn to train and tame your mind. It requires effort, diligence and discipline. Most people are unable to embrace spirituality – and intelligent living – because they don’t want to invest in this process of training the mind.
The spiritual path is free. It is not complicated. It is not rocket science. And it is available to all. There are no tolls to be paid on this path. You just have to make an important choice – which is to stop being enslaved by your mind, and instead be the master yourself. Herein lies the secret to intelligent living, to happiness and inner peace.