Why do we become Conscious?

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I sat asking this question to myself, for even if you awaken spiritually, and become fully conscious, it is not sufficient to satisfy our mind. It wants to know why we are conscious too.

Given that my mind is the instrument I use to talk to my soul, it is a circular question – effectively becoming equivalent to my mind asking why it has done something. It is similar to you picking up a cup absent-mindedly and wondering, why you picked it up.

Upon pondering this further, we come to the realization that if we have ‘woken up’, we must have been asleep. And if we had been asleep, our minds must have been working in the background, and thus we must have lived a dream until now. Therefore, our entire life until now was a dream. And we merely awoke.

What woke us? Was it an alarm of sorts? Yes – but the alarm was inside you – the voice of your soul. Your soul is the alarm that keeps ringing for 2 hours, while you keep pressing the snooze button trying to go back to sleep. Ah, isn’t sleep wonderful? Society’s job is to keep you asleep. Society is your personal sandman, built by you to keep you asleep.

Then what woke you up now, and not earlier? Well, for some of us, it takes time to listen to our soul alarm, some of us are deeper sleepers. Some of us are too tired to hear the alarm, and prefer to ignore it and remain asleep. Some of us are in pain, similar to being caught in a fire and suffocating to death, but have no energy to get up and get out of the fire – in short to wake up. So, we have remained asleep until now, remained unconscious so to speak.

Why did we fall asleep then? Perhaps we arrived from a long journey, from another plane. Time is relative – on this plane, we may sleep for hours at night; but from an existential perspective, we have slept for lifetimes. Circumstances have changed around us, civilizations may have risen and fallen and yet we slept through it all. Such was our exhaustion, lethargy and the compelling nature of our circumstances. Perhaps our mind, body and soul were too injured in our journey to this plane and needed to recover. Unconsciousness was the only way it could gain rest. And rested it has, for eons.

Waking for us, becoming spiritually conscious, has thus been a struggle similar to waking up from sleep. We resist it at first, happy in our dreams. Until we begin to feel our body tossing about on our bed. But we roll over and go back to sleep. We prefer our dreams to the reality that awaits upon awakening. But soon, our dreams turn into nightmares, we suffer. There is no escape from this suffering, the nightmare seems to have no end.

That is when we realize there is no way to end this suffering, this nightmare, except by waking up. Sleep seems to be a poor choice to the light streaming through our windows from the sunlight of our soul. Our soul urges us to wake up and we finally listen to our alarm, gratefully this time and wake up.

Once fully awake, we wonder- how anyone could ever have fallen asleep when a beautiful morning is beckoning us from outside. We wonder how we never heard the birds chirping before, caught up in the mists of our unconscious state. We look around us and see our world still asleep – we try to wake our peers but realize only a few stir.

We write blogs, give sermons, conduct seminars on awakening, yet no one seems to want to awaken. Everyone is able to hear your words, but they seem to be present physically and mentally and absent spiritually. All you are able to do is hope that something of what you said has penetrated their dreams.

Why? The only thing you can hope for… as an awake, conscious person is to help others realize they are sleeping when their nightmares begin. For all of us have uncomfortable dreams, even the best of us. Those who don’t realize it is a dream suffer, those who do quickly jump up on the bed and glance around wide-eyed. We realize we cannot make others conscious, only help them know they are dreaming when ‘they’ decide it is time for them to wake up.

We realize consciousness was our solitary journey – everyone wakes up at different times. Our waking is not in our control, our sleeping was not in our control either. We can only wait for others to join us, as we plod to our spiritual kitchen and get ourselves a cup of coffee.

Will we fall asleep again? Very possibly, for we may get tired being awake forever. Thus, we realize consciousness is not a goal, but an interval for us to enjoy before we gratefully embrace sleep again at the start of the next leg of our spiritual journey to the nothingness we came from.

Realizing your True Self- Understanding the Meaning of Surrender

One of the hardest or shall I say most difficult concepts to understand in spirituality is surrender.

Most people view surrender as just giving up their life’s duties and trusting it all to God or Life or Nature or the name they prefer for a higher power. Surrender is not abdication of your responsibilities. Which brings us to the next question- who are you responsible for? And equally importantly, who are you responsible to?

