Wait. Watch. Listen.

The mind is a cheat. And it will cheat, if it is left to its own devices. It will suck you into a spiral of thoughts, trick you into believing their baseless ‘knowledge’ and completely hijack your attention to act on their ‘plans and desires’.

How are habits of thinking formed? How are memories reinforced and strengthened? What lies beyond this mind with its memories and desires and fears? Why is it that one feels imprisoned and bound in that which gives one the greatest feeling of safety and security? Which one of us hasn’t felt confined within and limited by our own minds? Why does a freedom beyond our safe and secure prisons beckon us?

The substance of all that is the mind (memories et al) is accumulated knowledge- a medley of remembered experiences, reinforced by our continuous expression of it through language. The mind remembers everything that seems significant and meaningful to the ego- that part of our selves that is interested in stringing together a story about itself or in ‘arriving’ somewhere.  Our knowledge of language with its words and their commonly understood meanings is very often a handicap rather than an advantage. Having reduced language to a mere code whose meanings can be sought in a dictionary, we end up with a corrupted and stereotyped understanding of the one thing that shapes and structures our mind-and that is our unique experiences. Knowledge can be so impressive and seductive that we find ourselves unable and unwilling to feel anything other than what our knowledge of words and their meanings allows us to feel. ‘A mere verbal understanding of something’, noted J Krishnamurti, ‘is no understanding at all.’

Instead of communicating that which our senses perceive and feel, we’ve used language to educate our senses. We try to fashion our senses by overstating or embellishing what we truly feel. Without knowledge, without the means to name and identify, we seem to be diminished in our eloquence and consequently in our ability to impress another with our story. We draw sustenance and nourishment from being acknowledged by others and we’ll end up doing anything for such nourishment- including impressing others with more than what we actually feel.

Riding secure in our knowledge of words and what they generally mean, we may draw great comfort from their common, shared perceptions, but we’re also prone to feel great disappointment when our  ‘reality’ does not conform to the general interpretations of it. For example, you may be in a relationship with another, but it may not at all live up to the ‘standards’ of a typical relationship. Your ideas (shaped and structured by language), of love and trust may often create conflicting states in your relationship. If you enter a relationship with ideas of how it should be (being completely blind and disinclined to appreciate how it is), chances are before you know it, conflicts will begin to gnaw your mind.

Words and their community- language- have given us a false sense of knowledge and understanding. For most, knowing the language basically is enough. We don’t acutely feel the need to transcend it, when in fact we must. Language and words after all, are merely symbols of feeling and insight. We’ve grabbed the words and discarded the ability to feel deeply. In watching out for how we feel, in trusting the intelligence of our senses, we summon up and gather all our attention to simply being present to the ‘now’ and watching. It’s in the silent watching and in the vigilant application of our attention, that understanding comes to us. The noise and clamor of ideas is absent and the prison gates of the mind are thrown open, becoming that window of understanding we’re all so graciously and divinely blessed with. Knowing that such a window exists is the first step in throwing your mental space open to a breath of fresh air that can drive out the stale air of recycled knowledge. That window must be a window by which you can wait, watch and listen.

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The Purpose of Purposefulness

Two hours into a circular discussion on action/ karma and destiny, I realized that one of my friends had been unusually silent. Curious, I asked about her thoughts to loop her back into the conversation. ‘This whole discussion is annoying me,’ she said. ‘I mean, what is the purpose behind this? How does it matter if you know or not, what destiny has in store for you? How would it help? Just act. Do whatever it is that you’re doing and if you suffer the consequences, learn and move on. What is the point of this questioning? What are we hoping to achieve? After all, we all know that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.’

Without really knowing or intending to, this friend had administered a final blow and hit the nail on the head. So, while we had been ‘discussing’ our need for what is true, purposeful action, she was actually experiencing it!

Her annoyance over the seemingly purposeless action of questioning and discussing was no different from a similar annoyance we all feel when so many of our actions make no sense or seem like a total waste of time. Yes, just as my friend was irritated by what she felt was totally lacking in purpose, so too, do we all feel the need to question when we find ourselves feeling rudderless and acting routinely, habitually and without conscious reason.

We question our actions, our motives, our ideas and our beliefs because we want to discover their source. Generally speaking, our actions proceed from desire and hope, or anxiety for the future or from a set of beliefs and values. It is through our questioning that we can see this fact. Also weighing on our minds and aborting conscious, awakened action is that vast body of second-hand knowledge, which we have acquired in a bid to substitute our ignorance. This mindless accumulation of knowledge too, hasn’t given us clarity. Not only has our ignorance not disappeared, it has been further compounded by knowledge we our selves know nothing about.

