SIMPLY BEING

Tag: introspection (page 1 of 7)

A State of Wanting

Windows Blinds

To be in a state of wanting (not want) is so awful.

It may not even be that your friend has adorable children, unbelievably adorable pets. (And you don’t.) Or that your ex-colleague has a gorgeous home. (And you don’t.) Or that your cousin has an extraordinary garden. (And yours is struggling, a true “work in progress.”) Or that your neighbor seems to vacation in the coolest places.

No, none of those “material” goods and pleasures.

It may be that your schoolmate is so incredibly self-assured. (And you aren’t). Or that your sister is literally oozing with creativity; she seems to move from one creative project to another effortlessly, producing incredible works of art! Or that your friend is so articulate… you are in awe of his ability to string deep, profound meaning from simple words. Or maybe it’s a distant cousin who has gone through deep shit in her life, and come out smelling of roses.

Not exactly “material” goods these but oh, you wish you had all of that! Creativity, courage, self-assurance, articulative ability, clarity… and so on.

That gap between what you have and what you think they do is so deep and vast; you are never going to make it across. You feel that you will be left wanting all your life. You are never going to develop those reserves of courage and resilience that emerge only after a crisis. (And you are no Macho Man, you have little appetite for a crisis of any kind.) You know that creativity is God-given, and if you have shown no signs of it thus far, you know that it isn’t going to emerge one fine day, all of a sudden. As for self-assurance, how ON EARTH does one cultivate that?

And then, you are asked to feel gratitude, be grateful… for all that you have. Ugh. You feel like a fraud, mouthing “thanks” when all you feel is this acute sense of wanting inside.

That feeling of wanting is NOT solidified magma, or a deep, impassable gap. In fact, it can go away pretty quick. Not that you will start painting like a Georgia O’Keeffe, or write like a Zadie Smith, or develop incredible courage… None of that. In fact, you see that the disappearing of the sense of wanting has little to do with gaining any of that which you sorely desire. That wanting shows up one day, goes away the next… perhaps reappears around New Years Eve, lingers on in January, then goes away in Feb.

It comes and goes. So you can create art (or not), grow a struggling garden (or not), go skydiving (or not), learn Japanese (or not)… none of that matters. So, rest easy.

Outer Vyavahaar

Several years ago, I was on a teacher training course. As it happens on these programs, you spend a great deal of time engaged in meditative practices, Hatha yoga, contemplation, etc. I can’t speak for others but I often found myself feeling particularly sensitive, emotional. When you begin a practice of meditation (and I am using this term in the broadest sense), you sometimes encounter experiences (mental, emotional, etc.) that can throw you off a bit… You may feel remorseful, angered, bitter, dejected, disappointed, etc. (HA, why should someone carry on with such a practice, right? Anyway, I digress.) So, it may have been that I was particularly miserable one day… I think the teacher noticed something a little off with me. He came over at the end of the session, whispered, “You cannot be like Guruji; you can only be Guruji.”

I had no idea what that meant. I remonstrated, wanting to explain myself, or wanting an explanation. He didn’t say much else, and I wondered: What was that about?It’s 13+ years since that incident, and I think about it sometimes.

Human beings are copycats. We imitate endlessly. And so it happens that you meet someone wise and wonderful, and you want to be like them. What you see is the outer, and you begin copying. And it’s sometimes mystifying because this wise individual behaves in “unwise” ways. And because you can’t see beyond the visible, you wonder: How can such behavior be “enlightened?” Why did he do that? How can she say this? Isn’t she supposed to be kind and generous? I thought he was a wise, enlightened being.

I remember a talk by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar where he speaks about how we scrutinize the behavior of a so-called enlightened being, trying to guess their motivation. “Why did he scold them? How can he say something so hurtful? Perhaps he hasn’t overcome his own cravings and aversions,” and so on. Gurudev explained that you cannot determine what lies inside such an individual. (Perhaps, nothing?) And you certainly cannot figure it out from their vyavahAr, the outward behavior. And yet it happens that the Self sometimes sparkles through the behavior, and if you are keen, you are able to discern it.

Once we let go of our desire to “become enlightened,” (as opposed to simply being), and we drop the plan of behaving LIKE the one we love and admire, we may be able to truly see through their outer behavior and commentary and actions and responses. And then we may be able to see that there is no need to be LIKE anyone else. Indeed, you can be exactly as you are.