We are born with our bodies and minds. Some of us are born intelligent, some of us not so. I shall be straightforward here, but it takes intelligence to know you are intelligent, but a far greater intelligence to know you are not the most intelligent. Only an intelligent person can know how dumb he or she is, how little he/ she knows. It is therefore easy to get caught up in an appreciation of our intelligence, for who better can appreciate the vastness, diversity and uniqueness of our intelligence than ourselves? Some of us are given parents who constantly point out how intelligent we are, in school and college – this adds to our misconception that our intelligence is ours – that our intelligence belongs to us.

Let us go into this delusion further and see where it leads us.

Intelligence is not just about our minds but about our bodies too. A beautiful woman is born with a body that is ‘intelligent’ enough to realize the power of attractiveness. Her looks help open doors to jobs, relationships and networks that others may find more difficult to access. This is no less true for an intelligent man, but given the role of biology as it plays out, a man may likely create or pursue a persona of power, as compared to a persona of vulnerability and trust that a woman may pursue. Again, all of us are both male and female to varying extents and a woman can rely on her masculine side to obtain power as much as a man can rely on charm (his feminine side) to get ahead. So, we see that our bodies are intelligent too, not just our minds.

Our protagonists above are often ignorant of this fact and attribute this intelligence to themselves. They begin taking credit for all of their social and professional success and thanks to magazines that idolize success, social media that encourages likes and shares, this is not difficult. This goes on until they age. Death comes to us all, not just in bodily form (where we leave our bodies) but also to our minds (say we get Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s). Sometimes, our minds simply age, our memories begin to fade, our hands are not that steady any more, our skin begins to wrinkle. We rush to combat these through medication, Botox and any other boosters we can lay our hands on. But over time, skin that is Botoxed begins to harden into ugliness, minds that are ‘boosted’ through drugs begin to atrophy into rigidity.

Our creativity begins to decline, whether we fight death or not. The only difference is, when we do not fight death, our bodies and minds age gracefully – our bodies become softer and warmer to look at (our grandparents?), our minds become less ambitious and easier to live with once they are free of ambition. In short, surrender to death makes us beautiful, makes our journey worthwhile. Fighting death brings to the surface the ugliness that we so desperately seek to hide.

Does surrender to death make us less ugly, less unattractive? Hardly. Just as milk boils and releases cream, our bodies release beauty to balance our ugliness as we age. But putting a lid on boiling milk, we only cause spillage and a mess, and lose our appetite for the vey milk that we boil. Then we can ask, if we are boiling milk and see it as an analogy to aging and the fight against death, who is boiling us- our bodies and minds? We realize the presence of something outside us, or perhaps inside us that seems to have the master control over our lives. This realization is one part of surrender.

We can take this a step further – for if death is indeed releasing us from our bodies and minds by an act of God, surely the same God had attached us to our minds and bodies during birth. This takes us to the natural questions – what do we mean by ‘us’? What is this ‘us’ that our bodies and minds are being attached to at birth, and what is this ‘us’ that our bodies and minds are being detached from upon death? It is to be noted here that we see our minds as separate from ourselves, our we would never use phrases like ‘my mind is not working today’ or ‘my legs are troubling me lately’. Clearly, we subconsciously realize that is something else separate within us, beyond our bodies and minds, beyond our physical power and intellect. We can call this our soul, our deepest true self, our primal self.

Different religions make an attempt to describe this – Hinduism tries to help you realize the existence of your soul through renunciation – giving up possessions, wealth, eventually your food, air and the body itself. During this process, you come to realize that however much you give up, something inside you refuses to die – that is your soul. Christians are shown this path through Jesus dying on the cross – Jesus decided to show a path rather than giving too many steps like the Hindus – he has essentially said ‘Try out death for yourself, and you will see what doesn’t die’. Now, death here does not mean suicide, but the experiencing death in the form of loss of our families, relationships, jobs, careers, possessions and the like. Any loss feels like death – it pains us, rips our heart apart. As the Buddhists say, when something is dying, let it die. If your job is being taken away from you despite your best efforts, let go. If your marriage is failing despite all you are doing, let it go. Let things die around you.

When you let things die around you, you master death. For now, death instead of being a force acting against you becomes a tool that helps you wash away the old and ring in the new. Death is a shower; death is a bath with soap and shampoo after a day in the sewers. Death cleans you. You begin to make friends with Death, you embrace change.