But contemplation and reflection are such strange and unusual pastimes. Do they serve any purpose? Do they achieve anything for us that we can parade around as an accomplishment?

Must questions only provide answers? Are only those questions valid, that ‘have’ answers? In a similar vein, is only that action good that can achieve something?

I feel that because we sense a purpose to our existence, we wish to act purposefully.

But, we tend to confuse individual desires with purpose, thinking all the while that our individual destiny is all that matters. If we argue that life is intrinsically intelligent and everything within it seems to by default, fulfill a purpose; and by virtue of such an observation we can be certain that we are anyway fulfilling our purpose, then why is it, that in spite of us being conscious beings, we are not conscious of it?

We act, driven by our desires and we suffer the consequences of such actions time and again. Yet, we refuse to learn from such suffering and see that there is something fundamentally wrong with such desire-motivated action. It’s almost always destined for failure. We do not even want to explore the possibility that there may be other ways to motivate action.

J Krishnamurti’s beautiful and elegant elucidation on suffering is that ‘it is nothing but the poverty of a limited consciousness.’ Through questioning, we’re hoping to expand our consciousness. We’re wondering if we can act in a more awakened state- not out of reaction, compulsion, or fear or to fight or for flight, or desire for personal success and glory. The question is, is there another way to act?

Where does action proceed from? When it proceeds from desire or fear or anxiety, you can be certain that it proceeds from a limited, individual consciousness. If my thoughts, my beliefs, my values, my concerns are centered around me and only me, my actions are also going to be self-serving and limited. If however, my actions were to proceed from an expanded consciousness something that went beyond me and mine, I would slowly sieve out and separate individual desires from purpose and perhaps see –with an awakened mind- what in truth is my reason to be.

Freedom & Responsibility

As individuals, we feel confined within our circumstances and bound to our attachments (whatever those attachments may be: to people, ideas, occupations, fears, desires, our pasts…). These in turn, make constant demands on our time and attention. They compulsorily ask of our responsibility. And these responsibilities –we feel-come in the way of a truly free life.

We theoretically understand that we, as human beings are bestowed with free will and the power of choice i.e. the ability to choose our course of action, but we often wish we were free from the burden of making a choice itself. The responsibility that making a choice entails- is a heavy load to carry. As a result, in spite of being empowered with the ability to choose our circumstances or our responsibilities, we find ourselves perpetually craving for freedom. For if choices truly did exist, then a difference- between a superior choice and an inferior one- would immediately be evident. In other words, one of the two choices would clearly lead us from entrapment to freedom. This however, is rarely the case. There seems to be no vertical ascension on having made a choice; no release. Choosing is more like a horizontal meandering- damned if I do, damned if I don’t! What initially feels like an escape from burdensome responsibility- within no time- finds us entrapped within a new set of circumstances. In a bid to replace our old circumstances we get attached to, and responsible for the new one.

So what does that mean? Are we all doomed to a life of enslavement- forever trapped in our circumstances? Or is there a freedom that awaits us?
In society, we exist within a matrix of relationships. As an individual, my sense of responsibility keeps me bound to these relationships. I find myself moving and operating within only a specific trajectory within this matrix. And even as a sense of duty keeps me tied to my family, my environment, my profession, my country; a constant call towards a greater freedom beckons.
What does it mean to be responsible? What does it mean to be free, to be liberated? Are freedom and responsibility two separate choices, two separate paths? Must one be forsaken for the other? Or is there- like everything else within this matrix- a relationship between them?

Freedom and responsibility are internal states, not external ones. The call for responsibility is a call of the conscience and must not be confused for an external demand to meet others’ expectations. Shouldering responsibility means acting authoritatively… and here is where the problem begins… here’s where we begin to feel bound, trapped and enmeshed. We’ve never questioned the true extent of our authority, of our capacity and duty ‘to do’. In general, we have an exaggerated notion of our doer status.

The times we live in, lay a great emphasis on individuality, ownership, authority, and success and accomplishment. These are the values of our times. The ideas of today are rooted in the idea of individual doership and by extension-in individual responsibility. We’re supposedly responsible for our successes or our failures, the happiness, health and safety of our families, or the profits and losses of the organizations we work for… Phew! What a tremendously heavy load to carry!
Being responsible today also implies being willing to be held accountable; to be willing to be the scapegoat on whom the hurt and the affected can anoint blame. After all, if we’re all doers and would like the credit for all the things we have done right; we must also be willing to take the blame when things go wrong because of our doing. But let’s pause a moment… let’s examine: do we really ‘do’ everything we claim to do?

