Resolving Inferiority Complex using your Inner Truth

I was playing a video game (a first-person shooter for the interested) and I was unable to crack the current level. I kept dying and kept repeating the level, again and again and again. My frustration kept mounting over weeks (yup, that is how long I kept trying that particular level, attempting on weekends). And I suddenly felt a sense of inferiority – I had done well at school, had reasonable physical health and yet, a silly game was stumping me. Was I inferior or incomplete after all? Why did I keep attempting the game anyway?

Another situation – we apply to colleges and get rejected from many, selected in a few. Does it mean you are not intelligent? Does it mean that those who go to an Ivy League are more intelligent? If so, would you feel ‘inferior’ if they get paid more than you do?

You are a poor person who makes friends with a rich boy or girl. As they grow up, they are able to afford better education, able to get better jobs and live a ‘higher’ society life than you do. You feel unable to relate to them now, despite the fact that the two of you were the best of friends in childhood.

The common theme connecting the above is an inferiority complex – either caused by comparing yourself to yourself (poor videogame skills to say, great math skills) or by comparing yourself to another person out there (friends, colleagues, societal ‘elite’, businessmen, politicians, you name it). The end result of all such situations is not that you collapse, but that you are left with a feeling that you are ‘less’ or ‘incomplete’. In extreme situations, you might feel inferior to others (or to your self-concept of who you think you should be), but in most cases, this inferiority manifests as a vague unease that you are unable to put your finger on.

You choose to explore spirituality, out of desperation or to escape pain of some kind (physical, mental or emotional). Our pain is very specific to us. What pains us might hardly bother another person. And yet, you might end up asking, “Have I chosen the right path? If I continue to feel so inferior, and when other ‘non-spiritual’ folks continue to be happy and care-free, does it not mean that I am wrong?”

Inferiority manifests sometimes as a feeling of wrongness, in how we judge our lives, and our selves. Inferiority manifests as a feeling of incompleteness in how we view our life (so many goals not achieved and might never be achieved). Inferiority manifests in how we evaluate ourselves (in how inadequate our skills are, in how poor our knowledge is in so many areas, in how stupid we feel compared to others). Inferiority makes us feel stupid.

So, we need to ask – are we really stupid? Are we really incomplete? Are we really so ‘wrong’ inside? And when we have so much missing inside us, do we have the right to be happy?

  • When we are so stupid and incomplete, do we have the right to parent and admonish our child who is misbehaving?
  • When we are so stupid and incomplete and wrong, do we have the right to stand up to anything – against societal evils, or against those who tyrannize us? Do stupid incomplete people have the right to stand up to themselves?
  • When we are so stupid and incomplete, do we even deserve to be given a job (impostor syndrome)? Do we even deserve the paycheck we receive? Should we receive our paycheck with our head held up in dignity (not arrogance) or should we bow our heads in gratitude for what we receive? (Gratitude when used to hide inferiority is not true gratitude – only two equal persons can thank each other)

So many questions…and yet we struggle, wondering when we will feel better about ourselves. We read books on improving confidence, but those often seem artificial – talking loudly or confidently cannot hide the truth that you know within you – the truth that you don’t know all the answers.

When confidence boosting band-aids and pep talks no longer work for you, it is time to discard them for the artificiality they propagate. It is time to go to the root cause of the problem – you.

  • You feel inferior because you know the truth about yourself.
  • You feel inferior because you assume others know this truth about you.
  • You feel inferior because others seem to know more, even as you wonder where they learnt it all.
  • You feel inferior because others seem happy with false confidence, and you wonder why you can’t accept falseness too.
  • You start wondering if being honest with yourself is wrong. Maybe telling yourself the truth is not such a great thing. And yet…when you lie to yourself, it hurts – if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

And therefore, you make a simple decision – it is okay to tell yourself the truth and be unhappy and inferior, rather than tell yourself lies and fake happiness. It is not just okay to tell yourself the truth, you can think of no other way to be ‘clean’ inside. Filling your mind with self-lies makes you feel dirty. You feel okay telling a few white lies to manage people around you (diplomatic, political reasons), but you are comfortable with nothing less than the cold truth when talking to yourself.

It is okay if your spectacles are dirty, but your mirror should always be clean. It is okay if your house has a dirty garden, as long as your interiors are clean. You realize you do not wish to be a golden boy or girl, but you want to be a clean one (on the inside, when you are talking to yourself).

  • You realize you are okay being incomplete, as long as you don’t lie to yourself about it.
  • You are okay being stupid, as long as you don’t lie to yourself about it.

And thus, you realize that the only thing that makes you feel inferior is not others’ judgment, but your own. You judge yourself as inferior still, but you are at peace with it.

