Equanimity

The word equanimity brings to my mind the image of a vast ocean in which different streams come from all sides and completely merge into it but the ocean remains unaffected and continues to ‘be’.  There is a sense of calmness when you look at the ocean, no matter how rough the waves are, we all know the deep underlying calmness which the ocean possesses. In the light of Indian Psychology, this is the attitude which one should adhere to in order to have a fulfilling life.

To walk on the path of self discovery and be one with the spark of the Supreme Power which is present in each one of us, it is essential to build a deep connection with our inner anchor so that we are able to step back and take distance from the action around us and develop a holistic understanding of the situation before we act, and not act simply out of impulse. Being anchored within helps to pause and evaluate the situation and then the action stems from the discriminating will and is not an impulsive reaction.

In any situation it is important to understand the intention behind the action rather than the action itself, the source from where the action is stemming has to be traced because it’s the source which explains the reason for the action as mere action  is just a  response to the thought, once we develop the ability to understand our thought patterns and become aware of the various psychological processes that function within us under various circumstance then, things can really run smooth in life and this can only happen if we live consciously and spend some time with ourselves and take efforts to establish the inner connect. From what I understand, the crucial aspect is the identification of the source of action, understanding of one self and being aware of the state wherein one is and not becoming that state. For e.g., – you are angry, that is a state, but you are not the anger. It is a temporary state that you are experiencing; therefore identifying and understanding the source of that anger is important to device a suitable solution and not just simply reacting to the impulse. Awareness of that sense of separation from the anger in that moment is necessary ,step back and see what makes you angry, but do not identify with the situation. Don’t give in to that state and do not let the energy of anger overpower you, simply step back and observe because if you completely given in to the situation then you will be unable to see the cause and get entangled into the web of actions. This then becomes a vicious circle and takes a lot of effort and energy that in the end leaves us all drained and unhappy.

The same goes with positive emotions as well. If you are happy, enjoy the state of happiness, but don’t lose yourself completely in the emotion of joy that it overpowers you and becomes your weakness. The crux of the matter is to live through the experience and let it go, and not get attached to or identify with it; the intent is not to restrict oneself from the experience, but experience without attachment, is what is important. Real equanimity lies in the experience of bliss in constant interaction with the world, wherein one can interact and be fully present in the world but still not get affected by it.

Based on my understanding, the journey on the path of equanimity is a lifelong process. It is only when one’s mind is silent and free from disturbances can one make an attempt to understand one’s own true nature and embark on the journey of self awareness. One needs to develop that ability, to recognize the source of actions and have a sense of being separate from them and observe them but not get carried away, and work towards maintaining a connection with the inner anchor which would act as a guiding force.

Self awareness is central to the concept of equanimity and achieving that state would require a silent mind and a calm heart as base to help establish a constant connection with the divine. My journey so far has been directed towards growing on this path, and since it is a continuous process, efforts have been taken to be consistent in the process, and I hope everyone who reads this makes an attempt to live life from ‘that’ space.

Posted in IPI, Psychology | Tagged | 2 Comments

A sweet red kiss

musings

Posted in Miscellaneous musings, Poem | Leave a comment

Detaching from a situation while in it

By Prema Sankar

 All of us have our issues or disagreements with certain people or situations, which we address as our “problems”. How much so ever we try to run away from these “problems”, they eventually hit us and hit us hard depending on how far we have tried to run away from them.Earlier I used to feel sad and dejected when confronted by these issues, and get angry with myself, with God, my surroundings and everything; but now I realise that they come up so strongly, as perhaps it is really time for me to outgrow them. They come up in my face for me to emerge strongly out of them.

As a beginner on this path, it is really difficult to stay in tune with my inner self or soul when I get immersed in my so-called situation (I am consciously avoiding the use of the word “problem”). When I am in it, my ego, my vital and all those parts of my outer nature which I am trying to let go/transform, so as to become more and more aligned with my inner nature, come back strongly. I feel this happens due to past conditioning and habit. The old self, because of familiarity, is one’s comfort zone, while the new self which one is in the process of building, is still in the making and taking its form.

When confronted with a difficulty, to step back or detach oneself from the situation is a common advise given by almost all masters and guides. But how does one do it? What helps to step back or detach? In this article I have tried to compile a few points which have helped me in my practice of dealing with my outer nature.

