Paralysed by Greatness

frozen-man

A few days ago, my brother and mentor GD was talking on the phone about his recent workshop on ‘stuckness’ in life. He felt it was relevant for me to hear about a participant who had topped his class in school and college, and excelled at work. Everyone told him he was destined for greatness. And now, since he had quit his job a year ago, he could not bring himself to start anything new – because it didn’t feel like it was matching his vision of greatness.

I was startled because this was so close to my situation. My school motto was Natus Ad Maiora – Born for Greater Things –and perhaps it had set the tone for my life. I got my name in the top ranks through college and got double-promoted multiple times at my media job. For most of my corporate life, I tried to use every waking minute to live up to my full potential for greatness.

The question GD had asked the participant (and me) was: “Is it possible that your desperation for greatness is your biggest obstacle?”

I was initially taken aback. Without this promise of greatness, I feared wallowing in depression and mediocrity. This conviction gave me hope that all suffering and hard work would be ultimately worthwhile. It inspired me to be patient, to work hard, to stay focused.

But then I remembered that the pressure of this destiny had also become a weapon in the hands of my inner critic who put it to my head every time I tried to begin something new.

Sensing my train of thought, GD continued: “You reject too many things when you ask: is this the great thing I am meant to do? Is this great enough, amazing enough, perfect enough for me? More often than not – the answer seems to be ‘no’. Even if you do push yourself to begin, you work from stress, fear and proving. In life, you don’t always know what is going to turn out great.”

I could sense the deadly seriousness this ironclad demand for ‘greatness’ brings to exploring new ideas. But I still found myself resisting letting go of this belief, which had been my wishing star on many a lonely night.

“Yes, this desire for greatness generates a pleasurable fantasy,” GD said, “but is it really helping you get there? Or is it actually diminishing your real greatness?

“You are already an Awesome Divine Being. But when you try to prove your greatness, you have actually lost sight of it.

“When you operate from the desperation of greatness, you lose sight of whether you are truly enjoying what you are doing. You lose your natural light-heartedness and freedom. You lose contact with spontaneity, with life in the here-now. Often, just doing what feels sensible or fun in this moment can be the beginning of something great!

It reminded me of my father, the national-award winning author and painter Aabid Surti, who has found such unexpected greatness recently with his little idea of fixing taps in his community for free (Read the story here). He didn’t start off trying to become famous or even change the world. It just began with repairing one leaky tap, he says, because it seemed like a good idea. For months afterwards, he didn’t tell anyone he was spending his Sundays fixing leaks in the neighborhood. Five years later, he was invited to accept an award by the President of India. What were the chances that he would find significance in doing something tiny that made him happy rather than waiting and planning for that giant sunburst of glory to appear?

GD concluded: “Instead of being desperate for greatness, choose Presence and Playfulness. Being Present… being Conscious and Aware will guide you effortlessly to your next move. And being playful will ensure that the ego does not take over and corrupt everything.”

Wanted: A Life Purpose (*conditions apply)

Waiting for A DirectionSince I let go of my full-time corporate job, every few months, I used to feel dejected that life/god/existence was not showing me my calling, the grand and glorious purpose in life that I had heard and read so much about.

On one such gloomy, rainy day, my mentor GD sat me down and asked me: “What will it look like when you find your calling?” Despite my past experience with his seemingly innocent-sounding questions, I answered that one.

I replied it should be something worthy, inspiring and larger-than-life. “What you are seeking is not your calling,” GD pointed out, “but a new path of ego-gratification.”

Wow. I hadn’t seen that coming.

With just one sentence, my new age/light-worker/eco-warrior ego was crushed like a recycled coca-cola can. So my oh-so-righteous rants to God were just an employee haranguing his boss for a promotion? As I recovered my composure, I asked GD if there was such a thing as a calling or life purpose then?

The way I see it, he said, one’s calling is something that feels simple, natural and spontaneous in this moment. It is not that Existence doesn’t show you your calling, but the mind rejects it insisting that it should look a certain way — that it should be spectacular right from the start. So you are asking God to show you your purpose, but you have a huge asterisk with “CONDITIONS APPLY” below it. And even if tomorrow morning it happened in the spectacular, sudden way you imagine it, it would only create stress and pressure, because it is not a natural flowering.