And then you make a decision – it is okay to be stupid, as long as you are happy. It is okay to be incomplete as long as you are happy doing what you do.

And then you realize the next insight- your interests matter more than your expertise. It is okay to suck at a job, at a school subject or at a videogame, as long as you are interested in it.

You realize what makes you happy is not how good you are at something (how good a spouse, worker or parent you are). What makes you happy is the fact that you are doing what interests you, however badly you are doing it. You realize this is how children play – they don’t play games to win, they play games to …just have a good time.

Your interests have to come first, your expertise in your interest area second. You realize that it is important to ‘conquer’ the world, but it is possible to see what little you can in the life you have. And thus, you realize, the direction(s) in which you grow your life (equivalent to interests – plural) is more important than how far you go in life. It is okay to crawl two steps in the right direction than 100 steps in the wrong direction.

You change the way you evaluate your life. You realize that your interests and direction(s) of growth are what make you happy, not how good you are at something (as represented by your societal status or money you earn). It is okay to an average happy engineer than an unhappy excellent doctor.

All of us have talents, but our talents don’t often match our interests. Choose interests first, then use what limited talents you have to explore your interests. Our interests are individual (as is our life direction) unlike the distance we travel. When we no longer bother about going far, our ego disappears along with our inferiority complex. Our ego can only survive on comparison. Since our life direction / interests are binary (like/ don’t like), our ego has no chance to assert itself and declare you as superior or inferior to anyone on this planet or universe.

And thus, you reach three truths:

  • You choose nothing less than telling yourself the truth, for you can be happy no other way. Truth is what adds meaning to your life.
  • You embrace your truth, your incompetence and incompleteness, and realize you can never control how ‘complete’ you become in this life, or how far you travel or succeed.
  • You realize that what made your heart truly sing all along were your interests, which gave meaning and direction to your life.

By choosing direction over distance travelled, you attain inner peace. You no longer feel the need to be inferior or superior, you no longer feel the need to succeed. You rest.

Note:

Hinduism touches upon this indirectly through Karma Yoga – working for enjoyment, and not the fruit (or how many fruits you get). Money is important, but focusing on the fruits creates obsession (with money or success), superiority/ inferiority issues, egoistic judgments and suffering; but focusing on enjoying work will give you joy irrespective of whether you are successful or not.

Buddhism covers this through a general concept of detachment. Other religions such as Christianity and Islam approach it indirectly as well, but the above analysis comes out in them through scriptural interpretations by scholars rather than through explicit mainstream concepts. As always, all views expressed are personal interpretations, and are intended to show that whether we choose a non-religious path of spiritual consciousness or a faith-based religious one, all roads lead to the same goal – finding happiness, peace and joy within ourselves and the world.

Handling “What If” Existential Questions / Traversing Spiritual Confusion

Some of us wonder ‘what if’ our life had been different, would we have been happier? But I know some (myself included) have wondered, ‘what if’ our life had been different, would our life have been sadder?

Being cursed causes longing for a better life, and makes you miserable in the present. But feeling blessed (too much of it) can cause an overdose of gratitude, and guilt.

An overdose of sadness creates unhappiness, resentment and frustration. An overdose of happiness creates guilt, shame at being happy when others are not, and fear of your (happy) life being taken away by circumstances outside your control.

Therefore, while it is good to be grateful to everyone and the world for what you have, it is also good to recognize that you don’t have everything. If you are too ‘complete’, you suffer from ‘happiness pain’ – in the form of (1) guilt for having what you have and (2) fear of losing what you have.

If you are too undernourished by life (incomplete), you suffer from ‘sadness pain’, in the form of (1) frustration at what you have, and (2) anger and resentment at what you don’t have.

True bliss is not just elimination of sadness, it also requires us to give up happiness. This is true surrender – you need to surrender your sadness to God (or the universe), and you need to surrender your happiness too.

Then, if you surrender both happiness and sadness, what DO you have left? Just awareness of your thoughts, without judgment. All emotions arise because we judge our actions as good (‘happiness pain’) or bad (‘sadness pain’). When you are in pain, you will never be in a position to understand the pain of another human being or creature, and help them when required. When we break our leg, our own pain consumes us, leaving us blind and deaf to both, the beauty of the world and the pain of others.

The only way to be able to appreciate the beauty and understand the suffering of the universe is to first free yourself of all suffering and pain. Therefore, as they say in the scriptures, you tread a ‘golden mean’, you walk the ‘razor’s edge’ between hope and fear, between happiness and sadness. Only when you are walking on a bridge can you see both sides of a river.