Instead, all we see is their outer behavior AND how our own behavior is not desirable, not “enlightened” or “wise.” And yet, we are so attached to our perceived faults! If a wise person told us, “Drop all that shit; you are free and pure today,” we’d still be doubtful, unsure. Because we feel that the ONLY way to be free and pure is to OWN all that shit. Because if we disowned these so-called faults, how would we improve?

Pure Sense

Recently I wondered, are we truly capable of experiencing what the senses bring our way?

Because it seems that when we encounter a sensation—pleasant, unpleasant, neutral—the mind faculty steps in to intercept the pure feel of the experience. It then relates the sensation to a past experience, or a future expectation. Or, a scene from a book or film. Or, the mind itself is transported to a past time and place. So, a plate of sev puri takes you back to Andheri railway station, eating street side chaat. A whiff of petrichor brings to mind Kerala, monsoons, loneliness… or perhaps “Rimjhim gire saavan,” featuring a tall, lanky Amitabh Bachchan and a petite, adorable Moushmi Chatterjee. Or you are drawn back to your own youthful romance conducted along the Marine Drive promenade, tetrapods and lashing waves for company.

It doesn’t really matter what images flash across your mind, or where you are transported. You are someplace else, no longer here and now. The taste/touch/scent/sound/sight sensation is not important any more because its sole purpose appears to have been to act as a connector to an ever-expanding trove of memories, ideas, hopes, expectations, fears. And it makes a real proper mess with our idea of time because we are no longer sure… Am I dreaming of the past? Did this event actually occur? Or maybe I am day dreaming? Is this from a film I loved? Or is this something I wished for but it never really happened?Ahh, it is a lovely mess.

This tendency of referring back from an immediate sensation to a story, an idea, a familiar concept is an old habit. These stories and ideas stand in for the actual sensory experience, and what we are feeding off are the stories, not that steel tumbler of filter coffee at MTR, or plate of rajma chaaval from Guru Da Dhaba, or a youthful Aamir Khan crooning “Papa kehte hain…”

(And this is a powerful habit… hence the inability to see that Andaaz Apna Apna is a silly, bad movie!)

And this is also why we sometimes continue to eat foods we don’t really enjoy, or watch films featuring our once-favorite actors, or wear clothes that don’t fit (literally and metaphorically). Why? Because of the compelling stories attached. (And we don’t even derive any actual pleasure from these activities.)

If these stories vaporized, we’d see the experience for what it is, and we could have a spontaneous response to it . “Oh, this sambar is too spicy for me.” “Sonu Nigam has a lovely voice.” “Why do I drink tea twice a day? I don’t really like it.” “I adore wearing my black skinny jeans, I just do!”

And we’d also be able to see that we are truly dynamic beings who can savor and draw pleasure from a variety of experiences… Unlike what the stories might have us believe.

Life Ganga

Had a (sorta) epiphany recently.

If I liken my life to a movie, then it has two separate “tracks.” Visual: Girl is born in Mumbai, girl goes to school, girl joins college, girl meets boy, girl and boy go to the movies, girl and boy meet up at a beach, girl marries boy, girl boards flight to ATL, and so on. Then there is the inner soundtrack. A mind that is making sense of the visuals, questioning, wondering, sifting through what-if scenarios, analyzing. And I realized early on that these two tracks were nearly 100% independent of each other, seemingly together, yet miles apart.

If I liken my life to the Ganga who unfolds merrily at her will, heeding no advice, fearing no dams or boulders, simply dancing down the mountains… no amount of rationalizing or discussing ever stopped her from following an unknown direction. And I guess that’s why I never actively directed my life, one way or another. (I often remark that the “decisions” in my life weren’t even decisions.) There is a clear recognition that the inner soundtrack can speak, consider, weigh, etc. all for its own sake. Not that it has ever been able to change Ganga’s direction. So, even as I wondered briefly, “Have a child?,” things didn’t proceed that way. (I went to grad school.) Even as I thought, “Go to MBA school?,” I turned down the admission and scholarship.

Not to imply that Ganga’s path is all roses. She travels through mucky places, ferrying dead bodies and plastic trash, along with fragrant flowers and lit lamps. I think my wisest “decision” thus far has been to not question Ganga. She knows where she is headed. So, the inner soundtrack has mostly fallen silent. Sometimes questions arise, and so do answers. They linger on for a bit, then disappear. There isn’t any kind of resolution, though.