By Anandagiri / Senior Faculty Teacher at One World Academy
I am certain most of us would concur with the view that ‘suffering’ has been one of humanities biggest challenges. By ‘suffering’ we are referring to the psychological pain we experience in its varied forms; as fear, hurt, disappointment, anxiety, shame, regret, etc. It is this psychological discomfort, we fear more than anything else. Of course no one likes physical pain either and we do our best to prevent it from happening, but it is the disturbed state of mind that scares us the most.
How do we habitually respond to this challenge called suffering?
Not knowing how to deal with suffering we are constantly finding newer and newer ways of distracting ourselves from this pain. We have even invented ideas like ‘suffering is good for us’, ‘life is not a bed of roses’, ‘it is meant to be’, ‘It is a divine plan’, ‘God wants us to suffer’, ‘suffering is God’s way of showing how much He loves us’. How do we even know that suffering is good for us or that it is a divine plan and yet we take refuge in these baseless beliefs.
We are prepared to engage ourselves in any activity, physical or mental, that can provide us a distraction from our psychological discomfort. We are ever so ready to embrace any view no matter how irrational or baseless it is, if it promises to provide us some solace. Some of us have even made ‘suffering’ a sacred thing, believing suffering to be the only path to salvation or enlightenment. Although deep in our hearts we know these ideas to be utterly baseless, we are still scared of questioning them because we are afraid that we might loose the little comfort they keep providing us. We refuse to enquire because we are terrified of facing this monster called ‘suffering’. If we realized the falseness of these beliefs, it would then become impossible for us to take refuge in them any longer and we may not want that to happen.
By Anandagiri / Senior Faculty Teacher at One World Academy
I am certainly not the kind that believes in an omnipotent God but if God were to be perceived as an act of help, then I must say that the conscious children of this generation are the gods of our new era.
Some of us refer to these gifted kids as ‘indigo children’, while others believe them to be ‘sparks of God’ or ‘reincarnated masters’. I see them as conscious individuals with a new way of thinking and a whole new way of being. They seem to live in awareness of the world of which they are a part, while at the same time experiencing a deep connection with it. The relationship they share with themselves, with the other and with the world around, permits them to feel very little sadness or loneliness.
COULD THIS NEW WAY OF BEING BE A RESULT OF THEIR INCLUSIVE THINKING?
I do agree that our rapidly changing times, with its exponentially growing technologies have certainly influenced our way of thinking. Most children of today are more world centric in their thinking compared to our yesteryear generations. The information driven world that we live in today has given birth to new friendships: inter-religious friendships, inter-racial friendships, inter-cultural friendships and international friendships.
While this is all true, I am still of the opinion that the biggest influence on the child is its immediate environment and particularly the parents. The child not only observes and learns from its parent’s actions but is equally perceptive to its parents thinking as well.
The conviction I experience in regards to the views I share is the result of my interactions with a gifted child. Although I am a monk myself living with a community of dedicated teachers, I have had the fortune of being friends with a little one. My interactions with her over the last several years have influenced my own views of the world. I feel compelled to share with you what I see in this child and may be in children like her that live amongst us.
Good communication begins with the art of listening. Listening is not only about listening to the other; it is also about listening to oneself. An individual who has learnt to listen to himself, who is aware of his own thought processes is more willing and also better at listening to another. One who is a stranger to himself is also a stranger to another. And when you listen to another, you not only pay attention to what the other is saying but also to the assumptions and concepts that arise within you even as you listen.
When destructive emotions and self-centeredness eat away at the human heart among the leaders, organizations become cancerous. They grow only to self-destruct from within. When happiness and well-being of every single member of the organisation becomes a priority, we are creating a new culture, a new generation of organisations for a new age.
Awareness is the observation of the mind in action. Awareness of oneself helps resolve conflict and move to a place of peace and joy. Right actions are born from right decisions and right decisions are made from a right state of mind/being. Awareness enables you to create a better world for yourself as well as for the people around you.
Life is both about doing and being. We all know that ‘doing’ is external. It is about action. ‘Being’ is about the internal experiences of life in terms of joy, peace and harmony. And the two are mutually inter-dependent.
We know that psychological structures have over powered the external systems, be it a family or an organisation, the community or the country that you are living in. Hence, a change in the system alone is insufficient, what is necessary is also the transformation of the individual.
How many of us like to believe that success in our professional careers determine our feeling of self-worth and our ability to love ourselves? How many of us experience a rising or dwindling of love for ourselves based on our professional achievements or failures? While our achievements definitely determine the extent to which we earn respect and fame in the society we live, can they really become the basis for loving and respecting ourselves? This raises a very crucial question: is the ability to love oneself dependent on external circumstances at all? For if it did, it would defy the unconditional nature of joy or love. It would also defy the proverbial saying, ‘Money can’t buy happiness or love’. So, once again, it is important to reiterate that change should never occur to escape from situations. Rather, it should be born from a feeling of self awareness.