People who don’t handle the ‘what if’ question well get misdiagnosed as having anxiety issues due to crippling fear or shame. Half of our psychological issues today are spiritual conundrums. It takes courage to walk through the mists of our confusion and come out clean and enlightened on the other side. Confusion is good – it indicates you have begun solving a problem. There are only two kinds of people who don’t ask questions – those who don’t care or are not aware enough to question, and those who have already asked the question and found answers on the other side.

Ignorance and enlightenment are two sides of a river, but the river in the middle is raging and flooded, with strong currents, and can easily sweep you away if you are not careful. As we swim through the river, we should make sure we are moving in the right direction. If you get too caught up in the river, you can be swept away into ‘insanity’ due to over-analysis. Some of us swim back to the original shore out of fear, preferring to live in ignorance and fear, rather than cross the river of wisdom.

The river of wisdom asks us to trust it, not worry about the way it is flowing but to merely cross it. Walk on the water, but don’t bathe in it. Swim, but don’t look back. If you do look back, focus on what you are gaining on the other side, than what you are losing on this side. If you must fear something, fear ignorance. But in the end, give up that fear too. An enlightened person comes to realize, understand and accept his/ her own ignorance, and therefore no longer fears it.

In the end, you realize that if you had been ignorant, you would never have asked ‘what if’. And when you are enlightened, you no longer ask ‘what if’. Because the answer to the question is simple – you can’t do everything, you can’t be everything. As long as you live, you have to make choices. As long as you make choices to do or be something, you are also simultaneously choosing NOT to do something else. Consequently, your life will always be incomplete.

When we cannot accept this incompleteness, we ask ‘what if’. When we accept this incompleteness, we no longer need to ask the question. We achieve contentment and peace.

What is Prayer? A Practical ‘Non-religious’ Guide

Ever made a decision? It could be about going to college, whether to take up a new job or stay at home vs going abroad. Sometimes, it becomes extremely confusing regarding which direction we should take in our lives.

In such situations, we run from pillar to post asking people for advice. The end result is that we get multiple pieces of advice from people who know a lot about the subject. And yet, you may feel discontented …a sense of malaise. None of their suggestions seem to work. People seem to know a lot about what to do in a situation, but somehow nothing strikes you as ‘right’ or ‘true’.

The missing link is you – you have asked everyone but yourself. We need to consider everyone’s inputs as just that…inputs. But the only person, I repeat, the only person, who needs to live with your decision is yourself. And therefore, you need to ask yourself what you want.

But how do you ask yourself? Can you truly see yourself? If you go to a mirror, you can see your reflection – but that is merely your body. You can’t see your mind to split apart the tangle of thoughts that trouble you. More importantly you can’t see your soul to talk to, not in the mirror anyway.

Different people have found different ways to address this. Some realize that inside us exist different energies – the energy of time exists inside us (the Hindus call this Shiva) – this same time energy produces new life through sex (again Shiva). Some see other energies inside themselves – the energy of fertility (we have another god for that), the energy of sustenance (another god) and so on and so forth. For every aspect that troubles us, we can find a god – this was the approach taken by Hinduism and even the Greeks (Zeus, Athena, Dionysus – God of wine etc.). And thus, to help us analyze different aspects of a problem, we try to find the ‘energy’ within us that is causing the problem. But it is often difficult to separate these energies for one who is struggling with self-awareness. Finding and asking this energy is easier if we can have an external representation of this energy.

But how do we create an external representation? The easiest way was to write a story about how this energy had its own ‘personality’, about how this energy was born and grew within us. We find these as stories of how gods were born or created, and how they used their powers to solve problems. The stories of gods are nothing but stories of how the equivalent energies were created within us. Once we have a story to help us understand the energy better, it is important to keep a bookmark of sorts, to quickly refer to the energy – we may even give this energy a name – Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and the like. And we create a physical bookmark to help us remember the various energies within us – we call these idols.

And so, when we pray to an idol for help or advice, we are essentially asking ourselves for advice. We are talking to our souls.

However, having idols was not sufficient, people needed to relate to their soul in a more ‘human way’. Many of us struggle with the concept of the soul, especially if we are not very abstract-minded. And so, several religions created a ‘human’ manifestation of our soul. Hinduism refers to them as gurus, Christianity calls this person Jesus, Muslims may reach out to a Mullah, and the Jews to a Rabbi. These are human teachers who have been able to talk to their own souls. These teachers can’t talk to your soul – they cannot give you answers and it is dangerous to ever ask them ‘what to do’. Always approach a Guru, or Jesus, Mullah or Rabbi to ask them how YOU can find the answers BY YOURSELF. Seek guidance, not answers.

