Today’s Podcast says that there are no methods or mantras to live Life. To avoid suffering we must simply stop wanting our Life to be any different from what it is.
Listen time: 7:14 minutes
In today’s Vlog, I share how we can deal with a Life where we won’t always get what we want!
View time: 2:13 minutes
Develop the ability to stand in the throes of everyday Life situations and be peaceful.
Yesterday, on a busy street, I found a man sleeping peacefully on the pavement. It was rush hour. Traffic came from all directions. People honked mercilessly. The din was unbearable even within the air-conditioned Uber I was riding. As the traffic choked for a while, I kept looking at the man on the streetside, on my left. He didn’t appear drunk. He must have been in his 60s. He had a thick woolen blanket covering him. The temperature must have been 35 degrees Centigrade around then. Rather unusual, I thought, for someone to cover himself with a woolen blanket. May be he was sick. A half-full, one-litre Aquafina bottle stood beside him. Two-wheeler riders came perilously close to falling over him as they balanced themselves against the narrow pavement on which he lay. But the man went on sleeping. There was a certain peace about him. An equanimity that was unmissable. I didn’t want to intrude on his privacy so I did not take a picture of him.
The irony was not lost on me. Here was a man, perhaps surely homeless, whatever may be his physical condition, who was at peace with himself and his Life. And here are so many, many people searching for inner peace all around them. Isn’t it strange, I thought!
The very fact that we search for “inner” peace outside of us should tell us that we have got it all wrong. Which is why we find our peace so elusive! Second, anything that we seek that is impermanent – all our material wants – cannot get us to anchor in peace. You may want a car today. But once the car arrives, you will lose your peace trying to protect it from getting dented on our unruly Indian roads. Then when it is dented you will grieve over your insurance claim not being enough to fix it. Over time, you will want a bigger car. And so the quest for satiating yourself with material things is an endless one. When you tell yourself that you will be peaceful, happy, when you have this or that, you are actually kidding yourself. Unless you drop all your wanting and just be, you cannot be peaceful, you cannot be happy.
This is an irrefutable, unalterable truth about Life. The faster you internalize this truth, the sooner you will anchor in peace and the happier you will be. The man sleeping on the street is but a metaphor for all of us. He invites us to pause and reflect. He reminds us that anyone can be calm in their bedroom or in the protected confines of their homes. But can you stand in the midst of your battle-ridden, stress-laden Life and be peaceful? If you can be that, in whatever context Life has placed you in, then, and then alone, would you have found the greatest secret there ever is to Life! Which is this: the ability to sleep peacefully, regardless of circumstance, is the greatest wealth, the greatest blessing!
Rejections and delays can’t debilitate your spirit if you are aware!
“Can you stay detached while having wants, desires and ambitions,” asked a reader after reading my blogpost yesterday.
I replied: “Of course you can. That is what the whole point of understanding detachment and its practice is all about!”
Detachment is not trying to rid yourself of your wants, dreams, ambitions, aspirations or desires. The truth is you can never be in a desire-less state. What is a desire? It is a thought. You see an ice cream hoarding and a thought arises in you reminding you of how it tastes. If you dwell on that thought a trifle longer you may even start salivating – wanting the ice cream now! So it is with every thought. You cannot reach a state of thoughtlessness. As long as you are alive thoughts will arise. The key is to learn to aware of your thoughts and to train your mind so that your thoughts don’t hold you to ransom!
Thoughts on ambitions and dreams are perfectly normal. Whatever be your career goal or your deepest aspiration you must nurture it. There can be no progress without thoughts relating to your ambitions. So detachment is not about suppression. It is also not about running scared of wants and desires. Detachment is about being aware – that, in any context, in any situation, in Life, you are entitled only to your actions and not to the results or outcomes. Which is why detachment is not about inaction. You must act, you must strive, but you must also learn to remain detached from the results.
I used to imagine that detachment was impractical. For the longest time I believed that it was a Utopian state that could not be attained by ordinary mortals. But this past decade has been an awakening experience. In this time, Vaani and I have been making every possible effort to get our business back on track (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). We have been discovering, repeatedly, that no matter how good we are or how hard we try, doors to a steady income don’t just open. Initially, we ended up being frustrated and dejected. After all, rejection and delays can debilitate your spirit. But when we examined the pattern closely, we found that there was nothing lacking in our efforts. Just that the results were not happening. So, we concluded that a. we must not blame ourselves if the results were not happening despite our best efforts and b. we are not the problem that we are dealing with. This awareness helped restore our self-esteem and self-confidence. This, in turn, has helped us plough on, no matter what is happening to us. This is how we learnt that detached determination is crucial to enduring inscrutable, inexplicable phases in Life. To be sure, we both are very ambitious – we want to repay all our debt, with full interest due, to the people we owe money to; we want to travel the world and live our Purpose of Inspiring Happiness among whoever cares to pause and reflect. Yes, we too have wants. And we have clear and lofty goals. But we are not frustrated, not any more, when our efforts don’t yield results. We have, if I may say so, spiked our ambitions with detachment! Which is why I call it detached determination. This is the secret of our happiness!
The truth about Life is that we must all wake up each morning and work enthusiastically doing whatever we can do best in any given situation. Beyond that, we must simply trust the process of Life. Not to try, not to work, that would be resignation, that means inaction. But to keep dreaming, to keep stoking your ambition constructively, to try and to keep trying, without getting depressed or frustrated, even when the results don’t add up, that is detachment.