You then realize, Death is not always available at your command. True- you can kill things on your own through divorce, a job resignation or a yard sale of unwanted property. But often, Death comes calling when you are not ready or have asked for it. Who has asked Death to come to you? Who decided you needed a shower for you were stinking from not having taken a bath for years? Just like you can’t control when it rains, you also can’t control when Death decides you need a cleansing shower. Death is God in disguise, cleansing you, closing doors you no longer need, opening doors you don’t have the courage or foresight to open on your own. Death is your best friend, and sometimes Birth (of the wrong relationships, jobs, families or friends) can be your worst enemy. You realize you trust Death. This is surrender.

We now reach the next level of questioning – how do I know what I should do, and what I should trust to God in the forms of Birth and Death? You will never know – think of God as your boss who never interferes in your work but allows you complete freedom to make a mess of things at the office. He/she steps in only when you are messing up in the wrong way. Messing things up is perfectly fine as we now understand, for if we are going off path, we experience corrections in our life by either getting things added to our life or removed from our life. So, if we need to allow God to be our boss, we need to allow things to be added or removed. Let us remember, Death is our best friend, not the friends we talk to everyday. If Death decides to remove our friends because you want to marry someone against their wishes, let it be. If Death decides to allow you to start your own company by sacking you from your job, let it be. Therefore, the only way Death can be our friend is through keeping our other relationships on earth ‘loose’. We call this detachment, best explained in Buddhism. Detachment is what helps us prioritize the main relationship in our life, with God, allowing him to do his work. God does his work anyway – the difference is whether you accept his (her) decisions with understanding or you accept his/ her decisions kicking and screaming. Accepting God’s decisions comes through understanding- this understanding reduces our suffering when Death comes knocking. This is surrender.

We now come to the final part of surrender. If we decide surrender is the only way to live, it becomes a religion and cult, rather than a philosophical guide. Our ultimate act should be surrendering surrender itself. Do not accept surrender as the true way, do not force others to surrender – instead surrender yourself to their lack of knowledge. Do not force yourself to accept or apply this article, you are free to surrender this article too.

Thus, as its final parting gift, surrender teaches you that the only person you can control, the only person you can make decisions for regarding surrender is yourself. No one else. By allowing you to surrender everything, including surrender itself, it leaves you with the greatest gift of all- complete, personal freedom of the soul.

The Beginning- Listening to your Soul

Every one of us begins our childhood with a recognition of our needs. A recognition that our feelings matter. What we think matters. What we say matters.

Over time, we lose touch with this deeper self. Our family ‘teaches’ us to respond to them first, and ignore our feelings. These are done in subtle ways- guiding you as a baby to come to them, increasing your attachment to them which in turn is reciprocated.

However, attachment is not affection. A dog that you keep as a pet is dependent on you for food, and thus becomes attached to you. We perceive this as affection – but this is little more than dependence of the dog on you for sustenance. A baby is no different from a dog in its attachment- it is born cute to attract others to it, highlight its vulnerability and thereby survive. Endearment that results is of usually two levels – one at the attachment level that helps the baby survive; and the second at an affection level that respects the baby’s needs to eat or not eat, poop or not poop. A baby is thus protected and also respected.

As we grow older, we are encouraged to ignore our feelings of self-respect. Society beats us down. Our parents, friends, teachers, colleagues beat us down. They insist that your feelings are not as important as theirs, your goals (however subtle or unformed) are not as important as theirs. This results in a significant contradiction – it is only a person who can feel his or her feelings who can actually create or visualize what kind of life he or she wants. A person who is encouraged not to feel his/ her emotions can never move to the next step of visualizing his or her ideal life. All vision is born of emotions.

It is surprising that while vision is naturally born of our emotions, we are asked to be ambitious, have goals to travel to far-reaching places – but paradoxically we are asked to let go of any self-respect we have for our emotions. Family and friends urge us to aim high, but settle low. The soul can only ask, it is not capable of shouting. Our souls whisper to us through emotions – emotions are the language by which our souls talk to us one way. We cannot talk back to our souls – our soul was here first.