Realizing this, the Buddhists took it a step further. They eliminated God as a concept altogether, and directly talked to their soul through meditation. Many of us live in a noisy environment where everyone has an opinion on what we should do with our life. Sometimes, the only way to get away was go outside a city where no one knew you and where no one would interfere with your thought process. Today, we travel and take vacations to ‘get away for a bit’. In ancient days, people didn’t have that luxury- all around the city were forests and that is exactly where they went. They left their home and went away to a forest and meditated. What do I mean when I say meditated? It simply means roaming freely outside and inside your mind allowing your thoughts to flow freely, till you find the path that works for you. That is the crux of meditation, not sitting cross-legged and repeating words or chants. Meditation that can’t help you be happy or make a decision produces few results, unless you like chanting as a hobby. Chanting can give you peace, only because you have blocked everything else out. But blocking out the world can never solve your problems; it only exacerbates them further.

Christians created a two-step process – a God that represented our soul, and a teacher – Jesus who died like any other human on the cross. The life of Jesus was only to show that we are all Jesus too – if a carpenter was able to see his soul and be happy, so could you. Muslims looked to their Prophet for guidance in finding God (soul). But the Prophet couldn’t be everywhere and so they created Mullahs, not very different from priests in their function.

The end goal of this system was to help people be happy, not create a ‘religion membership club’ of Hindus, Muslims or Christians. The aim of every one of the original teachers in each of our religions, however small or large, was to help people find peace WITHIN themselves. Many religions realized that they could not accurately describe such abstract concepts in a boring manner. No one would have read a blog on religion or faith, if written like a philosophy thesis. So, they used stories and examples. A collection of these stories and examples became the Bhagwad Gita, Bible, Koran, Buddha Charita and the Guru Granth Sahib. All of these writings refer to the same entity- our soul.

Following one religion over another is merely a choice of PATH. In reaching a destination, some may prefer to take a train and enjoy the view. Some of us may be disabled and may prefer flying. Some may prefer to sneak into a cargo ship and hide till the ship reaches the port and then escape to our destination when the captain isn’t looking. These different methods are effectively the various religions today. Sometimes, it is not possible to reach a place purely by flying. You may have to get down at an airport and then take a cab, for instance. Similarly, Hinduism or Christianity may not answer all your questions, you may have to refer to Buddhism or Islam for part of your journey. And then perhaps transfer to Zen for the last mile- and vice versa. We need all our teachers; we need all our religions, to complete our journey. One teacher alone cannot provide all of our answers, just like one single friend or just your spouse can’t fulfill all your emotional needs. We need many friends, we need many teachers, we need many religions to find our path to our soul.

With the help of these teachers, we can talk to our souls. We need silent spaces where no one will disturb us – we call these temples, churches, mosques and well, even ‘sitting under a tree’. Sometimes, our homes can be the most silent place we know – then our home becomes our church or mosque or temple or gurudwara. Every place on Earth (and even the universe or Milky Way) is a religious place of worship. And when I say worship, it does not mean putting your soul on a pedestal because it is superior, it simply means listening. You can’t talk to your soul; you can only listen. Hence, we call this worship – we listen and understand and follow our soul’s path.

And thus, when we worship, we pray. When we say prayer, it simply means listening. When we say listening, it simply means we seek guidance, not to fulfill some higher magic purpose of a revengeful god, but for the simple down-to-earth reason of being happy and at peace. Only our souls know what can make us happy, at work or at home. All we need to do is learn to listen to our souls, hence we look towards teachers or scriptures. But often, we pray.

Why do we become Conscious?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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.

Understanding Peace

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

Peace is one of the most difficult needs to explain to another, for people in general do not understand peace. People who do not understand peace, seek refuge in noise – the noise of crowds and relationships. Such people who do not understand others’ need for peace will never understand the concepts of privacy, space and calmness.

Why do unpeaceful people not understand peace? For their souls are filled with suffering and noise. The only way they can drown out their own noise is by clanging objects and people around them. One who has terrific noise within, can only achieve silence by creating a greater noise outside his mind to distract him or her. It is best to never form a relationship with such people, for their noise within will create noise within you as well.

Thus, you realize that the only way to be ‘happy’ is to have peace. Peace is the subtext of all happiness, sorrows, ups and downs of life. We do not desire happiness for that is merely a fleeting high. We do not desire freedom from sadness, for every time you try something, you will either get what you want or not- which will either make you happy or unhappy. This is natural.

Thus, we replace:

Achieving Happiness and Sadness, with

Wanting something, getting it or not getting it,

Accepting what we get, and accepting that we may not get everything,

This acceptance is peace.

Those who aim at happiness or only achievement live a half-life, and never truly accept both sides of the coin above. Their half-life results in deep un-peace. Their un-peace translates into our suffering. The question we need to ask such people is: “Why are you not at peace with the way I live my life?”

Their answer will most likely create more noise and suffering within themselves and within you.