In every moment, I realized, our calling comes to us like a gentle birdcall, while we wait for the fanfare of a Republic Day Parade.

“We dismiss that little voice because we don’t know where it is leading,” GD added. “Otherwise, this process is already silently in motion. All we need to do is to trust the Universal Flow. Our calling is simply to honor the impulse that is ‘calling’ in this moment.”

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Specialness ~ An extra-ordinary talk by GD

Deepti Gujar’s “extra-ordinary” post on Specialness includes a free audio download of GD speaking on the subject. Where all do you still try to maintain your specialness? Where have you become imprisoned by your talent and cut off from life? A worthy exploration…

Flowering of eternity

This is one of the best talks I’ve ever heard. It is one of those group sessions where GD opens to a page in A Course In Miracles, starts reading it, and opens up a discussion in the group based on the lines. This is a talk I kept visiting once…twice…thrice and every time I did, I became more aware of acting out from specialness. Eventually I just sat down with my journal and started making a note of all the places where I play out this specialness, pausing it at very intervals. GD has so incisively pulled out the many different angles to this subject that it is one hell of an ego buster! Though of course, he does it with his characteristic humour that softens some of the blow 🙂

I invite you to hear it with this context – Are you aware of the many ways in…

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The Tao of Decision Making

Making a major life decision can be a tricky business for the best of us. The mind goes into overdrive mode, emotional clouds engulf us, and our whole system goes into an obsessive desperation to get out of this uncomfortable state.

Sometimes the final decision is pulled towards the strongest fear or desire, and sometimes made out of sheer exhaustion or frustration. Here are a few tips that my mentor GD shares with those around him on ‘seeing’ this whole maze of decision-making.

1)   “What to do?” is not the right question.
When you struggle incessantly with your decision, GD says, there is no place for something new to land. Somewhat like an airport where all the runways are already jammed with airplanes, allowing no new flight to arrive. The relaxation of a warm, soapy bathtub, as Archimedes showed, can be the secret to fresh inspiration. Shifting the focus from ‘what should I do’ to ‘coming to the right space where the decision can happen’ is important. Instead of struggling for the answer, find peace in this moment – and then wait for the solution to ‘land’.

2)   See the illusion of the ‘One Perfect Choice’
Choice is based on an underlying story that there is only one perfect decision: one path which leads to absolute happiness and another which leads to ruin. Release yourself from this draconian scenario by seeing that no matter what choice you make, it will have its own share of challenges and joys. This relaxes the mind from constantly plotting, manipulating and waiting for the ‘jackpot’ choice. And takes the weight off your shoulders of making that one perfect decision. As Byron Katie puts it: “If you go left, you get a story. Go right and you get another story.”

3)   Be at Peace on the Crossroad
Have you noticed that decisions appear life-consuming only when you are miserable? When you are happy, in a flow or playing with your cat, they lose their life-and-death seriousness. Being peaceful and joyous in the moment is a great platform upon which decisions crystallize.
Also, remembering that the external world cannot ultimately make you happy is a good sticky-note during this phase. Ultimately, it’s not about making the right decision, the real thing is finding love-peace-joy in this moment regardless of external situations.

4)   The freedom and simplicity of ‘I-Don’t-Know’
Instead of forcing a decision, consider the possibility of simply and honestly acknowledging ‘I-don’t-know-yet’ to yourself and others. Or “I am not sure yet, let’s leave it open for now.” Sometimes, the answer has not yet unfolded for you, and sometimes, even when you are clear within, there may be a pause sign within the system… saying it’s not time for action yet. Honor your pauses and waiting periods as much as you honor your time of action.

5)   Clear your Desires & Fears around the subject
Greed and fear often prompt us to take decisions which are not aligned with the heart – some people get married under pressure, others take up jobs they hate. If you know how to, use therapies, clearing processes and meditations to clear your energy around the subject. Once the howling winds of desire and fear have quietened, the still small voice of the heart starts being heard.

