It happens to all of us. A song gets stuck in our brain and repeats itself all day long. Well, once, it happened to our friend Niki. She couldn’t get this Hindi song out of her head. It accompanied her defiantly to the office. Mid-morning, her boss was explaining an accounting intricacy to her, but the song had taken over her auditory pathways completely. And Niki didn’t hear a word of what he was saying. Suddenly, to his astonishment, she burst out singing. As you can guess, she couldn’t help it, she didn’t even know she was singing, until the snorts and guffaws of amusement from her colleagues filled the office space and Niki returned with a jolt to her surroundings, covered in crimson embarrassment.
The lost fizz. You’d be as startled as Niki’s boss to know how much your inner noise affects you. How oblivious, even unconscious you become to life’s wonders because your mind is always thinking, analysing, protesting, complaining, criticising, expecting the worst outcome… Unlike Niki’s song, this commentary doesn’t even have a catchy tune or romantic lyrics! It’s riddled with doubts, fears, cynicism and the it’s-too-good-to-last belief. No wonder, our energy drops, motivation flops, we feel disgruntled, and as flat as a soda which has lost its fizz.
A soda needs its fizz.
Don’t build a world around your own suffering — it may devour you from inside.
Bricks of blame. So do we. We need it as much as we need air to breathe. But, more often than not, we kill our natural fizz of happiness, drown with our dialogues, our natural melody of bliss. I have a friend who blames everybody and finds fault with virtually everything — her family, friends, business partner and her circumstances. She doesn’t even spare herself! She has done exactly what artist Frida Kahlo de Rivera has warned us against: “Don’t build a world around your own suffering — it may devour you from inside.”
The result is that she is constantly ill. Each day brings a different disorder — dizziness, headache, eye-pain, shoulder soreness, knee-pain, panic attack or a sinking feeling in the chest. So much so that she is terribly embarrassed.
“I don’t dare talk about what’s going on inside me,” she told me. “People may think I’m pretending or being a hypochondriac.”
Accept imperfections. Yes, life is a mysterious mix of light and shades. It’s not perfect, or so we think. But, we can’t allow its imperfections to take away our natural wholeness, can we? To be whole means to be joyously healthy in mind, body and spirit. To be whole also means to accept things and people (including our self) as they are and not reject them with disgust or disdain. Above all, to be whole means having a big, understanding heart, a great, loving vision so as not to allow some incidents of selfishness and meanness embitter our spirit.
The secret of Zen. Wholeness is being part of wholeness. Not standing apart from it. The story goes thus: The disciple complained constantly to his Master, “You are hiding the ultimate secret of Zen from me.” He refused to accept the Master’s denial. One day, the Master said, “Come.” The disciple asked, “Where are we going?” The Master said, “Everywhere.” The disciple fell into a profound silence. As they walked up the hill, the Master asked softly, “Can you hear the stream in the distance?” The disciple nodded. A little farther, the Master whispered, “Can you hear the bird sing?” Once again, the disciple nodded wordlessly. As they walked down the slope, the Master asked gently, “Can you hear yourself?” The disciple shook his head. The Master said, “Now, you know the ultimate secret of Zen.” It’s only our thoughts that keep us from our wholeness.
Moments of wholeness. That’s why I suggest: Seek to create moments of wholeness away from all thoughts. Take your cue from Nyoshul Khenpo’s poem, Rest in natural great peace/ This exhausted mind/Beaten helpless by…neurotic thought…. Take a few moments, three times a day, to be as at ease as if you are on your own without anybody watching you. In the ease, allow yourself to become spacious and natural as if you are sitting with your legs and arms splayed out. Say a deep-felt Aah! and slip out of the grip of your usual tensed-up self that worries, gets irritated, is bossy and… r-e-l-a-x.
Think of your anger, anxiety or pride as a block of ice inside you. Visualise it melting…melting…melting in the sunlight offered by Life. Feel your confusion clear, disorders re-arrange into order, unease dissolve into ease. Sit in this Aah!, this peace, in rich understanding, in deep trust, in firm certainty. Allow all thoughts to come and allow your thoughts to go without getting engaged by them. View them as distant strangers. Let the thinking river flow while you stay on the banks of ease.
These moments have a glorious effect. You gradually glide into positivity, patience, wisdom. You don’t feel stressed out, you find your earlier tendency to be self-serving, dominating or feeling victimised, fading into a new benevolence where you only wish for the well-being of all. Extraordinary insights flash in — “I’d rather be contented than victorious”, “I care more about living than impressing others”…. It is liberating. You stop cutting your person to fit the coat and… you are, in a subtle way, more than everything you always wanted to be. You are not just a body, you are a looming presence that is taller and broader than your physique. There’s kindness, benevolence, love emanating from this presence. And it all feels so natural, so right.
One of the most heartwarming discoveries you make in these moments of wholeness, which the Masters define as “the journey without distance”, is that when you change the quality of your attention to thought, the mind becomes a radiant, restful, blissful companion. Everything is beautiful, everything is a benediction simply because there is no thought. There’s only a knowing: that wholeness is far superior to mere perfection.
The writers are authors of the book ‘Fitness for Life’ and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.