Same Territory. New Vistas.
Welcome to the 53rd edition of the Lighthouse!
Between the incessant newsfeed, mind numbing headlines, and bombardment of notifications, I am grateful you're taking time off to read this. Thank you for your giving me your most precious asset - time; but I'd like to take that a little further now and say, thank you for giving me two of your most precious assets - time and attention. I was talking to someone about the balancing act of money and time, and I felt this - "Money is a two way street, and time is a one way street. Your attention as the asphalt used to pave these streets." Over a period of time I've come to guard my time and attention fiercely. I could damn well spend a full day not doing anything - for the sake of leisure, but tell me to spend the same time reading the news or something like that, I won't take that road. What's the difference you ask? One of them is nourishing, the other, well, the less said the better.
Of late, I've felt like a switch has been flicked, once flicked cannot be undone sort of thing. And when this happened, the whole world around me appeared to be more fascinating, the people that populate it more mesmerising. A culmination of various factors led to this, but most importantly, it involved unlearning my rigid life philosophy, understanding life was not all about spraying platitudes and throwing a bunch of stuff I've read, but not lived. Along the same lines, comes today's post, but still, I’m not sure. (-:
Same Territory, New Vistas
No matter how hard I think about things I always walk into this familiar territory - about awareness, dissociation, identification, about comparison, and finally suffering because of all the items on those list. It appears as if my mind is slowly coming to a point of realisation that interfering with things and trying to control them or bending them to my will only leads to suffering. Nothing else. This entire idea has taken up so much headspace, it is sometimes difficult to think about writing about anything else at all.
The journey started off with Stoicism and ended up with breaking every notion I held about life. It was more like going at life with a hammer, rather than working with a chisel. With a chisel you shape things, with a hammer you destroy things. The old is now destroyed. What remains are the shards, the pieces. What I do with them is entirely up to me. I can make anything with them or I can even let them remain as they are. It’s as if my understanding of life and its many mysteries - for 36 years of my existence was a bluff. And I’ve called it now. Here, at these cross-roads, sometimes appearing cynical, I require a fresh start. To look at things with a brand new pair of eyes without rose-tinted glasses.
This approach has crept into my meditation practice as well. What started as focussing on one thing - mostly my breath in mindful meditation as it is called - has transformed into a session without any hinges. I sit and observe the monkey mind - watch what it does and where it goes. It’s a hard thing to do. Every now and then I forget my role as an observer and identify with my thoughts - and when that happens, its like focusing on one particular thing, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid in the first place. It’s going to take a lot of practice to get this right, especially for an hour. Imagine carrying on this mindset for the entire day - always being the observer, watching what the “me” does, and everyday for the rest of your life. This requires me to switch from being deductive to experiential, which is what awareness demands - because only when I am an observer I can be aware. When I am an enforcer, acting in the situation, I cannot observe. Then what of experience? Shall I let the experience happen and not give a damn? I think so. Yes.
As I grind these tenets into a fine paste to apply as a salve, I can’t help but ask myself another question - am I expecting too much? To think reality is all there is and it is the truth? Am I readying myself for another big bang event with these loftily held theories exploding? A stronger, more powerful explosion? I have no answers - but if that happens, then I must expect that also to be reality itself. Something I hold dear today can vanish tomorrow; for that is the nature of reality - to take its own course, and not my course.
Now that I’ve tried to poke holes in my theory of reality distilled from various individuals - right from the Mahabharata to D’Mello - everyone was shouting the same thing. It was I who couldn’t listen. It was not that I didn’t want to listen, but I couldn’t. There’s a universe of difference between the two - didn’t is not wanting to do something on purpose. Couldn’t is when you’re trying your best but you’re not able to get it. I was in the latter camp - I’ve read a good number of spiritual texts, but I never understood what they meant or said. Last year I read two books* that would encompass everything I’ve read till date and put them into beautiful context. It was as if I had the whole picture right there in front of me, but I was too close to it. I had to take a step back, zoom out to see the entire picture. I was seeing the pixels and trying to make sense of the image - that’s never possible. You’re only going to see squares - big chunky squares. I took a few steps back and now I begin to see the entire picture. It's so beautiful. I’m a little sad that it was there all along and I couldn’t see it earlier, but like they say, better late than never. There’s considerably lesser anguish, more peace.
*Jiddu’s Talks with American Students, and Awareness by Anthony De Mello.
Something interesting to read
Chapter 21 of ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.
"It is the time I have wasted for my rose-- "said the little prince so he would be sure to remember.
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose. . ."
"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
The Enchiridion, by Epictetus
The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.
Something interesting to watch
Strangely enough, I came across this video of Jiddu after writing what I wrote. I’m a little flummoxed now. (-:
Here’s something to listen to over the weekend
The Call of the Valley
My first exposure to Hindustani Classical music, in its instrumental form was to this album. Once again, over the classic audio tape. It has held me in raptures ever since. This album is proof that music can be simple, but soulful. (-:
Here’s a thought I’m ruminating on:
“Might it not be the case that that extremely foolhardy and fateful philosophical invention, first devised for Europe, of the ‘free will’, of man’s absolute freedom to do good or evil, was chiefly thought up to justify the idea that the interest of the gods in man, in man’s virtue, could never be exhausted?” ― Nietszche
Thanks for staying with me till the end.
Have a great Sunday y’all! 🍻
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