For example, if I drive my car from point A to point B and I reach point B safely; many factors are ‘responsible’ for me having reached there unhindered and unharmed. The fact that the fuel in the car did its job; or the fact that everybody driving on the road with me did their bit and followed traffic rules; or the fact that the traffic lights were working- the list is numerous! And yet, oblivious to all this, I credit myself for being a ‘smart’ driver! Now, contrast this with a scenario where there is an accident. The two parties blame each other, or the poor quality of the roads, or to failed brakes; or to a dysfunctional traffic light… the list is indeed numerous!

The fact remains that everything I think I do, I do because I am silently enabled by other responsible factors that demand neither compensation nor recognition for having done their bit. Our capacity to do is often over-estimated and is in fact, nothing more than our ability to feel and respond. To respond to situations and circumstances is really all that we’re called to do. As deep is my ability to feel, that much full and wholesome is my ability to respond. In other words, the greater the space and freedom within me, the fewer the desires and fears that occupy my mind and heart; the greater is my capacity to feel and respond. If some amongst us possess greater authority than others it is because they are internally free from the unnecessary preoccupations and fears that bog most of us down. The only thing that we’re truly capable of doing is responding sensitively to circumstances and not ensuring or guaranteeing desirable outcomes. As individuals, we can only claim ownership of our responses, not of our circumstances. And the reason by which and for which responsibility is called upon is freedom.

Bound as we are within a matrix of relationships, we often find ourselves shouldering the responsibility for the irresponsible, the reckless and the immature. So, what must we do? What is my responsibility towards another who realizes neither his folly nor the true implication of his authority?

Just as there exist numerous responsible factors that enable and facilitate my free movement through life, I too, must- most urgently and in that very spirit- free another from disadvantage, ignorance, inability, fear, falsity and doubt.
True responsible action happens only when we’re free to act in our truest essence. And true freedom exists in the realization that we’re only essentially responsible. Freedom and responsibility are therefore intricately connected: you can’t live through one without being enabled by the other!

A Stubborn Suffering

We know that we are in the midst of life
But we’re unable to apprehend its constant flux
Our minds are older than our bodies
And even though our bodies undergo continuous change
Our minds can be frustratingly refractory
Stuck in a time warp
Dulled by habit
And clouded by ignorance and delusion
The mind can be obstinately resistant to the flow of time
Fixated either in the past or future
It remains incapable of living in the present

Remaining absent to the present moment
Is the seed of all sin.

So before you condemn a man for indiscretion
Ask yourself if you speak
From yesterday’s ideas or from tomorrow’s fears
Or if this very moment
Uncontaminated by memory and mistrust
Speaks for itself

And if it doesn’t
Restore your kinship with him
Seeing in him
Christ reborn and re-crucified
Suffering once again for your sins.

An Opportunity

The everyday as I  see it

Is a mask, a disguise

A mock constitution

Of half-truths and lies

 

You think you stand with a crowd

But you’re actually alone

The voices you hear around you

Are really your own.

 

Then why do I experience

The same world and the same you?

Why do I bring old eyes

To see the new?

 

We are in a sense blind

Till we begin to see

We’re born enslaved

And we must set ourselves free

 

How will such a freedom

Come to be mine?

Through the thick walls of my being

How will light come to shine?

 

Why does my heart, I wonder

Never utter a word?

Why does it suffer in silence

Never to be heard?

 

The mind is a vacuum

I’ve mistaken for a missing part

It sucks in fear and hate

That silences the heart

 

The heart will speak

When one is all of you

And not till you stand fractured

Dismembered into two

 

How do I join together

Parts of my being?

How do I accept your half-truths

As flaws in my seeing?

 

Where do I begin

Where do I make a start?

How do I silence my mind

And listen to my heart?

 

The heart I understand

Is the mind of a higher face

Its power of feeling

Removes all distance and space

 

Let me not just hear your bitter words

But of them also make sense

To the kaleidoscope of the everyday

Let me bring a whole new lens

 

The everyday is not

A displaced fragment of eternity

It’s what you are and

What you have the opportunity to be.

A Room Full of Ghosts

I sit alone in a room full of ghosts

Each one of them claims to know me the most

I know not who I may be

As each one of them screams their image of me

So shy! So bold!

So hot! So cold!

You’ve got it all right! You’ve got it all wrong!

Pathetically weak! Incredibly strong!

 

I sit in silence

Absorbing the noises

Till a momentous insight

Reveals them as choices

Choices I made a long time ago

I chose to let them stay

I never let go

Just as I made them then

I can make them now

So I get up and leave this room full of ghosts

How dare they claim to know me the most!