To stay on the path of progress and not be driven by the ideal of perfection, an enquiry into the self is vital. Self-enquiry is one of the most important tools in determining the best way forward in life. It is a mirror of our minds and helps us understand ourselves and our actions. In the case of perfection and progress, self-enquiry could reveal whether one is driven solely by the idea of perfection when faced with a task or whether one is propelled to move forward using awareness, inspiration and passion as tools for growth.
Perfection maybe a good thing, but when one is driven by the idea of perfection to the point of obsession, one can experience enormous stress, which keeps one from being constructive. The irony of trying to be perfect is that while you believe you and everyone else benefits from it, it often leads to a profound sense of self-lack because however well you may perform you always fall short of your own high expectations. This keeps you from moving forward. A perfectionist arises from an unhealthy place in his or her drive towards achievement.
As we set out seeking for a change, let us first ask ourselves as to what really needs to be addressed. We could thereby spare ourselves the arduous effort of trying to change the world instead of ourselves with merely a deepening of awareness. The crux of this understanding is in enquiring into the very motive behind this seeking. Does this seeking for change arise from wanting to grow or taking our life to the next level of perfection? At the very outset this question might seem redundant. One might ask: “Why else would I be wanting to experience something new if not to experience growth?” However, an astute observation could shockingly reveal that this desire for change could be the result of a desperate need to avoid the sense of an inner void - a sense of struggle with one’s own existence compounded by feelings of self-hate and purposelessness. Once again, we might be inclined to think: "Well, is not the need for change always felt only when there is a sense of inadequacy? If I am totally contented, where is the need to look for newer vistas or fresher pastures?" It is here that we need to understand the subtle difference between seeking for growth versus being uncomfortable with or trying to evade one’s own reality. Though very different, these two experiences could appear similar to a mind clouded in conflict. Often, what could be masquerading as a passion for change might well be a desperate attempt to get away from an existing problem.
While the need for change is undeniable, it is necessary to shed the light of awareness on the factors that govern or dictate this need. This is extremely important, for the direction of change in our lives is determined by the extent of our awareness or unawareness. Growth and learning in a positive sense could be defined as a process of change initiated in awareness, going hand in hand with joy and well-being. On the other hand, a process of change initiated in unawareness often tends to be rash and unmindful of the impending consequences on oneself as well as on others and therefore becomes a harbinger of pain and conflict.
In short, a central factor that determines the difference between achievement and failure, maturity and instability is the energy that drives the individual. It is the ability to convert frictional energy to creative energy that gives one the critical edge to be an effective employee, at every level of management.
Our feelings are old. Our perceptions are old. They are habit driven. Observe yourself and you would see, every time there is a challenging project, a dead line to be kept up, an office meeting to go to or a party to attend; you go through very similar thought processes. Every time you are questioned, every time you perceive rejection there is the same feeling you go through. It is these repetitive feelings and thoughts that make us feel life is monotonous. When we do not pay attention to our own inner thoughts, we unconsciously get caught in a life of habit. Since our responses and behavior are driven by our perceptions, we also tend to respond mechanically, almost predictably. Mechanical, habitual responses to life, day after day, go on to creating an inferior destiny. Destiny is not created in one special moment; it is our response to everyday life. A life of habit is a mediocre life.
Everyday life presents us with a choice - the choice of response. As you wake up in the morning, you have a choice – the choice to live a habit or the chance to begin your day with awareness. When you walk into a meeting, you could walk into it with your habitual feeling, attitudes and behaviour or could choose to walk in with greater awareness of your own self. As you begin to pay attention to your thought processes, you will find that very often we are caught in a loop of habit driven thinking and responding. Our feelings are old. Our perceptions are old. They are habit driven. Observe yourself and you would see, every time there is a challenging project, a dead line to be kept up, an office meeting to go to or a party to attend; you go through very similar thought processes. Every time you are questioned, every time you perceive rejection there is the same feeling you go through. It is these repetitive feelings and thoughts that make us feel life is monotonous. When we do not pay attention to our own inner thoughts, we unconsciously get caught in a life of habit. Since our responses and behavior are driven by our perceptions, we also tend to respond mechanically, almost predictably. Mechanical, habitual responses to life, day after day, go on to creating an inferior destiny. Destiny is not created in one special moment; it is our response to everyday life. A life of habit is a mediocre life.
What is fear born out of? It is primarily an emotion linked to some painful experience of the past. It is a learnt response which one uses in defense. Over-cautiousness makes you fearful and as a result your confidence can take a beating. You learn to withdraw from a situation even before being exposed to it. This habit is not one of self-protection; it is one of fear and is therefore not a positive one. It can prevent positive experience and growth. Some organizations use fear of authority to maintain order. When fear of authority becomes popular-culture, creativity, commitment and efficiency take a back seat. Fear does not allow freedom of thought and enquiry and results in imperfect products and imperfect services.