For all those out there who may be feeling temporarily
lost and uncertain about their direction in life…
Social interactions have always left me uncentred and contracted. The expansiveness I feel when I am alone is rarely how a conversation feels for me. In the past, I have rejected all conversation with Mikhail Naimy’s dismissive summation: speech is at best an honest lie, while silence is at worst a naked verity. These days, though, I am beginning to glimpse something else. Maybe the fault is not in the meetings, but in who we are being when we meet others.
We hold back our gifts for fear they may be rejected. We show up as approximations of what (we believe) others would like to see us. We dress how we are supposed to – maybe a touch of red, to show we are rebels. And we meet others as half-hearted ghosts of ourselves. With cheerful robotic sentences and fake polite enquiries, we try to become like them, and they like us. We don’t relax too deeply into ourselves when we are around them, because we may mistakenly say something authentic. We may touch upon something deep and real and shake them into thinking about their half-hearted ghost lives too. And they may hate us for it.
So, I find, I stay on the edge when I am with others. Calling anxiety as excitement, and the trembling within me as aliveness. And I hold back my gifts from them; and they from me. We both cover it up with chatter and information and complaints and plans. We try not to see in each other’s eyes the silent connection that is deeper than words. And we don’t answer the question those eyes ask of us.
These days, I am beginning to wonder: is it possible that the way we connect with another is a microcosm of how we connect with life itself?
We cling to fear as responsible and right. We hold ourselves tight lest we fly away. We turn away from seeing our own magnificence. For once we see it, we would have to leave this ‘real world’ – leave the comforting grey mundanity of it all. And then we would be the mad, bad ones. The wierdos whom we have condemned. We would be mocked, judged and outcasted, or so we believe. Therefore, we must always tighten our muscles and our nerves to hold onto this reality. Because the opposite is unthinkable. A life of vastness without a centre. A life which is a gift constantly giving unto itself.
So we hold onto our ‘reality’: a body holding its tightness as tiny, triumphant proof of its separate existence. A voice that speaks in our heads in a familiar accent, which we take as proof of the uniqueness of our ideas. And the tremulous story of our life, pieced together from half-forgotten anecdotes, which we make proof of our specialness.
We surround ourselves with ‘immediate, urgent and important’ problems to avoid facing any other reality than this. We embrace this reality even as we make-believe it holds us. And complain the gift has been denied to us.
What would it take for us to see the gift that we are? And to allow that gift to be available to everyone we meet from today? What would it take for us to express the wisdom that we are – instead of choking it back?
These days, it feels like it’s time for me to show up as me. And I can’t wait to meet you.
When my son Nirvaan was a baby, my wife and I would put our ear to his little head. We could sense a deep peace within which is hard to describe. Every baby comes on this planet carrying this gift of silence, and gradually we fill it up with information. As Zen poets use haiku to capture the silence in nature, I tried to capture the natural silence inside all babies in this free-form haiku:
My newborn baby
Listen! Inside his soft head
A few days ago, I was dejected: the boutique hotel we had chosen for our family holiday called to say they had been sold out just a few hours before. As I walked off into my room gloomily, my three-year-old son tagged behind me, asking me: what happened, papa?
Papa is sad, I told him.
Why, he persisted.
I looked into his serious eyes and decided to give him the truth even though it would not make any sense to him: “The hotel we wanted to stay in for our holidays does not have rooms for us so papa is sad.”
He screwed up his forehead trying to understand, then replied: “But mama is still there.”
I stopped in my tracks. Yes, it was true: I did still have his mama, and him, and my family. And so much more to be happy for in that moment. I took a deep breath. And I realized I had more than enough air to fill my lungs for the rest of my life. I had enough earth to explore for the rest of my days. And my life itself is a pure gift – none of us can ‘earn’ even a moment of it.
That tiny exchange with my son triggered off a little snowball of gratitude. Over the week, I began to see that what I called my ‘burdens’ were blessings I was blaming to avoid facing the real issues; and those ‘real’ issues didn’t actually exist outside of my thoughts. Perhaps the only thing as amazing as seeing how much is perfect in your life is seeing how easily the mind gets locked onto the tiny apparent imperfections.
It turned out to be a challenging week, with a few unexpected expenses, delays and stressful moments. But whenever I found myself pulled down into negativity, I reminded myself: But mama is still there. It made me smile and became my personal code to remind me of everything that is all around serving me in that moment.
Eventually, our hotel room worked out perfectly too, as we have found an even better option – a mountain cottage – for ourselves. But the greater joy is in knowing that, regardless of whether it happened or not, ‘mama is still there’.
Have been busy with two film releases for the past week and missing the quiet company of bloggers within the excitement of the film world. Will be back with new insights & cartoons from GD & me this week! In the meantime, happy to have been conferred a Liebster Award from lovely Pavithra of secondattemptinblogging. The name of this award comes from a German word “Liebster” which means ‘Dearest’, ‘Favorite’ or ‘Beloved’ and has been going around since 2010. Sweet!
Random Facts about me:
Thank you all for reading and for inspiring me. Your feedback and comments are nourishment for my enthusiasm to create and share even more with you.