“BE PRACTICAL!” is the terrifying warning the mind gives me during any major life-transition. It means: pay heed to the failures of others, see how unhappy the world is on the news, and spice it up with the doomsday prophecies of my own. My mind creates hypothetical worst-case scenarios and hypothetical solutions to those hypothetical scenarios. And I plan my next steps from a starting point of scarcity, worthlessness and panic.
Listening to a friend a few days ago who is feeling confused going through a career transition, I realized the vice-like grip this word ‘practical’ has on us all – supported by a proud lineage of parental admonition.
But when I look back at my life, I realize that the reality of it has been anything but practical.
Had it been practical, a promising journalism career would not give way to pursue a full-time spiritual life at 23. Practically speaking, what were the odds that this person would then get a call out of the blue from the biggest movie star in the country to join his company as a creative head? And then, without any effort, be made head of the second-largest TV channel in India’s biggest television network? Could his mind have predicted that he would get then selected without an interview to join as head of creative and production as part of a global film studio?
It was not a linear progression – there were ups and downs. And when the tide ebbs, it is painful for many reasons. But the conversation with my friend helped me to see how ‘practical’ is such a loaded word.
When I shared my story, my friend’s face lit up: she could suddenly see her own life had been filled with similar synchronistic situations — she is doing something today far beyond what she could have imagined doing five years ago. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, the perfection, the synchronicities, the unexpected opportunities — the whole intricate pattern that makes up the tapestry of our life — is so obvious. And we can see how even the temporary wrongs contributed to the bigger rights. Practical thinking has neither created the greatest inventions nor the happiest humans. Yet, when it’s time to take a big decision, the mind comes up with its favorite strategy to put itself in centre-stage: ‘Be practical!’
I apologized to my friend for being the wrong person to give her ‘practical advice’ on the jobs market scenario. Jobs seem to have appeared out of the blue when I was clear and excited to work. And at other times, when I listen to my mind only because it’s the right thing to do, no matter how much effort I make, nothing works out.
Slowly, slowly, I am learning through trial and terror to not follow my mind, but to follow my energy. I still find that I follow the mind’s fearful logic at times. I still give a lot of value to the ‘should do’ and ‘must do’ over the ‘love to do’ and ‘feels right to do’. It rarely works out right – and when it does, it never brings joy. Following the energy on the other hand feels like wind-surfing through the crests and troughs of Life.
It was so amazing to talk to my friend that day – it helped to remember once again that the most practical thing you can do is to not be practical.
If there was a confused Me from 20 years ago that was to ask for advice today, I would not tell him to be practical, to weigh the pros and cons, to worry about what would come… I would probably say, knowing what has happened in the last 20 years, exactly what Osho once said — Be realistic: plan for a miracle.
Now if only I could fully embrace this advice today!