Where are you running to? What are you running from?
During my school exams, I distinctly remember, as I neared the completion of my paper, I would start speeding up. Not necessarily because I was short on time. I just wanted to get it over with. I just wanted to get to the end. And the pattern continued. On and on. To my college, work and to my relationships. I just wanted to get things over with. There was a certain sense of high that I used to get at the exact moment of completion of a given thing. And here’s the thing. That sensation would go away the moment I completed or achieved whatever I had set out to complete/achieve. And immediately the moment after, I would decide the next thing I wanted to complete. I have been running from one goal to another. Just as society expects one to run from one milestone to another, leading up to one’s retirement and the settlement of one’s kids and grandkids. Only after that are we allowed to relax and take it easy. Recently, I did my first 10-day Vipassana course. Although I was aware of this tendency of being obsessed with completing things, this became extremely prominent during the course. In such a setting where you’re not allowed to speak to anyone, don’t have anything to distract you and are spending the whole day just with yourself, practicing a technique meant to break the barrier between your conscious and unconscious mind, the little acts that often go unnoticed in a regular day now feature very prominently. I kept noticing the amount of times I would rush into wearing my slippers, or just slam every door causing a loud, irritating noise, or wash my dishes in a hurry leading to a larger diameter left wet than was meant to be. I would gulp my food in an instant and would often feel good that I now have more time to rest before the next meditation session began. Even during our meditation practice, the first 3 days are simply dedicated to training the mind to remain at one point instead of jumping all over the place (which, by the way, you can experience instantly if you close your eyes and try to focus on your breath continuously for just 1 minute). Even after meditating for close to 10 hours every day for several days, my habit patterns hadn’t changed. Until I got to learn that the object that we chase is immaterial. What really makes us keep craving for something new, something more, is the sensation of craving itself. It the feeling that we get while we are chasing something, anything, and the moment we’ve achieved it.
We crave not an object but the sensation of craving itself.
I experientially realised that I am constantly trying to get to the next moment. I can’t stay in the present moment. I don’t know how to. I don’t want to. Be it anything. I just want to run to the next thing. This has been my habit pattern. Over so many years. Constantly running. But the irony is that there is nothing apart from the present moment in which we can live. Nothing is running away from me because nothing else exists. Only me in the present moment and whatever I’m doing in it. Either I can abhor it, dread it, rush to complete it, stress about completing it. Or I can enjoy the essence of whatever I am engaged in, in the present moment. I can enjoy the food that I am eating. I can feel refreshed by the clean, pleasant water splashing on my fingers as I wash the dishes. I can look into the eyes of the person I’m talking to and deeply focus on the story that they are sharing with me. After all, I was looking forward to this moment in this past. So, why not enjoy it when the moment is here?
There isn’t any timer that I have to beat. There is no competition that I have to win. Apart from the one with that part of me which gives me the illusion of one. Just like a wild animal that has lost its mind can cause havoc or be our strongest ally if befriended, our minds, which often becomes our worst enemy, can become our closest friend and guardian too. We talk so much about body workouts to train our body. But we don’t nearly talk enough about workouts to train our mind so that we can befriend it. Instead, we keep running, bottling up our emotions and feelings, our pain, suppressing our true desires to fit the frame that society has prepared for us and eventually, conflicting the pain and anger this causes on to ourselves and often to others.
All this doesn’t mean that I don’t want to have desires or goals. I absolutely do. They truly drive me. But at what cost am I pursuing them? What happens if I don’t achieve them? What sort of pace am I running at? Are they truly goals that bring me joy or are they the goals of the frames provided to us?
I truly believe that all of us, at our core, have infinite potential for care, love and compassion. But more often than not, I’ve failed to give this care, love and compassion to the first person who needs this the most. Myself. Have you?