The other day, Ma Shamata Om (my foremost disciple and one of the most graceful and beautiful souls I know) said something profound in her usual simple way.
“Swami,” she said, “come to think of it, human life is so beautiful and simple. Get up every day, do good karma, eat a square meal, help others, serve humanity and get some rest. That’s all there is. For some reason, most of us have made it too complex by too much thinking and worrying.”
Other than the message itself the word that stood out for me was ‘made’. In the act of making, we have come to see life as something we make. As if it’s something we manufacture. The truth is we don’t. There are only some aspects that we control but the rest, a vast majority, of the factors are completely free of our influence and preferences.
The moment we start seeing life as something we flow with as opposed to something we have to make, our perspective changes naturally. The unnecessary struggle takes a back seat and you become increasingly aware of where you need to surrender versus when you ought to take charge.
In a world driven by action and focused on results, we have placed too much emphasis on making. In the words of Parker Palmer, “If we lived close to nature in an agricultural society, the seasons as metaphor and fact would continually frame our lives. But the master metaphor of our era does not come from agriculture — it comes from manufacturing. We do not believe that we ‘grow’ our lives — we believe that we ‘make’ them. Just listen to how we use the word in everyday speech: we make time, make friends, make meaning, make money, make a living, make love.”
We don’t make the oceans, mountains or rivers. We don’t make sunlight, clouds or the rain. We simply bear witness to the majestic Creation around us. Yogic texts state that each one of us has an entire universe within us. The Bible too says that the kingdom of God is within us. And, that kingdom, this universe of our inner world, has a whole range of places — from exquisitely beautiful to excruciatingly painful. There are dark woods of fear, marshes of negativity, rotting trees of ego, cacti of jealousy, creepers of covetousness, there is a quagmire of desires and a stinking residue of hate.
Having said that, in our same inner world there are some hauntingly beautiful places too. An ocean of bliss, tides of love, seasons of life, the colors of spring, a phase of autumn, the warm winter sun of forgiveness, beautiful moonless nights studded with the stars of our random acts of kindness. It’s all there. It’s all here, in us, within us. On the journey of life, we have no other option but to pass through its various places. Where we choose to stay for a short while or decide to make our home is our choice.
But our life is not just about us, it’s a much bigger phenomenon. A collective development, a cosmic process. Indeed, we are in Life as much as life is in us.
Not all shades of life will appeal to us but they are there for a purpose. Sometimes, it helps to let Nature paint our canvas, to say to life “Take me where you want” and to accept the wisdom of the universe. We don’t always have to burden ourselves to make things, to make them right or make them now. Sometimes, all we have to do is to be patient and let go. At times, we must allow life to manifest the way it wants to.
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.
(Stafford, William. “Ask Me.” Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford.)
Surely, we want to be in control and lead our lives the way we prefer. But, the very idea of shaping is incomplete if you ask me. We are not a piece of clay that needs molding or a rock requiring sculpting. Maybe, we are just a gift from the Universe, a tiny seed that’s waiting to be sprouted. Maybe, you just need a bit of nurturing, a bit of care, and you’ll emerge as a tender sapling first and later a giant tree laden with the fruit of love and kindness. After all, everything is already there in you just waiting to be discovered.
The river of life flows independently of one’s preferences. Whether you flow, float, swim or sink, it’s your personal choice. At any rate, it’ll take you with it.
Season’s greetings, Merry Christmas and wish you all a very happy new year.
Smile. Breathe. Meditate. Let go.
Everything we do in our life adds to our life experiences. It is safe to say our life is mostly defined by these life experiences.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from suffering and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
Here are 5 ways in which you can consciously build your life experiences.
Care about something & find your purpose in life:
Having a purpose in life gives one a sense of direction and knowing what you want makes it easier to navigate challenging life experiences.
In a nutshell, to find your purpose in life:
- Care about something.
- If you don’t know what you care about then find out.
- One method is to try whatever you can. You just never know what may catch your fancy.
- Find a mentor and hang out with the right people.
- The more deeply you care about something, the greater love you’ll discover for your purpose.
Read more here
Think and act in a manner that fosters happiness:
People who have a moderate number of negative life experiences are the happiest.
Here’s my two cents’ worth; five principles of happiness:
- Be sincere
- Stop complaining
- The Fifth Principle
Read more on each of these principles that help foster happiness, here
Here below are a few more reads that will help you foster happiness
Learning to flow through these life experiences:
Consistently ask yourself how can you be present in life and make the most of these experiences.
Life is like the sky, sometimes cloudy, other times, very clouded. The same sky offers a completely different view depending on the time of the day. At night it is full of stars and the waning or waxing moon. During the day, it is full of light. The artificial lighting of cities makes the beautiful star-studded sky hazy.
When you are experiencing rainy days, take an umbrella or sit tight, be patient and clear days are just around the corner. If you always want a clear sky, you may have to live in the normally inhabitable deserts. When life appears dark like the sky on the night of the new moon, you can settle your gaze on the glimmering stars. When the sun is spewing fire, do not stare at it. Let it be certain in your mind that all the colors of the sky are only the most temporary phases. Read more here.
Do work that is meaningful:
How can meaningful work leave us with positive life experiences?
It’s rather simple: we feel together and fulfilled when we make a positive impact on the world around us. This gives us meaning. No matter how important your job may be, if you don’t feel that it’s meaningful, you won’t feel content. There is something quite extraordinary about a meaningful pursuit: it makes you feel you are in control.
Think of your happiest moments. No really, maybe just close your eyes for a few secs and think of some of your most memorable moments. You will discover the lowest common factor in all those times was that somehow you felt quite in control. When you are in control of your actions, emotions, and words, you are in charge of your life. And, that, my friend, is a feeling like no other. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to feel you are in control unless you have some meaning in your work and life.
We aspire for meaning. If your work doesn’t make your life more meaningful, you will find it a drag. It’s as simple as that. Read more here.
Be Mindful and get better at decision making:
Mindfulness leads to better decisions. Good decisions lead to good life experiences. And, here is how you can improve your decision-making skills.
Before making any decision, ask yourself two golden questions:
1. Why am I making this decision?
2. Am I prepared to take responsibility for this decision?
Every choice you make will have a consequence. As long as you are bold enough to take responsibility for your decisions, life will present you with enough opportunities to make better ones. Read more here.