  1. Acceptance:  A complete acceptance of the situation, without denial, without blaming myself or others or the situation itself. It is of course difficult as the mind comes up with lot of judgements, blame game and justifications. Putting all this aside and trying to see things as they are. I also pray for strength and courage to accept the situation. When things came up, I realised I was not reacting, and I was not getting influenced by emotions. I could simply state what was happening. This, for me, was a huge measure as to how much I was able to accept things. Definitely, there is still a long way to go to get completely detached at all times. Just to be able to see the (earlier troubling) situation as an outside occurrence, and the difference in the way I was handling things before and the manner in which I am handling them now seemed a fairly good measure of my personal growth.
  2. Gratitude: Seeing the blessing in the situation and being grateful for it. We do not realise that it is our difficulty that makes us stronger and if we are conscious if it, the same thing helps us to progress on the path. So while being immersed in living the situation, I was also counting all the good things that were happening alongside. I noticed I could identify more and more things I felt grateful for once I started this exercise.
  3. Calmness and Peace:  Trying to avoid worrying or thinking too much about the situation, which would lead to a whirlpool of emotions. Also, not falling prey to a fear attack, saying ‘no’ to negative thoughts etc. Instead, trying to stay calm and peaceful. If I felt that my mind was taking over, then diverting attention (from the disturbing thoughts) by enjoying beauty – of a flower, a butterfly, clouds, beauty of nature etc. These came handy in helping me get in touch with my inner self. Music, meditation etc. of course help, and sometimes just a few deep breaths help in putting me in a good space.
  4. Just let it be: I felt it was best to let things be for a while rather than provoke the issue or give a reaction to it or to people (who I may have felt responsible for my being in that situation). Being neutral (I would like to use the word ‘equanimous’, but I am not yet there) towards people who I do not prefer. If they were my loved ones with whom I was having trouble, then it was relatively easier to let things be as I could focus on their good side and recollect all the good things they had done and were still doing for me. Incidentally, I came across a quote today:“To heal a wound you need to stop touching it”, and it is up to us to apply medicine or herbs for its speedy recovery or let the body heal it in time.
  5. Stay or move forward, never backward:  As part of the detachment exercise, I had overcome a particular feeling with huge difficulty and on that day I was really proud of myself. I had help, yet I had managed to deal with something which I had thought I could not handle. A few days later once again the same feeling started taking over me and I confessed this to my brother who reminded me, “Hey! you had gotten over it, now don’t go back.” When he said that it really hit me, that I must not walk back those few steps which I had already traversed. It is easier to go back as we are familiar with that space, but it is important to not go back as I would have really put myself right into the situation again and all the work done over days would have got undone in a moment.
  6. Faith, Goodness and Hope: “Think Positive” is one statement believers, non-believers, psychologists, laymen and each one of us is so familiar with. This is such a strong statement. Inspite of seeing no solution, or rather, not having enough courage to resolve my situation, yet I had immense hope and faith that I will get out of it in no time. This has really helped me to stay positive, not to react to things and continue to stay in a good space. From where I was feeling my situation was a big elephant in the room, now with time and also stepping back, I feel that the elephant has shrunk and it is only a matter of time before it gets fully cleared.
  7. Forgiveness: Forgiving oneself is the key to stepping back and also to come to a resolution. I was going through a lot of self-blame, guilt etc. Realising that this is totally unwanted and unnecessary was a huge blessing. All these lower forms of energy really put us in a bad space, energetically speaking, it is lowest of low energy vibrations. Thus forgiving oneself, others, and the situation is important to help us detach from the situation. Forgiveness does not mean that what someone or a situation has done to us is alright, but it is merely accepting, not holding a grudge, hatred, waiting to pay back etc. (Hawaiian healing process called ho’oponopono is really a handy way to help us get through a situation, if we are having a hard time forgiving someone.)
  8. Clarity:    I believe having clarity in my own head is the way forward from stepping back to getting into action. I have realized that unclear and vague ideas make matters worse. So with faith in my heart, I am waiting for clarity to dawn on me so that I can outgrow something which is probably a pattern, that has to be resolved over lifetimes.  “Ask and you shall receive” supposedly Jesus said this. Also, whenever I have asked with clarity the universe has gifted it to me with no effort of my own. Meditation has always provided me with answers, so I am relying on it to help me get to the next step.

With gratitude to the situation for all the lessons I am learning, gratitude to the people involved in different ways, and gratitude to the Higher Self and to myself, I end my musings here… with a hope that all of us are successfully able to leave a situation when required and resolve/recover the same situation when it is meant to be.

Posted in All, IPI, Miscellaneous musings, Psychotherapy and counseling, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Notes of a silent flute

On the darkest night
notes of a silent flute
play fire-dance in my heart.
The player sends his invisible breath
to hold me hush within its palm.
Following footsteps of its tunes
I grow invisible too.
One time I’m a bird
resting free atop tall walls.
Another, a foolish slave
drunk on a drop of love.
I’m lost to my world now.
Re-entered, I find a dance
in each exchange.
The lines that make things visible
are laughing at themselves,
bursting at turned-coat hems.
My dizziness blurts it out
that with pockets full of safety,
I was rotting
on an unreliable edge of the universe.
Meanwhile,
the sunset and the sky
grow brighter in my eyes.
And I know I have arrived
when I swallow them
and taste sweet drops
of their love-making
behind lit clouds of infinity.