This leads to the next obstacle. The moment we abandon listening to our emotions and respecting them, the moment we stop listening to our soul, we have effectively begun using our body to accomplish the desires of another soul – one belonging to your peers or friends or family. I say that the ‘soul belongs to another’ but in reality our bodies were given to our souls. You were made your soul’s keeper, to listen to it and nourish it and respect it, to acknowledge it and help its deepest unspoken needs flower and flourish.

Our soul’s needs are simple and they rarely differ from one person to the other. Our souls simply ask for freedom and space to grow, and be unique. Our job as the gatekeeper of our soul is to use our body, our senses – our sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing, to honor our soul. You are the only one your soul can talk to – if you don’t listen to it, you are doing it a great disservice. This is your sole mission in life- to listen to your soul.

Mark our language earlier – we said our job is to be the gatekeeper of our soul. We are the listeners and executors, our soul is the speaker and expressor. Thus, we realize we are of two parts- we have a soul, we have a gatekeeper inside us, and we have a set of tools – our body as a container, our senses as receptors and our mind as a processor to help us achieve our soul’s asking.

This is where we have to take care and execute with wisdom. Freedom can be achieved by peaceful means – a live and let live philosophy; or freedom can be achieved through war and bloodshed. The second method makes you no better than our previous aggressors who asked us to abandon listening to our souls. By choosing war and bloodshed (this may be emotional or physical war, a domestic fight to coerce someone to do what you want or an inter-country peace process), we become the very enemy we are trying to escape. If you recall, we started listening to our souls because others were trying to make us listen to theirs. If you listen to your soul and try to achieve freedom and space by making others listen to your soul (instead of their own soul), we transform into the very people who were attacking us earlier and end up tyrannizing others.

Each of us has a soul – a separate soul and it behooves us to listen to no other soul than our own. It also behooves us to encourage others to listen to their own souls and no other. Thus, we realize the concept of boundaries – of separateness and individuality that is so essential for inner harmony (with our own souls) and outer harmony (coexistence and mutual respect of different souls side by side- what we call live and let live in the truest sense).

Thus, we begin our journey to peace, happiness and fulfillment by one simple act of listening – not to the noise outside us but to the silent voice within us that urges us to greatness. Does greatness mean becoming the President? Hardly. Greatness for the soul is just being true to what it asks. You are great if you are a carpenter, you are great if you clean the sewers, you are equally but no greater if you are the king. Our souls are equal – it is our execution that lends to our lives’ different shades and flavors. Some of us execute freedom in the material world, some within our families – nourishing children, some as travelers seemingly seeing all and achieving nothing in a material sense. All of these lives are equal for all of their souls are equal in value – it is only their external manifestations that differ.

Thus, listening to our souls provides us not just individuality and separateness, freedom and peace but also equality in its deepest sense. You rest in the idea that you are equal – no more superior or inferior to anyone else. And when you realize the inner equality you share with every human being and animal and plant on this planet, you cease to evaluate by external appearances. You cease judgment and embrace universal acceptance. When I say acceptance, it is not to make you feel ‘ high’ temporarily for that is merely your ego; but it is to help you realize acceptance in the truest sense of not expecting anything from others around you. Acceptance does not mean pitying others whom we consider have inferior manifestations/ lives or idolizing others whom we consider have superior manifestations/ lives (for that would go against our realization that all of us are equal).

Acceptance means simply knowing that we are all equal in our efforts to simply listen to our soul. Acceptance means respecting others’ needs to listen to their own soul and not yours, or vice versa. Acceptance means respecting your need to listen to your own soul and gently push away those who try to impinge on us. Acceptance means realizing we are all on our individual soul journeys, some of which appear bright on the outside and some of which appear dull on the outside. Dull is no less than bright – gold however beautiful cannot be used to construct your home, and iron however strong is rarely used in delicate jewelry. Each of us has our place in the world and this acceptance, respect and peace comes to us by one simple act – when we listen to our soul.

That one act constitutes the beginning.

Can you ever overcome fear, completely?