When you try to explain peace, unpeaceful people cannot understand it, for peace cannot be explained, only experienced. Peace only has a negative definition, not a positive one – peace is the absence of noise.

Happiness, on the other hand, has a positive definition – it involves goals to achieve, things to do, places to see, people to meet. But peace underlies the success or failure of these events. If you succeed in finding what you want, you will be happy and at peace. If you fail in achieving what you desire, you will be sad, but very much again at peace.

Peace is the constant beneath it all. Peace is silence. Peace is nothingness. Nothingness can only ever be explained by the absence of ‘things’. The absence of sadness is peace, The absence of happiness is also peace.

Once you pursue peace as your overarching goal, every other aspect of your life falls into place and begins to make sense.

  • You need boundaries to achieve peace
  • You need to give up the concept of right and wrong to achieve peace
  • You need privacy to achieve peace
  • You need truth to achieve peace
  • You need silence to achieve peace
  • You need financial independence, but not necessarily riches, to achieve peace
  • You need contentment to achieve peace
  • You need a spiritual backbone to achieve peace
  • You need emotional intelligence to achieve peace
  • You need to die internally (ego, false self) to achieve peace
  • You need to accept bodily death to achieve living peace
  • You need to accept others’ lives and life paths to achieve peace
  • You need to respect others’ boundaries to achieve peace
  • You need to respect others’ privacy to achieve peace
  • You need to help others achieve peace, if required, to achieve your own peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that others may never understand you
  • You need to make peace with the fact that others may never find peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that you may be alone (but not lonely) in your peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that some relationships may fall away as you seek peace
  • You need to be alert to relationships that can teach you more about peace

In the end, you will find yourself making peace with the last frontier, all forms of noise and un-peace.

Why do Babies get more Respect than Adults?

On False Joys and True Sorrows

Growing up, I observed a strange phenomenon. As a child, I was encouraged to explore my world, see what I could, understand everything and you know what…choose. Yes, I was given the power to choose until I was around 10 years old. Then, it all stopped. Not in every sphere but in many.

People started getting anxious if you changed your favorite color from red to blue. People panicked if you suddenly shifted your college major. People panicked if you expressed interests in hanging out more with friends than your parents. It was highly confusing and frightening to a child who had received complete acceptance from the day he was born, until a magic day where he was suddenly surrounded by fear – fear of other people who couldn’t tolerate him trying out new things any more, fear of other people who couldn’t tolerate him changing in the slightest bit.

This raised the question – what is fear? And indeed, what is change? Why are people so frightened now, when they were not frightened earlier? When a new baby was born in the family, I observed the same phenomenon – it was pampered and …listened to. The moment it crossed some magic invisible age when everyone felt they understood it, they stopped listening to the child and instead telling it how it should be based on the first few years of its life.

People listen only as long as they feel they have understood enough to control you. And then they stop listening and resist all change.

Imagine a romantic encounter – a man and woman go on a date. The man or woman may have gone through a hundred different experiences, left their homes, faced innumerous challenges and ‘fashioned’ or built their lives based on what makes them happy. Everything goes well until they meet a potential romantic partner who in the initial days of courtship listens, really listens and provides them support and validation. We feel a rush of hormones and healing as we are flooded with acceptance.

However, this is short-lived. The moment your partner has understood you, they start resisting any further evolution of your personality, any efforts at your self-development. “You have changed” or “something is wrong with you”, or “this is not who you are”, they say. My point is yes, exactly, that is no longer who they are- people evolve every day. But the biggest problem occurs when your partner starts holding you to the personality you had at the initial point of your courtship and he/ she tells you that’s who you are and should always be. That can never be the case – no one except yourself can or should tell you who you are. No one except yourself has the right to change you or not change you. You have the right to completely throw out your past personality and become a new person every single day.

Our partners, parents, families and ‘well-meaning’ friends don’t just resist change in you. By questioning who you are, and who you have become, by insisting that you are no longer who they are comfortable with, they try very hard to take away a very fundamental right – the right to choose your life and life path, the right to choose who you are, what your personality should be like, who your friends should be, what you need to learn and unlearn. These rights are taken away from you and transferred to the ‘other’ person in your relationship (again family, friend or partner).

At this point, you forget what was subconsciously a natural part of you since you were a baby- your right to choose who you are, what you stand for, what you want to become, who you want to form relationships with and who you do not wish to be related to any more. You forget that you have the right to form and break relationships – you are not bound to your relationships, relationships are entities that are chosen by you.