Posted in Poem, Psychology | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Guru-Disciple Relationship — Part-4

That human relationships are complicated would be a huge understatement. They are much more than just complicated, they are often dark, murky, and messed up. Who of us has not experienced the sheer frustration and despair of not having our expectations met? Or the agonizing pain of having a broken heart?  Or the complex and convoluted rationale behind justifying the hurt we have caused to a loved one? Human relationships are often a perfect recipe for disaster.

Given that my views on human relationships are sceptical and often bordering on the cynical, I was therefore happily surprised when I spoke to the disciples about their relationship with their Guru. A whole new aspect of human relationships emerged. Unlike the usual parameters of attachment, selfishness, insecurity, desire, fear that define most human relationships, the Guru-disciple relationship bases itself on some of the most beautiful ideals of human existence. It is a relationship that is built on profound love and respect, real trust and freedom and a natural and simple obedience. The central purpose of the relationship is to help and guide the disciple to undertake his inner search for the Self.

During my interactions with the disciples (see my first blog) the following few aspects of the relationships were the most common.

1. The relationship was described as being deep and personal and was experienced in various forms, for example, the Guru was seen as a mother and the disciple as a child, the Guru perceived as a boss and the disciple as a worker or the Guru as the Divine and the disciple as a devotee. All the disciples I spoke to shared a very personal and living relationship with their Guru. According to them, with time, the relationship had grown which meant that the contact with their Guru had become very concrete. Their questions were answered, problems and difficulties were solved, things easily fell into place, and definite guidance was provided.

The disciples also felt an innate need to live according to the words of their Guru. They were all sincerely busy trying to put into practice all that was expected of them from their Guru.

2. Another very interesting aspect of the relationship was that in spite of little or no physical contact with their Guru, the disciples still based their relationship on a total sense of power and presence of the Guru. A deep and concrete connection was continuously maintained in their lives. They knew that they were being watched over constantly and that help and guidance was always around. The physical absence of the Guru forced the disciples to find the Guru within. I was surprised to find that so many of the disciples expressed how concretely they felt their Guru’s presence. There were many ways through which a connection was established; It could be through reading his books or through meditation, visions, or dreams, or it could be a silent exchange through prayer, or just a simple contact through the Ashram atmosphere. They all agreed that the physical absence (though hard at times) forced them to find the Guru within themselves. In short, the Guru was their inspiration, their support, and the one person who never failed them.

The most remarkable aspect of this relationship was the impact it had on the disciples. It brought the disciples “back to their real Self”, as one of them expressed. The essence of it has been the need to not just love the Guru but to become like him eventually. It is this intense need to merge into That Oneness that carries forth the disciple in his journey of disciple-hood.

 

 

 

 

Posted in IPI, Psychology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Last give and take

One day a sick pauper
undid the knots
that tied his tattered coat together.

Down fell the murk
free came the stench
from fresh red wounds
that secretly loved their colour.

He collected his dirt in a bowl
and took it to the sea
and spoke with the dancing waves.

“This my last give and take.
Year after year
the greedy holes in my coat
ask for more to fill their hunger.
It’s empty pockets openly refuse
to store away my fear.
What use is such a cover?
Slaughter me naked instead!”

A glistening smile from the sea
delivered him a message
in a sun-lit bottle.

“Tired little pauper,
In exchange for your imaginary coat
I trade with you a secret.
I swim inside you and
your wish is my command.”

Posted in Poem, Psychology | 4 Comments

Stress and Sadhana

By Prema Sankar

This is quite a personal journey and I am intending to write it in as detached and generic manner as possible so that I can myself look back and apply it in other situations in life.

I have read so many times about the mind+body+soul connection. Since I began my inner journey, I have been testing these theories on myself. I use Louise Hay’s ‘causes of symptoms’ to know (one of the Sites: http://alchemyofhealing.com/causes-of-symptoms-according-to-louise-hay/) the meta-level of the problem in the body.

For example in the case of coughs: A desire to bark at the world. “Listen to me!”

One time I might be suppressing the desire to shout out or scream at my workspace, another time at my parents or my partner, siblings, friends or myself! So this boarder picture from the website, gives lead to dig into the personal subliminal issue.

Knowing the Why? The cause. Why is something happening in my body or what is making it happen? And with these clues from the mind, body relation I have received an answer from within me always, whether I act on it or not is a different issue, but the body does give an answer.

