Our actions bring us face to face with situations both pleasant and not so pleasant. Our life is kind of an endless cycle of: facing a choice then choosing and acting on it and then facing action’s results which again throws some choice before us. At least at gross physical level it continues like this until we die. Remaining stationary probably won’t bring choices.
After a recent and quite anxiety filled experience of missing a flight my mind would not stop examining the emotions I went through during that experience. Today when those stupidly anxious moments are over and I’m comfortably sitting in my study, I thought it will be interesting to rewind the film and try examining various dimensions.
Whenever I face a somewhat difficult situation following three paths are possible to go through the experience:
- I may not have anticipated the situation and when it arises I become anxious. In this case going through the situation will very likely be stressful.
- I anticipated the situation and am mentally and logistically prepared to navigate through it. It is likely to be less stressful, at least emotionally.
- I just live in the moment, concerning myself with taking right (right and wrong are again all relative terms) actions and remain detached from the outcomes that they may produce. I have not been able to follow this path all the time.
Most of the time we go through path #1. After going through this path sufficient number times some of us learn and move to either of the paths 2 and 3. Some of us get stuck in #2 for a long time. Those who are blessed move, by His Grace, to the third path. I generally read and hear the Mystics say that eventually all of us move to third path.
Last week I traveled to Kanpur for some work. While returning back via Lucknow I had a stop over of about 3 hours at IGI airport in Delhi before the departure of my flight to Chandigarh at 3PM. At the T3 terminal I ran into one of my professors who was also waiting for his next flight. We got into a conversation about few general things. I ended up missing my flight despite being present inside the security hold area — partly due to my carelessness (I was engrossed in our conversation over the coffee) and partly because they recently made T3 a “silent terminal” with limited announcements. Spectacular stupidity I did! I was annoyed at myself, more so because my dad was on his way driving 45KM to pick me up from Chandigarh airport, and now he had to either wait for me or return back from midway. Anyways, I called him up and told the story and he cutting short his drive returned back from midway. I tried in vain to request the JetConnect supervisor to put me in the next flight to Chandigarh. She wanted me to buy a fresh ticket worth Rs. 15000 (which was out of question). It was already around 3.45PM and it was clear that I had to quickly take either a bus or train to reach home in time.
Online ticketing was closed for both the evening Shatabdi trains to Chandigarh. I decided to try my luck in current booking so I took the AirportExpress to New Delhi station and went straight to the ticket counter on Ajmeri Gate side. Luckily the queue at ticketing window was just 8-10 people long. It was already 4.30PM and train was to depart at 5.15PM. The booking clerk told me that there was nothing available on 5.15PM train, and the current booking for 7.15PM will open after 30 minutes. In the humid July heat in crowded New Delhi railway station my anxiety grew further and I became even more mad at myself for missing the flight and now almost missing the trains as well. Lately, I’ve become reluctant to traveling by buses. I thought of just boarding the train without ticket and hoping to find some seat. I was prepared to pay fine for travelling ticketless. I went upto the next booking clerk and asked him how much was the fine in case I boarded without ticket. In the noise he didn’t get what I was asking. He signaled me to give him my reservation request form that I was holding. After keying something into the computer and told me that there was only one ticket left that too in executive class chair-car in 5.15PM train, and asked whether I’d like to buy it. It was almost double the cost (Rs. 1100 approx.) of regular chair car (but with almost same facilities). I happily bought the ticket. It was 5.05PM. Gosh … I needed to go all the way to platform #1 and I might miss this train as well because walking from Ajmeri Gate side of the station to platform #1 may take more than 10 minutes in rush hour on a Saturday! I tried to run as fast as I could jostling with the crowd standing on platform over-bridge.
Sweating, I was finally able to get into the E2 coach just in time. What a relief! That stressful 1 hour 45 minutes from 3.30PM to 5.15PM with so much conundrum and anxiety in my mind was over. It felt as if suddenly a lot of weight was lifted from my mind! The annoyance of missing the flight in a most stupid manner was replaced with the joy of finding a seat in air conditioned train. I called up home to let them know the new arrival time and coordinates. My dad, whose enthusiasm to receive the kids at airport, train or bus stations has never faded even by an iota over the past two decades, was quick with his “ਤੂੰ ਪਹੁੰਚ … ਬੱਸ ਮੈਂ ਆਯਾ ਲੈ ਤੇਨੂੰ ਲੈਣ” (you just reach over … I’ll be right there to pick you up).
Next day I was thinking about what would be the Higher Purpose in making me miss the flight. Normally, I’m a kind of person who is very very careful about time. Perhaps I had to settle some karmic accounts, perhaps He saved me (or my Dad) from some unpleasant situation. Looking back, I was laughing at myself, especially for my mental state that existed during those one and half hours until I got into the train. At physical level, just the mode of travel was changed for me from one to another with little difference in comforts. I stood in the ticketing queue for just about 15 minutes. But the amount of anxiety caused by all of this was high. Thinking about it now it seems as if these events were pre-planned and I just had to go through. That I travel in comfort was ensured by Someone. I think most of our life experiences are pre-decided with us having very little control. We unnecessarily worry about the future and the outcome of events that happen in our lives. How nice it will be if we just flow with things. But it is not easy.
Lately, when I’m not too engrossed in day to day affairs the following thought has been gripping my mind.
Why there is always something running in the mind?