When you forget that relationships are a choice, you make the mistake of prioritizing relationships over yourself as an individual. A relationship can be kept stable only in two ways – if no individual in the relationship changes, ever; or if both individuals in the relationship change in the same or mutually acceptable ways. The moment two people (naturally) begin to evolve in different directions, levels of acceptance need to increase drastically in the relationship to sustain it. Relationships are meant to be an evolving structure – the moment you try to make a relationship ‘stable’, it becomes a prison for both the controller and the controlled within it.

We can now see why we idolize our childhoods and initial days of dating or courtship. Listening and understanding who your partner is at every moment is blissful romance, resisting change and control becomes marriage (not for all, but for many). Listening and understanding who your child is at every moment creates a golden childhood, resisting change and control becomes stagnant adulthood and a mid-life crisis (for many).

Friendships do not make any such demands on the people involved. Friendships are built on acceptance of change, on understanding and listening and giving helpful advice only when asked (not involving unilateral demands). It is often surprising that people don’t recognize that in the initial days of courtship or babyhood, we are friends with our partners or parents. As we grow, our partners and family cease being our friends and become controlling, manipulative or otherwise resist any form of evolution. Guilt, fear, anxiety, worry, and constant rejection soon become parts of the family environment, with every person constantly adjusting their behavior to satisfy someone else around them.

When everyone is constantly adjusting their behavior, no one is real/ authentic/ original anymore. Truth flies out of the window. The entire family or marriage becomes one built on false projections of our character. At this point, a sad chain of events is set into motion – people begin to prefer their relationships to be like mirrors, reflecting what they want to see, rather than actually seeing the other person in the relationship.

Thus, the family unit becomes a crucible for a false self – a cemetery where your true nature and ability to evolve are buried. It becomes a graveyard of hopes and dreams – and yet families celebrate this by praising other members for ‘sacrificing’ their lives for others. Sacrifice is unnecessary when you accept others for who they are. It is only when people hide from the truth that sacrifice of your dreams, hopes and personality come into play.

Thus, instead of sacrificing their outer relationships for true inner authenticity, people sacrifice inner truth and begin celebrating outer falsehoods and artificiality in relationships. Thus, even sacrifice which people begin to worship as a wonderful human quality becomes a false characteristic. False relationships lead to false sacrifices and worship of false values in each other. Listening becomes replaced by ‘walking on eggshells’ or ‘concern for others’ so as to not disturb those around you.

While it is good to respect boundaries, most relationships break down these boundaries so that you forget where you end, and where your partner/ family begins. Emotions become a confusing mess (which is again celebrated as a sign of closeness). Two people can be close only if they are first themselves as individuals, and then choose to be close. Relationships are not about merging with each other, but about sharing who you are. You cannot share who you are, unless you are fully and authentically yourself. A false closeness generated due to confusion and power struggles (however subtle – manipulated by fear, anger or guilt-tripping) can never be aligned with your true nature.

When you thus forget who you are, and choose falseness in relationships over inner truth, you stop listening to your soul. And when you stop listening to your soul, it stops speaking to you. Thus, you lose your connection to your deepest self and live an unenlightened life, filled with false joys and false sorrows. The only thing that such false joys and false sorrows can lead to is unmitigated suffering – it starts slowly by nagging you with a quiet inner voice, insisting that something is wrong in the way you are living your life.

But sadly, many ignore this voice for years and this malaise moves into stage two – you begin to feel lost, somewhere around middle-age. Society encourages you to ignore this or asks you to take medication – alcohol or drugs to kill this voice, and your soul stops trying to guide you altogether. You move into the last stage- inner death. Life becomes a monotonous journey, devoid of meaning and soul and purpose. You neither have the energy to live, nor die and you walk wearily up to death, where your family gathers around you and weeps upon losing you. But the sad thing is, they didn’t lose you now, they had lost you a long time ago. They only lost your body now, but your soul which is the True You had died a long, long while ago.

It is unfortunate that our friends and families don’t realize that the soul is more important than the body. Their attachment to our outer manifestations makes them lose their connection with the inner self. And thus, they weep for the wrong reasons, at the wrong place, at the wrong time in your life. And many of us die, thinking that their tears are genuine, for we ourselves have forgotten what we should be really sad about.

Listen to your soul, choose your inner truth, live a life of true joys and true sorrows. It is only then you will know when to really be happy and when to really feel sad. You won’t need others to tell you when you should be sad or happy (based on their false perceptions). The real truth will never ever be the same as the false truths that are forced upon you.

Therefore, if you wish to live a life of truth, find your own truth, let others find their own truth, do not ask others to justify their truth to you, and do not justify your truth to others. In that way, when you die, you won’t weep, for it will only be your body dying, while your soul will be very much alive and ready for the next part of its journey.