One Saturday evening, I was planning to travel to begin something anew but then everything changed. I was suffering from intense back pain. Seeing me in pain a friend referred me to a local physiotherapist. He asked me many questions in order to try and figure out the trigger of the pain. We discussed all possibilities and then he mentioned stress. I plainly said ‘possible’ but at that point I knew precisely, I had invited all this upon me.

Stress — was I aware of it? Yes and No.

Reflecting on it, I saw there are two culprits. First is ofcourse me or rather the unaware me who let the mind surf the wave of negative thoughts and the other is the ‘outside entity’. By outside entity I mean social conditionings, social norms, societal pressures, well-wishers, family and friends.

I do not blame either of the culprits.

Someone might say or give an opinion, which might be true for them – however their opinion is coming from the same conditioning and they too do not know how to think outside the box. (This video helped a lot to get that insight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AegLdB7UI4U)

So they might be talking to you out of real concern but they also come from the place where years have gone in grueling their minds to ‘this is right’ and’ that is wrong’.

If the first culprit had enough strength or awareness; it would have stayed really untouched by the second, when I think of it. However I tell myself that I have just started unlearning the years of learning and realizing there is “no right” and “no wrong”; it just IS and it is also a sadhana to keep reminding that to myself.

When something unexpected hits us, start rolling the dice from square one and get on with the game. Something I have been realizing over and over from the lessons I learn is that, it is not a fresh start – it is like weaving a new thread in the inner circle – so it seems like we are at the starting point but it is a new weave! So it is not a fall, it is in fact a step of progress.

Multiple things including STRESS caused this back ache — because of which I cannot anymore carry out any of my beautifully & mentally laid out plans – instead I am home bound and restricted like never before. I could easily get stressed again for all these obvious ailments and that would bring only more ‘dis-eases’. This vicious cycle or ‘the loop in a loop’ dawned on me and by Grace my mind just started spinning in a positive way (or may be it wasn’t the mind at all, by then the mind was out and something else took over).

The first day I was sad, dejected and had lost faith; well not really as I believe we never completely lose faith, and if we do then we cannot exist. Faith and Hope is what drives us. I started looking within, started looking for the strength inside me. I started being grateful for this time for myself.

I started my exercises and do it regularly and making that my meditation time. I would focus, concentrate and ‘just be’ while I exercised. The more I focused the better I felt, simultaneously I continued physiotherapy as well.

Being an active person, it is quite difficult to box all my vital energy and stay at home all the time.

As I am not yet The Dragon Warrior, I wasn’t finding the inner peace all the time. I saw myself having anger outbursts or frustrations or the ego strongly building up self-destructive thoughts and at those times I would make a self note and get out of the situation.

So here is how I am trying to manage my Sadhana in the midst of my “so called” situation: (I am choosing not to use the word problem – as anything is a problem only if we think it is a problem – otherwise it just is a life lesson or an experience or a situation)

  • Meditating as many times (every 1.5hrs I try along with exercises. Some attempts succeed and others fail as mind is also not used to the calmness and peace.)
  • Diary writing (this helps a lot; while writing down I feel many parts of me back out and a true voice comes out – sometimes I feel this as a conversation with my soul or with God or with my true inner self, though it is quite a task to be in that inner zone)
  • Reading books that shut my mind and touch my soul
  • Choosing to meet and talk only to those people that matter
  • Self-Observation  (what I mean by this is I try and keep a part of me detached and just observe with no judgments, no corrections, no saying this is right or this is wrong nor do this or that. It is quite a task in itself)
  • Kicking out any negative thought I catch (this is the toughest one)
  • Some mornings I say affirmations. (I am still not sure how this works; but this is just an add on to whatever other physical medication. I feel good and happy after it just like listening to Music, so I do it. )
  • Music that grounds me (all of us have some music which just lets us BE and nothing matters at that time)
  • Nature.  Just getting out of the space and walking outside for fresh air and open feeling.

Now two-three weeks since the unbearable pain, I feel much better and confident that I will be healthy super soon. From where I could not sit up for two minutes – I could sit down to write this article.

Ending this note, hoping all of us find our inner peace through our Sadhana in such a way that nothing outside bothers us anymore.

 

 

 

Posted in All, Miscellaneous musings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Midnight stories

Late last night my brother reached out to me to chat. Unsure of his way forward professionally, he mumbled that the endless advice from those concerned was only confusing him. “Why are you listening to them then?”, I asked comfortably from the sideline. “The thing is…I don’t really know what I want, and maybe they do.” He had all my attention hereon; in that moment I felt so much respect for him for being able to say it out aloud: I don’t know.