For couple of decades now I’ve been hearing and reading about mind and how its tricks and lures keep us entangled in the earthly life. They have been telling that mind always needs something to chew on etc. Nevertheless, for my mind it was the above questions this time 🙂
In order to find answers, I tried to observe the generation of thoughts in my mind. I tried to trace the root of thought trains that arose in my mind at different times of the day. I didn’t set any timetable for this thought chasing exercise, it’s just that the above questions have been bothering me much, and they would spring up at random times often in the middle of a running thought train. Exactly then I’d try to unfold the stack of my interrupted run of thought train. It was like debugging a program by injecting a breakpoint into it in-flight. When the breakpoint is hit then I examine the stack — all the way to its bottom.
In all these thought debugging exercises I do not know if I’ve reached the absolute bottom of the stack i.e. the seed thought which put the program into running state. I could only manage to identify the triggering desire for a given thought train. Almost always the trigger has been a desire for some kind of joy or pleasure. Now, in this exploration I also noticed that the concept of joy or pleasure is sometimes equivalent to preventing/avoiding/eliminating pain or fear of some kind whether existing or perceived in the future.
For instance, I’ve observed a negative thought train where my mind was contemplating ways to make a colleague realize for his/her unkind behavior. How did mind arrive at this point of contemplation involving that colleague? It’s ego had felt hurt by the colleague’s behavior and now it desired for the pleasure of asserting some kind of supremacy. At another instance I have caught my mind drifting in a thought train about some technology innovation. Here too, unfolding the stack of thoughts revealed that it started with a similar desire for joy of some worldly attainment.
So it seems that at the root of all thought is a desire. Desire is always for some kind of sensory or mental joy. Even this pursuit for solving the mystery of thoughts and mind and finding the self is driven by a desire of joy.
मीरदाद की किताब में एक ख़ास संदेश बहुत ही सुन्दर है. उस संदेश का मूल अकसर में अपनी ज़िन्दगी में अनुभव करता हूँ … मेरा ख्याल है बहुत से और लोग भी ज़रूर करते होँगे. उस संदेश का एक भाव है कि बिना किसी बुलावे या आमंत्रण के कोई कम ही जाना पसंद करते है किसी के घर. अब यह बुलावा जो है वो ज़रूरी नहीं है की एक फोर्मल लैटर भेजा जाये. बहुत बार केवल एक सूक्ष्म इशारा मात्र ही काफी होता है. जिस वक़्त आदम हव्वा के उकसाने पर सेब का आनंद ले रहा था … वास्तव में उसी वक़्त वोह एक निमंत्रण भी लिख रहा था — निमंत्रण उन सब अनुभवोँ को जो अदन से बाहर निकाल दिए जाने के बाद उसकी ज़िन्दगी में आये. इसी विचार को मैं दूसरी ओर से देखना पसंद करता हूँ … जो की मेरे हिसाब से थोडा सकारात्मक है: उस मालिक की मेरी जिंदगी में हमेशा मौजूदगी अगर नहीं अनुभव होती तो इसका मतलब है कि निमंत्रण नहीं भेजा गया है उसे. बंदगी में बैठने पर अगर ख्याल मालिक की बजाये व्यर्थ के शक्लो में जाता है … तो साफ़ है कि निमंत्रण अवश्य ही ग़लत जगहो पर भेजे गए है. मालिक कहाँ से आएगा?
Early this year in Lucknow Murshid said in the satsang that our life has been reduced to just a big reaction. In the larger context there He meant that all our life is spent in just reacting to the events around us, without much serious deliberation on our part about doing what we end up doing. Much less thinking about the real purpose of the human life.
Careless reactions to situations, temptations and demands that we face in our day to day life is, in my view, the major contributor towards all the burdensome karma that we gather. Our karma from the previous lives drive and orchestrate the situations that we face. But how we end up dealing with them, that is, how we react to them is the time when script for the life ahead gets written. So, when thinking and acting in and about the world, we in fact are scripting our life ahead. Though they still bind us here, the “good” karma we don’t worry much about. Troublesome part is to deal with situations which may blank out the sense of discrimination between reasonable and unreasonable — our “vivek”.
In this compitive world where our selfish desires and ambitions drive how we live and act, we often end up injuring each other in different ways. Sometimes knowingly and often unknowingly. How should I deal with that? When someone inflicts an injury to “me” I’ve got three options:
a) “Kiss their feet, and return to your own home” as Baba Sheikh Farid advised (ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜੋ ਤੈ ਮਾਰਨਿ ਮੁਕੀਆਂ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਨ ਮਾਰੇ ਘੁੰਮਿ ॥ ਆਪਨੜੈ ਘਰਿ ਜਾਈਐ ਪੈਰ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਦੇ ਚੁੰਮਿ ॥).
b) Respond in most “reasonable way” to keep myself safe. In the process I may have to show some resistence/agression, but “the intent” is not to harm the other.
c) Hit back in every reasonable/unreasonable way that I can with the “vengeful intent” of causing injury to the other.
Option #a is obviously the spiritually safest but most tough to follow in today’s time. BTW, at times #a actually may be the only option!! Option #c smells bad very clearly; it is often the result of careless reaction to situation. I think #b seems to be a workable solution, but the problem here is that what “I” deem as “reasonable” may not be so in His view. This is where the Murshid and His teachings help. Challenge is to keep the “vivek” intact; but averting the failure is very difficult without His Grace!