Why Social Media Mindfulness Techniques don’t Work


I hear a lot of people saying, “Live in the present”. They chant it like a mantra, post it on LinkedIn and Facebook but don’t know what else to do with it. It is easy to get comments, likes and reactions from a desperate audience who applaud the poster as insightful but don’t practice it. The words “live in the present” have become another Fix (like alcohol, Netflix and serial dating), something intended to distract you from introspection.

We have mistaken distractions as happiness boosters.

Source: Image by 4144132 from Pixabay, Author’s Edits

Yes, for that moment, you are living in the present, you are reading that post, you are envisioning a vacation surrounded by mountains and whispering trees. But since I find people rarely thinking deeper about how to apply that statement in their daily lives, here is what I hope, a thought provoking guide, to understanding yourself and your present (consciousness) at a deeper level.

We live the present in two ways —

  • Externally (focusing on the things that surround us) and
  • Internally (watching and becoming conscious of our thoughts and behaviors).

Most cliched viral posts exploit the External aspect — they make you focus on a mountain or a stream and say it is the key to meditation and happiness. Since most people are not internally self-aware, they do not focus on the Internal aspect of living in the present — being aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions; understanding why you do things and changing yourself — thereby allowing yourself to grow.

It is easy to chant and meditate till you go mentally numb. But that is not living in the present. Meditation or being present or aware or consciously walking or any of these synonymous words are intended to help you understand yourself, not (1) numb yourself, or (2) shut out the world.

You don’t need a mountain, you don’t need a far-away resort, you don’t need a yoga mat. If you are really interested in understanding yourself, all you need is peace and quiet, which you can find in your bedroom, the nearest coffee shop or beside a dumpster (where no one hopefully objects).

The Cycle of Pain and Release

Growing up, I was a happy child. I am a happy man today, but that’s besides the point. Spiritually, as babies we are clean, we have no thoughts, no emotions…just needs. If our needs are fulfilled, we are content. If our needs are not fulfilled, we feel pain, BUT we are not unhappy. Babies do not know unhappiness, they know need, satisfaction and pain. But not sadness.

Pain is not sadness

We feel pain when we don’t get what we want mentally or emotionally. This has nothing to do with physical pain, or the BDSM industry wouldn’t be thriving today. Massages create pain, but the release of the hand pressing down our shoulders creates relief. We mistake this relief as pleasure.

When I say pain, I do not mean sharp jabs. Pain can also mean discomfort or unwanted stimuli (someone jabbering in your ear?).

We value release only because we experience pain.

Let’s talk about sex (in a humorous context). Arousal is confusion, frustration and madness. We tumble around as our mind shuts down all ‘non-essential’ activities like you know, taking care of your kids, food, homework, your job and so on. Your mind acts the same way it acts on an alcohol addict seeking just a sip.

  • It plays you tantalizing videos of your partner or fantasy
  • It tells you that you can’t work without getting this need fulfilled
  • You need to do something about it…right now

Pain is any feeling that overpowers your body to the extent that you are unable to choose what you wish to do. Pain is loss of control because one stimulus has taken complete control. The only way out of pain is relief. Or release.

Sex does not not make you ‘happy’. Sure it floods you with endorphins and dopamine…in other words, with pain medication and anti-depressants. It is the release we crave at the zenith of our needs, not happy cuddlies. We seek release from the temporary “depression” and “pain” we feel before sex, alcohol or drugs.

Release and relief from pain is not happiness. It is a cyclic trap.

Crashing Waves

Back to the baby. We feel sadder as we grow up because we learn (because we are taught) to divide what we get into good and bad. We learn to analyze the motivations of what is given to us. We become “educated” and socially “responsible”. We are taught that a good man or woman is one who constantly takes on the burdens of others around him or her.

When you are taught that the only way to “be happy” is by constantly solving other people’s burdens and sadness, we lose our personal power and identity. We lose our boundaries. We lose our peace.

You can’t be happy when society keeps teaching you to make others happy at the expense of yourself. You become like a candle struggling to stay alight in a constant gust of wind.

Society teaches us that

  • if you are happy with who you are, you are selfish
  • If you are unhappy with who you are, you are depressed and unstable
  • If you are half-happy with who you are while making others happy, you are a disappointment (or should work harder on your dreams)

There is no making society happy.

By celebrating and propagating this confusion, we are now in the clutches of an epidemic of discontent. Discontent is sadness. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy.

Do not harm, but make sure your candle is lit brightly before you light another. It is nice to say that “ a candle loses nothing by lighting another”. It is crazy if your candle (with a struggling flame) gets extinguished in the process of sharing its flame.

We have become like a person trapped alone at sea in the midst of a thunderstorm, buffeted by wave after wave. We have lost all sense of direction, of who we are. Sometimes, all we want is to get out of the cold…but more importantly to get onto land…dry, hard, stable land.

