Personal Growth - The Highest Ethic
by Suma Varughese
Life calls upon us to adapt constantly to change-within ourselves, to others and the
circumstances of our lives. Our ability to do this determines our success, joy, and growth.
Life is implacable. It calls upon us to grow with every turn of the screw. And if we dig our heels and refuse, we invite the punishment of pain. We really have no choice if we value peace of mind, joy and life itself.
But how difficult it is to do this. It is human nature to seek the tried and tested, the safe option, to rest within our comfort zone. Left to ourselves, we really don't want to grow. We want to be lazy and comfy, snoozing on a sofa with a TV on, and some snacks by our side. We want to be looked after, we want someone else to make decisions for us, we want life to be easy. We want the world to revolve around our desires and expectations. We want people to love and obey us. We want success, fame, money, power and sex in short order. We want traffic lights to be green all the time. We want to be happy.
If only things could be that way. Unfortunately, what we want is totally irrelevant to life's scheme of things. Through the complex interweaving of our individual, group and planetary karma, a stream of events happen and each of them holds a placard in its hand bearing the legend, progress or perish.
Someone I know, for instance, has had to leave an organization she has founded, because of her need to be looked up to. When her staff was young and untried they obliged, but as they became more skilled and competent, the old relationship no longer fit and unfortunately she was not willing to adapt to the new needs of the relationship. And so she had to go.
But so it is everywhere. Most relationships break up because one or both cannot evolve to the extent necessary to salvage it and keep it going. Relationships, after all, are living things, the sum total of the dynamics within each of the parties. Unless there is a willingness to face the changes each is going through and allow the necessary adjustments within the relationship to happen, conflict, anger and resistance will build and eventually break it.
Women, for instance, are increasingly finding their voices and asserting themselves within the marital fold. The result, more often than not, has been discord, because the male ego has been unable to suffer this challenge to its supremacy.
It is always our ego that comes between us and growth. Our true nature is an effortless alignment with the forces of life and a natural and graceful adjustment to the situations that confront us. The ego, however, has its entire assemblage of self that comes in the way. It fears pain; it craves comfort and pleasure. It lives in insecurity and in want. Above all, it fears consciousness. And growth is nothing but progressive consciousness.
The success and harmony between a parent-child relationship depends entirely on dexterous adjustment in power equations and the parent's willingness to give the child the space to grow in self-assertion and self-confidence. If at any time, the parent clings to authority or the need to control, the relationship will become fraught with unspoken but powerful tensions.
The imperative to change becomes even more charged for those who are committed to growth. Such people experience life as a constantly changing, constantly evolving phenomenon that challenges them to move to the next step and then the next.
At each of these steps, the seeker must be willing to sacrifice who she is for who she could be; to let go of comfort; to submit to being uncomfortable and in pain; to confront his or her inner demons and not to flinch; and eventually to move forward gingerly, but victoriously.
A friend, for instance, has always been a housewife and thrived on the challenges of being a mother, taking care of the house and being an exemplary wife. Lately, though, she has sensed that she might have to move forward, to let go of the comfort level of the house and venture forth into the uncertainties and challenges of the job market. She longs now to do something that excites her, to give rein to her need for self-expression, to uncork her creativity. She is standing on exciting and dangerous terrain for she must risk putting her family to discomfort, as well as herself. She must face the fear of failure and the pain of learning new things in a new and possibly unpropitious environment. However, if she turns her back on this new step, she must condemn herself to stagnancy, inner discontent and disappointment in herself.
How can we learn to work with and not against this commandment to grow?
First, we need to respect the inner voice that tells us that something within us is out of sync with our external environment whether it is do with relationships, career, or other areas of our lives. Then we must listen to it, attentively heeding the little hints and nudges it gives us, paying attention to the thoughts and fantasies that run through our heads and to the little coincidences that life throws tantalizingly at us, like clues to the cosmic treasure hunt that they indeed are.
Once we know for sure what it is we are meant to do, we must have the courage to go forward, regardless of the discomfort. There will even be times when our commitment to grow will hurt another, for instance when a relationship is threatened. At such times extreme sensitivity and caution is required to negotiate this shift without damaging and wounding the other. Above all, one must act with utter inner integrity and only with the commitment to being true to oneself.
Ultimately, we need to acknowledge that our highest morality and highest ethic derives from our sacred duty to life itself to evolve and grow.