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. 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 the rivers. We don’t make sunlight, clouds or the rain. We simply bear a witness to the majestic creation around us. Yogic texts state that each one of us has an entire universe within us. 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 quagmire of desires and 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 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 the 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”, 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 fruits 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.