It is okay to want to be happy.

Escape

Living in the present requires two things:

Stop trying to control your mind and thoughts — it is okay to have thoughts about anything, yes seriously. Random curiosity about crime doesn’t make you a creep. Movie directors, cops and doctors think about it all the time. Accept your mind completely for what it is — just a thought generating machine. This was the premise of the movie: Minority Report.

Thinking about something doesn’t define or shame you, your actions do.

We have hundreds of thoughts and emotions every day, what you choose to act upon defines you — your thoughts are just options given to you by your mind.

The frustrated mother who thinks about strangling her screaming children in the middle of the night doesn’t do so. She gets up, cares for and nurtures them. Between the hundreds of thoughts you have and action you take, there is a space, a choice. That is where your soul decides what you need to act upon. That space — the entity that makes that choice is your true self. It shows you your true values. Your true self is hidden behind the noise of your thoughts and mind.

Your mind is noisy, but rarely makes good decisions. Your true self is silent, but takes decisions aligned with who you really are, at your deepest core.

Know your true self.

The next time you read a social media post on “enter the silence” or “60 days of meditation complete, Yay!” and wonder why it leaves you stone cold, you will know why.


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.

Learning to Die Gracefully- Everyday

I have seen this occur to many people I know. You get a new job, and you fear leaving what you have. You get a chance to relocate, and you fear what lies ahead. Cliched I know, filled across the web with advice on stepping out into the unknown, bridging your fears….yawn, I know.

But if you are the first in your circle of friends or family doing something untried, be assured of resistance. Not from the outside, but first from within you. You might begin to feel like a part of you is dying. Your ego has become too attached to what you have. You know that feeling of being stuck- you ARE stuck, or more precisely, your ego is to something that is no longer you.

The beautiful thing is….yes, a part of you is dying. You just need to let it die.

Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

There can be no new life without death.

You feel scared primarily because you have defined yourself as only your past. When you realize you are also your present, and your future, you realize that you haven’t lost anything- you were only aware of one part of yourself.

Now, you might ask, why is the present and future part of me, when I have not lived it yet? To answer that, you need to understand things beginning with your birth. Before you were born, who were you? Did you have a past before you were born? If so, you are currently living the “future” of your past life — you think your life’s movie started only when you were born, but your birth was merely an intermission in a far longer life. Your birth was merely a gateway to what you are living right now. So, there is no more getting over a “past” because you are already living a “future” of sorts. If you don’t believe in reincarnation, I suggest you read “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss, and his experiments with regression therapy.

But, I shall also offer one more perspective. When do you fear “losing” something? Only when you have it in the first place. You didn’t have your past earlier- it has only now become your past. Tomorrow, this post on Quora will be part of your past and you may fear not finding it. So, fundamentally, you fear losing the past because you think it “belongs” to you.

Your experiences don’t belong to you, they are already part of you. Let me give you an analogy. Think of yourself as a meal/ curry — earlier you were the vegetables in your childhood, over time life has added a bit of oil, some butter, some spices and you have become a complete curry now. You are not the vegetables, you are now a curry. Letting go of the past is the only way for life to convert you into a curry, a meal, something nice and appreciated. Now, thinking you are no longer a vegetable is truth, but realizing that life has made you into a lot more is also truth.

Now the question arises, what is my true nature? I was a vegetable earlier, now I am a curry. Or a better analogy- you were a caterpillar earlier, then you were a pupa in a cocoon, and then you became a moth/ butterfly. Does the butterfly miss being a caterpillar? Maybe. But is it also the caterpillar? Yes. So, your true nature is the past, but it is also the present. And soon, your true nature will also be the future, for today’s present will become a part of you. Life ADDS to you, it doesn’t exchange your past and give you a new present- it BUILDS on your past and gives you a present, and then a future.

You become more complete as you move through life. But what you miss is the feeling of incompleteness, the hope that you would one day be complete (which you had in your childhood). And now that you are more complete (not fully, for that is an ongoing process), you wonder, now that I am complete, I have nothing more to look forward to. My advice, stop looking forward to anything and life will present you with something to excite you- a child never looks forward to growing up, and he/she is happy. You miss that feeling of incompleteness which you had as a child. But when you realize you are still incomplete, you have a lot to look forward to, you attain peace.

Fear is felt when you lose something, but you neither lose nor gain anything with time. You merely see different versions of yourself. And one day, when you move on from this world, your future of today will become an “intermission” of sorts before the next act begins. Your life movie was incomplete before you were born, it will remain incomplete tomorrow however much you try to “complete” everything in this life.

So I leave you with this…it is only once “you” as you know yourself die, that your real true self can come to life.

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.