After hanging up the phone I lay awake for a long time, grateful for what our conversation had brought me.

His nervous voice took me back to my own story until a few years ago. Sharing the same set of parents who would give their life to fulfill our dreams, how was he to say that he didn’t know?

***

For a long time I found it far more comfortable to go along in some haphazard, occasionally-conforming, mostly-rebelling fashion with the fleeting and often contradicting suggestions of close-ones, hoping that by considering one option after another, something would fill the void. If nothing else, it gave some temporary relief from thought-loops oozing of guilt and pressure: to become financially independent, to look after my family the way they had looked after me, to show them I’m worth something. Feelings of incapacity were narrowing me down to the point of suffocation: how was it that the whole world was moving along so well while I wasn’t getting an inch closer to becoming some one?

Where in all of this did I allow any space to contemplate over what I really believed in? No, that was too selfish. With all the love and freedom they had allowed me, the least I could do was find a nice little piece for myself in an apparently secure bubble that they had built conscientiously through many years of blood and sweat, so that we didn’t have to see the rough side of life as they previously did.

Not so long ago I grew tired of playing this game; despite nothing being denied to me, nothing was truly making me happy. Having lost any clear sense of myself in the twisted little story I had built, filled with defenses, justifications, guilt, anger and resentment, I hit a dead-end: I was turning on my self and the only thing remaining to admit was that I really didn’t know what I wanted.

Who was to blame?

***

The good thing about finally getting fed-up with myself was that I desperately wanted to find something more; in a confusing world inside and outside, I was seeking something real for a change, to lead the way.

So I went searching for something unknown so far. As a logical progression, I had to let go of most things known. In my case, it was quite violent; it meant letting go of my entire life as I had known it, a process of untangling a self-destructive story I had grown so comfortable playing victim in. It meant admitting to myself that I had been dishonest and inauthentic to the deeper ideals I had often preached to others. It dawned upon me that until I didn’t take the pain to figure my mess out solo, no one on the outside would know how either. They could at best, reach out to me from their own binding stories.

The period that followed was painful. Breaking several hearts along the way, dreams and expectations shattered, all sense of security shattered, my loved ones were left pretty troubled.

***

Somewhere into our conversation, my brother said, “Thing is, something deep inside me knows what I need to do in each moment, but then all the other voices take over. I don’t know if I have it in me to be selfish and forget about everyone else and just follow that.”

Having spent many days in the stifling company of guilt, stemming essentially from a similar feeling of failing at being who I should be, I could smile at it last night as he spoke, and the accompanying calm whispered to me that I had grown. More than saying it out aloud to him, I felt I was summing up to myself the little I had learnt in this time:

“Selfish to me is you giving in to all those voices, giving in to this small little person you allow yourself to be, that the world takes you to be and your constant preoccupation to prove them right or wrong. All those who love us, their concern and advise comes almost always from a space of deep attachment- an attachment finding its roots in a commitment, rather a need to protect you, trying to steer you into whatever they feel is best for you, entirely unconscious perhaps of the contagion their stress and worry carries. Somewhere they’ve already decided what they want from you; be it the case of the narrow-minded parent dictating the career you must choose, without which you risk losing their approval and support, or the more liberal approach on the other end: “follow your dreams… just in a manner that will land you safe and secure”. And to somehow succeed in rolling you along, willingly or unwillingly to this eventual end, they direct all their life’s effort, expecting almost instinctually an appreciation at the very least, by some unsaid understanding that you will adhere to a similar philosophy. And you on the other end, despite having somewhere quite a deep sense that this may not necessarily hold true for you, feed once more into this attachment by giving your consent and being a part of this pre-decided and stagnating game: playing into it or then against it; it hardly matters. This to me is selfish, the easy way out. Perhaps you cannot change their stories for them or the way they view yours, but you can certainly change your own.”

***

If nothing else, my little experience has repeatedly affirmed that we didn’t come here to secure ourselves financially or drown in material comfort; that in fact there is no such thing, considering those with money only feel less and less secure as they build. We didn’t come here either, to prove that we are indeed selflessly growing into whomever our loved ones expected, in their genuinely caring but inevitably limited ways. We each dropped down here with a purpose far larger than this constant activity of duck and cover, and in that too, we’re often shielding ourselves with one hand while flapping the other saying, “hit me!” Regardless of how miserable it makes us, we choose again and again some mechanical comfort over any real attempt at arriving at something that may just prove more meaningful to us.

Constantly running zigzag among contradictions, we find it easy to point fingers and offer solutions to others confessing trouble- advising them to walk out for instance, of a messy relationship or an unsatisfying job, but to entertain the idea of rocking your own boat, to face the dirty mirror and challenge stubborn self-set notions- no, thank you; there come an endless list of reasons carved over time by our skillful minds as to why it can all wait.