6)   Thy will be done
Finally, remember that things happen as they happen and when they happen. Surrender to the grander scheme of things – the higher intelligence that is flawlessly executing a million processes right now in the universe. The ego’s desire to control life is the fundamental source of its suffering. And allowing itself to surrender and allow and flow with life, the key to its liberation.

On this, GD sometimes quotes his own teacher, who often used to say: ‘The entire journey can be done with just four words – Thy Will Be Done.’

Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Great Pretenders

One of the recurring feelings I had during my corporate career was the sense of being a fraud who was going to be exposed at any time. It was not because I was stealing money or clients from the company, it was far more subtle – a sense of having overstated one’s talents and clout, promising more than one could deliver and living with a fear of being found out.

Looking around, I realized that this is as common in the world of work as stapler pins. Politicians are constantly overstating their influence, businessmen are overstating their business acumen, celebrities are overstating their stardom. Even spiritual seekers and therapists sometimes pretend to be beyond their evolution. Almost everyone feels pressured to paint and then uphold a false picture of themselves. We don’t join the dots but the inevitable result is a sense of fear that follows us around like a shadow.

The funny thing is that I remember spending many months trying to get rid of this fear using spiritual tools and processes, but nothing seemed to clear it for good. A few hours or days and the fear would creep back into the system in a new guise.

My brother and mentor GD reminded me of this phase of my life on the phone today as he joked: “If we don’t stop creating false impressions, not even God can make our fear go away. Whenever we lie or pretend, there is bound to be fear. The simple way out is to BE and SAY exactly where you stand in this moment. But the ego, which has spent a lifetime trying to cultivate the perfect image and appearance, finds this terrifying. For some of us, being ‘exposed’ is worse than death. Because the false image has slowly become real… it has become ‘me’.”

“Most of us are not even aware of all the places in our life where we are hiding, role-playing, or pretending to be something we really aren’t. But one thing is certain: where there is deception, there will be some kind of anxiety or uneasiness. At those times, this simple question may change the game altogether: What is the truth in this moment that I am not acknowledging?”

As I heard GD speaking, I remembered the old adage: ‘The truth shall set you free’. But I wondered if I have the courage to speak it.

Illustration © Aalif Surti 2012

A Sweet Weekend Reminder!


“If you were happy every day of your life you wouldn’t be a human being.

You’d be a game-show host.”

– Winona Ryder in Heathers (1989)


Photo Used Under Creative Commons via katerha

The Glorification of Busyness

The glorification of busynessConfession: These days, I sometimes feel guilty about not being busy. After a decade in corporate life, I occasionally lie when someone asks for time to meet – and I tell them we can meet next week, even when all of today lies before me like a blank canvas waiting to be painted.

I seem to be still holding on to the story that busyness equals importance. A ‘crazy busy’ person is in demand. A stressed person is handling important things. A person whose body is crying for attention is actually a martyr for a greater cause of financial profit. And all their ‘complaints’ about busyness are actually membership cards for the elite club of valuable people.

Recently, I met a friend in a beautiful café. While we spoke she was typing e-mails on her laptop and BBMing on her blackberry. I was amused and stopped speaking and watched her. It was almost a minute before she looked up and squinted, trying to recall what we were talking about: “…so you were saying?” I smiled, remembering the days I too pretended to be indispensible.

For some busyness appears to be a way to avoid dealing with the real issues – it doesn’t matter what they are busy with, as long as the mind is occupied till it’s too tired to think at night. Others live scared that if they stop, they will prove their uselessness. So it is glorified as ambition or drive when it is actually terror of facing oneself.

In essence, GD says, busyness is a way to avoid the Black Hole at the center of one’s being. That space which is the exact opposite of everything I try to project when I am trying to be the dynamic, ecstatic, efficient busy person. It is the repository of our sense of loneliness, meaninglessness, uselessness, depression and abandonment. It feels like death to face it because the mind says that once one lets go into it, one can never come out.  So we all spend our lives controlling it, keeping it at bay or running from it.

The beauty is that once you face it, you come to see that it doesn’t exist. The story of failure you were scared about was fuelled by the story of success you are chasing. When you give up one, the other falls away simultaneously. And in the absence of both, there is peace already waiting for you.

Picture used under Creative Commons License via Sean Dreilinger