Sitting here in a mountain village in Dharamshala, I wonder what must be happening back in Mumbai, the city I have lived most of my life. People rushing to offices, trains running one after the other, street vendors shouting to sell their wares, corporate executives grabbing a quick bite between meetings. A normal day in a normal life in the city.
As I gaze at the mountains covered with a thick forest of pine trees against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, listening to the twittering sound of birds chirping, inhaling fresh green air, I feel as though time has slowed down. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Sitting on the veranda of my home stay, I close my eyes, stretch my legs and soak in the morning sun.
Suddenly the phone rings, it’s a friend “I need to do something. I feel I am becoming complacent.” she says with a tone of dissatisfaction. As I finish the call, I wonder “Am I being complacent?” Shouldn’t I be doing something – arranging workshops, designing retreats, getting my book published, looking for work space. Am I missing out on life? Will I be left behind? Will I run out of money?
These questions make me realize something.
Most of my life has been fueled by fear. Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO. Missing out on opportunity, success, pleasure. Something that would enhance me or help me achieve what I wish to do or become.
I cannot recall any moment in my life when my mind was not wanting. Imagining some future goal, situation, relationship that would fulfil it. Always hoping, wishing, fantasizing, longing, craving for something. If only this happened, life would be better. Irrespective of what happened in my life, this projecting tendency of the mind always remained.
Ambition is a strong desire to do or achieve something. An aim or a plan for the future. It propels us to action, motivates us, gives us a sense of direction. It also makes us anxious, nervous and depressed, if things do not go as planned.
Intention creates tension.
This tension between what is and what should be has become an integral part of our life. It is as though our lives are split into two. One life is what is happening in this moment and the other life is the one we live in our heads. The desired life. The imagined life. We are constantly trying to bridge the gap between reality and imagination. This is the burden of modern day life. Better, bigger, greater, larger, grander. The hope for future fulfilment.
But this fulfillment never happens. Whenever we reach our goal post, it moves further away. Our mind is kept alive by the insatiable need to satiate itself.
I remember one of the cherished moments of my boarding school life. All the students participating in the Inter School Sports Meet were exempted from giving their half-yearly exams. We were to focus on our sporting activity, given a special diet and could rest in the afternoon. I was delighted! I no longer had the burden to study and excel. I could just be.
Growing up on a diet of doing, no one teaches how to be.
Just Existing. Just Breathing. Just Present.
In our need to be extraordinary we miss out on the extraordinariness of the ordinary.
The silent mountains. The splendid sunset. The joyful breath. The gentle touch. The playful laughter. The cool breeze. The fragrant earth. The pouring rain.
Life is not something we make for ourselves. Life is something that happens to us.
Our alienation with Existence, makes us believe we have to do something to make our life happen. If we did not do something, life would come to a grinding halt. We would waste our time. It is the way our socially conditioned mind keeps itself alive. Constantly propelled by the fear of being a nobody.
Everything in nature has its dharma. The seed of a banyan tree does not have to try to become a banyan tree, it is in its nature to do so. The koel does not have to try to sing like a koel, it is in its nature to do so. The rose does not have to try to smell like a rose, it is in its nature to do so.
Similarly every human has a natural self-expression. It makes her curious, creative, inspired and engaged. If we are able to unpeel the layers of social conditioning that compels us to constantly do something, we are likely to stumble upon our swabhava.
When I go for my evening walk, I often see an old man returning from his walk, on the same path. He carries a small back pack out of which juts out a big wooden flute. He happens to stay near my place. Every night when it is silent, I hear the melodious notes of a flute coming from his home.
If we are able to let go of the fear of missing out, we will come across the Joy Of Missing Out. JOMO. Living life without constantly thinking what to do next. Just being present to life happening now. It’s possible then, in the silent stillness of our existence, the Universe will produce a natural melody from the empty flute of our Being.
Doing emanates from Being.
Until that happens I have decided to just be. Eat. Sleep. Walk. Write. Teach. Just do what comes naturally to me, with least effort. Even if I am being complacent, I do not mind. After all, I have spent a whole lifetime trying to get somewhere.
Perhaps the time has come to be nowhere.