‘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!
It is your mandatory daily recharge, revive and repair time.
My daughter and I spoke over a WhatsApp call this morning. She shared notes with me from her grad school orientation program. As part of the schedule, she had an hour’s introduction to meditation as a concept and as a practice. I feel it is a fascinating idea to introduce meditation to young people. If you learn the art of stilling your mind, if you can be unmoved when standing in the middle of the whirl of Life, then you are living intelligently.
I remember as a young teenager, when I was studying in 10th grade at Nutan Vidyalaya in Gulbarga, Karnataka, my entire class went through an orientation program on Transcendental Meditation – a form of meditation propagated by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918~2008). I can’t remember now whether I liked my first experience of meditation or not, but what I do remember is that my mother admonished me for “embracing wayward practices” and, worse, she accused my school of “thrusting the occult” on students. I realize now how wrong and ill-informed my mother was (and surely still is).
Meditation is an absolute must to still the mind and anchor it. The mind thinks up 60,000 thoughts on an average daily. And the mind thrives only in the dead past or in the unborn, yet-to-arrive, future. Which is why we often are feeling angry, guilty or grieving about the past or we are feeling anxious, stressed out, worried or fearful about the future. Meditation is simply about mindfulness – about bringing your mind’s fullest attention to the now, to the present moment.
However, as I discovered through my own evolution, most forms of meditation insist that you first silence the environment around you. That didn’t work for me. Because I was then (for the past decade) and I am even now living in a state of total chaos. The daily pulls and pressures on me (and on Vaani) are intense. So, I could never find “that place” outside of me that was calm and quiet. Which is why I embraced mouna – or the practice of observing daily silence periods – the moment I found it. Mouna, I discovered, is like spirituality – it places no unreasonable demands on you. You just have to be silent for a full hour every day. Let whatever is happening around you happen – you be silent! And this practice has helped me immensely. I learnt not to respond to stimuli around me. I just remained silent – no matter what – for an hour daily. Over time, I trained my mind to be still and focused only on the present moment. This has taught me how to be fully aware only of what is. It has been a truly liberating, awakening experience.
Any form of meditation is sure to work when practiced with diligence and with full immersion. Please choose what works for you. But please don’t think it is about religion or about a God. It is about the godliness in you. It is your holy communion with the Higher Energy. Just like your mobile phone needs recharging to function, meditation is your way of recharging, reviving and repairing yourself, by connecting with the Universal source!
PS: You may like to look up other posts on this Blog where I talk about mouna and detail its practice and benefits.
So, don’t hate it. Embrace it, celebrate it!
In response to my Blogpost yesterday, on what I took away from K.S.Narendran’s book – “Life After MH370”, a reader wrote to me saying he could relate to Naren’s sense of loss and loneliness. The reader, who is 60+, is estranged from his wife and his children are too busy with their own lives. He wrote, “I feel lonely and I feel isolated.” “How does one deal with being left behind, and with loneliness, when the world chooses to move on,” he asked.
That’s a very important question.
As I write this Blogpost, our daughter is preparing to leave for her Master’s Program overseas. Our son has been living abroad for over 9 years now. So, Vaani and I are getting to be empty nesters. I don’t think any amount of perspective is sufficient to deal with separations. When it happens, when the time comes, you do get weighed down by it. But if you are aware, if you understand what Life is all about, you simply learn to accept it and move on in your own way. And that’s what Vaani and I are learning to do.
It may appear that dealing with children going away to live their lives and dealing with a permanent loss or separation are two different things. But a sense of loneliness, of being left behind, is perhaps the same – no matter what the context.
I have realized that whoever we are and however closely we relate to our immediate circle of influence, we must prepare ourselves to experience loneliness. The nature of Life is such that people will come and go out of our lives. Whoever is in your Life will soon, some day, be out of it. While some people will stay temporarily and leave, some of them will stay for long and leave after making a significant impact on your Life. And some departures and separations may also well be permanent. Such is Life. There is no escaping this reality.
Intelligent living requires that we accept this suchness, this truth, about Life. This acceptance may not quiet help us avoid the pain of separation or help us escape the tyranny of loneliness, but it definitely will help us cope better. I remember this beautiful song Na Jaane Kyun from Choti Si Baat (1976, Basu Chatterjee, Vidya Sinha, Amol Palekar, Lata Mangeshkar, Yogesh, Salil Chaudhury) which talks of the pangs of separation poetically! But although the mind will protest and make it difficult for you to accept your “new normal” and move on, it is only acceptance that can aid in the process, that can heal you, that can help deal with the void in your Life. So when you feel lonely, accept that feeling unquestioningly. Also be understanding of your world, of the people around you – don’t complain if they get busy and leave you alone; they have their own lives to live!
Anything that you fight, anything that you resist, will persist. So, don’t fight your sense of loneliness. Embrace it and appreciate it as a non-negotiable reality. When you respect this reality you will realize the futility of clinging on to your past. If someone is dead, so it is. If someone’s left you, so it is. By clinging on to what is over, to however close the relationship may have been, you are only inviting unhappiness and suffering into your Life. So don’t wish that what is true about your Life is not true. The truth can never be untrue just because you don’t like it. Accept what is, feel your pain, feel your sense of loss, feel your loneliness, and also examine the futility of consistently, continuously, feeling this way. The moment you understand its futility, your loneliness will dissolve.
Bottomline: you came here alone and you will go alone from here. Your loneliness is an integral part of the suchness of Life. So, don’t hate it. Embrace it, celebrate it!
A couple came to us wondering how they can separate while ensuring that their children are not affected. I shared how my friend and his wife worked out a win-win arrangement, based on my advice, that has helped them both immensely. On this Podcast, I talk about how it is possible for a couple to set aside their differences if they choose to keep their children at the centre of their Universe. Any fight that is ego-driven is not worth it. Focus instead on a “working arrangement” when the relating between two people goes out the window.
Listen time: 5:31 minutes