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE All of us have fears. I have them for sure. We fear different things – some of us fear being poor, some fear being attacked, some fear failure and societal rejection, some fear losing someone else (family, friends). There is a lot of literature out there telling you how to become fearless, how you can achieve a higher state of mind and truly achieve a state of Nirvana.
group of police officer and investigators work at crime scene
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I disagree with some of that. Fear is a natural response to circumstances we do not want. To put it simply:
  1. You fear something when you don’t want something external to happen to you
  2. Fear is different from anger. Anger is when you want to do something to someone.
  3. Fear is about you realizing that you do not have control over what others can do to you.
  4. Fear is when you realize others may want things from you that you don’t want to give
  5. Fear is when you realize you are not as powerful to protect yourself when attacked- emotionally, sexually, physically or spiritually.

Understanding fear requires a few simple truths:

  • There are a million things that you have right now – friends, family, material possessions, documents, your very identity.
  • There are lots of people who don’t have these things
  • Some of the people who don’t have these things will try to take them away from you, either without your knowledge (stealing) or with your knowledge (attacking). Stealing could refer to relationships as well (such as dumping you without notice), just not possessions. Attacking could refer to others not liking what you do (living your own life) and trying to take it away from you (controlling you)
  • Some of the time, you will be able to spot them stealing and recover what they are trying to take. Some of the time, you will be able to defend yourself against attacks.
  • But some of the time, you won’t be able to prevent others from taking what is yours (your emotional independence, your possessions, your fundamental rights), either silently or forcefully.

That. Is. Okay.

You can’t stop others eyeing what you have. You can never stop others acting against you.

You might be able to fight them off, or escape, but there will always be new people that pop up eyeing what you are and what you have, and trying to possess you (as a person) or take over your possessions.

There is a lot you do not know. The only thing you can ever know is what is happening to you right now.

You can’t know what will happen to you a minute from now…the air-conditioner in your car might catch fire, two of your car tires may explode, a thief may enter your house as you lie asleep…maybe not now, but exactly 5 minutes after you drift into unconsciousness. Your workplace may be hiding that it is actually bankrupt and you may be laid off within 2 days.

The thing is, you don’t know what is going to happen within he next hour, or even minute. The only thing you can respond to is what is happening to you right now.

Understanding our mind

So what can you do? How do we cope? That requires us to understand how we actually think and make a few mental shifts:

  • If you are always afraid, you will never actually relax in a restaurant or a picnic. By even going out, you are assuming that your house will be safe for the next hour. You make assumptions…based on probability.
  • If you are always afraid, you will never know how to react, or whether you will know how to react when the time comes. You might invest in learning new skills to protect yourself – physically (self-defense) and emotionally (confrontation management, negotiation)- you do so because you assume that while you are learning these new skills, no one will attack you. We assume safety when we are weaker because we focus more on learning than protection. We prioritize progress over security.

There is a lot we do not know,

  • About what others will do to us
  • About how we will react and what we will do about it

The Way Out

The answer is not finding the perfect solution, but accepting the imperfection of it all:

Assume a probability mindset

  • Sometimes you will be comfortable if your fears have a 50% probability of coming true (Minor Fears)
  • Sometimes you will be comfortable only when your fears have a 20% probability of coming true (Major fears)

Look forward

  • Ask: What can I do next about what is happening to me right now
  • Ask: What can I do next to make sure I reduce the probability of my past bad events repeating?

Trust your instincts

  • Our subconscious sends us signals about dangers, listen to your gut
  • Develop a larger picture of the world.
  • Everything bad that happens today will lead to something good far down the line.
  • Bad experiences lead to good judgment. Good judgment leads to good future experiences.

See yourself as separate from the event.

  • In every scenario, you will always want things one way, others will always want something different.
  • When something happens to you, analyze why you were unable to predict it. Ask why your soul was unprepared to guide you, and teach your soul. See mistakes as a lack of education, not as flaws in your character.
  • Blaming yourself doesn’t work. It is just that you can’t see the world for what it is. Invest time and energy in understanding reality better.

Fear is good, only if directed to action in the moment.

  • But when you are unable to act, fear acts like a car with its engine idling. It will simply burn up your energy without taking you anywhere.
  • Decide to be efficient – step outside your mind. Don’t criticize your mind but understand the inefficiency of its fear. Ignore your mind if you can’t act right now. A barking dog may indicate danger, but don’t waste time calming the dog, either get a gun, or get out of the situation.

Action is the only antidote to fear. If you can’t act, listen to your mind and make a note to learn how to act if your fear comes true.