It was in breaking out of this cycle, admitting that none of it felt true to my being- not the security, nor the guilt, not the race of getting somewhere – that I finally allowed the space for something more. And for that I had to create distance, psychologically at the very least; to zone out of what my world thought of me and what I thought of myself as a result, because until then my sense of self was entirely dependent on them.

***

A pain accompanied this self-destruction, a slow and steady breaking up of all that I had known, of all that I was so attached to. Even still, right from the first day of dropping my guard I felt I could finally breathe; I no longer felt responsible for everyone else, I no longer had to pretend like I had control. My story crumbled to pieces, and at last I found myself inhabiting a wider air, free of expectation.

Two years into stepping foot on this inward-journey, I feel I’ve finally gotten glimpses of freedom; freedom from self-tied chains, from trying so hard to squeeze into or out of the little box- the box being all important either way- that had my name labeled on it all this while.

In my appeal for something more, I was sincere and honest. And the good thing about being sincere and honest is that the universe answers you in proportion to it, and in your own customised little way. I have begun to find what I was seeking the whole time; for once I feel like I’m growing; there is movement in breaking away from my messy spirals. In letting go, I found guidance in something far beyond my limited capacity, asking me to simply allow myself to be led.

***

Perhaps those we share our lives with matter to us so deeply because they’re simply extensions of ourselves, additional voices laying out all the options we can choose from at any given time; my reactions to them reflected in the most warped ways, what was really going on within.

No matter how much they tried to help and support me, they couldn’t have possibly known what I was to do, because the answer lay inside me, some miles deeper on the other side of I don’t know. And the knowledge that my guidance lies within, as do all the tools to unravel it was far more enriching than any money or power-driven dream that I had previously envisioned.

Seeing me at peace on a journey that unfolds whilst joyously celebrating its own freedom, I learnt that it is only by practising my deeper ideals and giving them a concrete form that those around me will come to respect them too.

***

Every now and then I meet people who tell me that it is because I am amongst the privileged that I can afford to speak this way. Certainly this has truth to it; it is because my parents have worked so hard all these years, but more importantly- because they found it in themselves to suspend their own stories and lend me a support and faith that they had perhaps never imagined either, bearing their pain as I bore mine- that I could allow myself the time and space to find a deeper meaning to life rather than fearfully carrying forward the same old story. And for this I am truly grateful to them. But for them to accept the huge uncertainty of change, it was on me to muster some initial strength to insist on my truth, to slowly and steadily see it through by making it a living reality.

Finally it’s beginning to make sense to me, what god knows who said, that with true freedom comes great responsibility.

***

Posted in Psychology, Society | Tagged | 2 Comments

Indian Psychology as I see it

Psychology as a discipline is now more than 100 years old in India, still the term ‘Indian Psychology’ is new to us and is interpreted differently by different people; some believe it to be limited to the natives of the country while others take it as something psychologists in India do.  In actuality, ‘Indian Psychology’ talks about the universal psychological processes that the ancient seers in India discovered through meditation, deep contemplation and by studying themselves. It does not talk about any one particular practice (religious) or anything that is external or that pertains only to a particular set of people.  It speaks about systematic ways to observe oneself and be more aware of our own psychological processes that subsequently assist us in living a better life. Here in this blog, I have attempted to answer a few common concerns one encounters when one thinks of Indian Psychology.

That brings us to the very first question that I often face whenever I speak about the subject, “how can you prove Indian psychology is more effective than Western psychology?”

To start with, everything that exists has a purpose of its own and the right way to look at things is not from the perspective of comparison but to see them in their relevant context and through their effectiveness. Understanding the importance and relevance of one thing does not preclude or make the other thing in question less or more, rather it helps us to apply that understanding to the other aspects as well. The paradigm of western psychology includes a wide range of processes and is mainly behaviour-centric. It talks about observing the ‘external’, the one that is seen, which in certain situations is the requirement (the effects of advertisement on consumer behaviour, for example, or sports psychology) but psychology does not limit itself to the external. In our everyday life, the source of action lies in the intention and to study the intention one needs to explore the deeper aspects of self. Indian psychology tools like self-inquiry and self-observation help in looking beyond behaviour to understand the source of who we are and what we do. It is worthwhile to spend some time on self-inquiry to try and understand ourselves based on not only our thoughts, but explore and unravel various other motivations that guide and direct our actions. We feel we know ourselves the best, but in actuality we are often not aware of the real and often hidden sources of our actions. So, the more we work on our self and unravel the hidden layers of our personality, the more we will be able to help the world. To understand the importance of this self-work, one must realize that the more efficient our tool, the better will be the results that will accrue, and in the end, our own human nature is our most important tool. Indian psychology practices and methods help us to become more aware, and once we have a heightened sense of self-awareness, we will not only see the world in a different light, but also develop more mastery over ourselves.

Another thing that’s often asked is how one can offer counselling to people who do not follow a spiritual path, and address their common concerns.

Here I would like to bring forth the importance of our perception and how we see the world. The common misconception is that the ‘spiritual path’ is something different from our everyday living and that one needs to give up certain things to walk on that path. But if you really understand the essence, there is no special path known as the spiritual path where you do different kind of things; it is simply doing the same things differently by being more self aware, seeing things in a more conscious light, and being able to trace the psychological processes that happen inside in a particular situation. Indian psychology talks about a life-affirming spirituality, where you continue to live the life you have chosen to live; there is no diversion of route, but there is more care in the way you drive.  For example, people face a lot of problems in relationships, be it with a partner, parent or child. Being more aware of the inner process in a particular situation will help you to see the situation independent of the persons involved because of your understanding of the ‘self’ and you will be less caught in the momentary surface level reactions as you will be able to step back from the situation and take more effective decisions. Constant awareness and practice helps you evolve and for that you don’t have to stop following your routine, rather you should follow your routine less mechanically and with more awareness of the processes and their implications.

Next question in line is “do you need to turn to a Guru to solve all psychological problems?”

While answering this question, it is essential to understand the literal translation of the word  ‘guru’, which is described as someone who takes us away from darkness and leads us towards light. In the light of Indian Psychology, it is not a physical body in the form of a guru but your belief in those thoughts and ideas that take you away from darkness. It can be in any form and if you really are a self-aware individual then you will find the guiding light within you which will help you solve all your problems. As they say all knowledge is an unfolding, so the essence of the ‘guru’ is present in each one of us. If we operate from that state of awareness, our life will be full of light and we will be able to walk on the sunlit path with our guru forever in our hearts. It’s not an external phenomenon, it’s internal. Tuning into our inner guiding light is being constantly in touch with the guru within.

And the last is a very interesting question which I attempt to answer below. It is the question, how would you counsel an atheist?

As per my understanding of the word atheist – he is somebody who does not believe in the existence of God.  Here it is important to understand the concept/interpretation of the word ‘God’. Indian psychology talks about consciousness as the source of existence which has no one form in particular and so it is not something external. It is who you are in your essence. It’s crucial to understand the other person’s understanding and then work around that. Inquire more in terms of their idea about the source of their being. If they have a problem with form, talk about the energy aspect.

Every individual is unique and has a particular set of ideas and beliefs. If each one of us takes up the task of self-inquiry and presents to the world a more aware version of ourselves, it will not only help us live a better and content life, it will also make the world a better place to live.

Posted in IPI, Psychology, Teaching IP | 4 Comments

Trying to deal with the resentment one faces from others

“This human being is a guest house. Every morning there is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honourably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

― Jalaluddin Rumi

Life, on the whole, has been good and kind to me. Relationships add that extra special ingredient which adds meaning to life. They are the crucible wherein we are chiselled and polished to glow and shine in the manner we are meant to be. Generally, the polishing involves chipping, scrubbing and scraping…and this comes to us largely through the pitfalls we face in relationships. We have often talked and read about resentment that we experience within ourselves towards others. But how does one deal with the experience of facing resentment that reaches us from others?

Since childhood I have been wary of unpleasantness and disharmony in relationships. As a result, I never had any kind of a disagreement with anyone in school, college, with friends, etc. For me, any kind of a disagreement somehow spelt the end of that relation, and I did not find it in myself to handle the emotions that accompanied that predicament. So: not a harsh word, no reaction at being used, mistreated or glossed over as though I was inconsequential or non-existent; not a sound came from me to oppose any such treatment that was dealt to me….I absorbed all that, sometimes feeling that I deserved that (because I have a propensity for feeling guilty and responsible for anything wrong that happens to people around me), and, perhaps, out of cowardice, because I felt that any voice of dissent would threaten my relations with the people concerned. People and relations have been almost sickeningly important for me, to the point of allowing others to demean me, treat me any which way. And I have learnt this lesson of life the bitter way: when people feel you can take any kind of indignity they mete out to you, they take it as their right to do so, they begin to believe that you deserve such treatment and may even punish you if you so much as even show some kind of discomfort at receiving their meanness, even otherwise very well-intentioned people!

As I grew up, my patience to tolerate this kind of behaviour became thin. On some such occasions, it felt as though years of suppressed anger, defiance, rebellion sprang forth. People around me did not associate that kind of response with me, nor understood the magnitude of my response to a relatively small cue. Could it be that my propensity of accepting unpleasant treatment as deserved and the opposite as undeserved ended up making me receive more and more of people’s resentment?

*
*      *

Whatever I have understood of IP helps me to recognize that actually the problem is mine, i.e., my openness to accepting blame, taking responsibility for others’ hurt and pain, and therefore a deserving candidate for their anger, hostility and resentment, is my own responsibility. In addition, my getting affected by their consequent behaviour towards me is also a task I have to deal with at my level, and the solution is not that they should stop behaving in that manner. Tough job to do, because I haven’t learnt how to deal with it, as, since childhood, I’ve always tried to take the easy and safe way out by keeping people happy and appeased. But high time I grow up! I understand the importance and need for it, because if I learn it, I will hurt less, and as long as I don’t learn to deal with this within myself, I will go on hurting and wasting my energy on things I do not want to spend my energy on. Also, the fact that this problem is served to me on a platter on several fronts at the same time, is perhaps an indication that it is time to take the bull by the horns and confront the issue. Thankfully, my circumstances are not giving me a chance to escape.

During situations and interactions where I feel the other’s resentment, hostility and anger towards me, they give rise to certain reactions from my side, which vary from being defensive, feeling small with a sense of lack and being inadequate, not good enough, a need to withdraw and escape, and feel guilty about my presence. Sometimes they give rise to a counter resentment and anger from my side as well. And these reactions go on simmering inside me even when I walk away from the situation where they got triggered. All this leads to persistent spirals of negative thoughts, repetitions of the event in my mind, trying to understand what happened: “Why did it happen?” “Why did the other person behave in this manner?” “Could I have behaved differently?”, and so on and on.

A part of me watches me doing all this and draws my attention to the futility of this whole enterprise, gently nudging me to let it go; I can see how it blocks and saps a large chunk of my energy which I could have used more fruitfully… but the older and stronger part (made stronger by years of habit and deeply carved grooves) wins from the more conscious part in me.

A lot of my time is getting wasted in these enterprises. And it doesn’t stop here. The distaste created by this whole exercise strains and affects other close relations. A few hours, sometimes a day, sometimes more are simply usurped by this menace.

Strange as it may sound, I feel grateful that it waxes so eloquent in my face, I can no more sidetrack it, ignore or brush it under the carpet to work out at a later date when I am better prepared or stronger, nor can I continue being a victim of it.

I try to understand the process: starting from why I easily accept blame, feel responsible for people’s (in close circuit) pain, am hyper-sensitive to some people and take very heavily their responses. What do I fear? What do I expect or not expect from them? What in their behaviour shows their resentment and hostility towards me? Why do I spend so much time and energy on those people whom I would like to avoid or stay away from, so much so, that in the process, I start taking distance from those who actually love and care for me? What is this strange psychology? I get some answers, see my stupidity in the whole drama, but the real answer still evades me…

I try to adopt various means to shift from being a passive recipient of people’s resentment to a position where it all falls off my back as water on a duck’s back. Even if I notice it, it shouldn’t affect me. But easier said than done!

I ask for help, for Their presence to help me wade through the periods when I have to be in such situations. Sometimes it works, and other times, my smallness gets the better of my efforts.

Someone advises me to stay very quiet and watch during such moments and gently allow something else to work…. it feels do-able. But I am unable to do it every time the situation arises. Sometimes taking a distance helps, looking upon the other’s behaviour as one would at a kid’s, and thus letting the other person do what he or she likes, without being harshly affected by the same. But these are all touch and go moments … and every time it is effortful.

Another response which comes to me is ‘love’…. to counter the problem I’m facing with love, but I have absolutely no clue how and whether I am capable of doing it. I don’t think this comes from me, because I don’t feel ‘love’ in such situations, on the contrary! So, for this to come to me as a solution? It is too premature to say anything about it … I want to see how and whether it stays, seeps in. How does it go?

I don’t know whether as a result of my efforts in this direction, or more likely, simply on its own, but very fleetingly, on some occasions I had the experience that my usual customary responses of becoming tight, guarded, defensive, resentful etc. were replaced by being not affected, by a certain inner joy which came from Their presence, a spontaneous warmth, acceptance, and love for the other person, and the space and freedom it afforded me because my energy was not blocked in the usual responses… And this now has become my motivation to wipe out this groove in my repertoire of behaviour.

There is a strong and deep need to simply let it fall off as something which is an atavism, which has lived itself out for more than long enough. It is time that this is laid to rest. I feel tired catering to it any more….

But I know it has still not left me….

I have nothing conclusive to say; as yet, it is a work in progress…

Posted in Psychology | Tagged , | 4 Comments