Change without is a function of change within. When you change, the world changes, says Suma Varughese
It is uncanny how the majority of youngsters in their teens and 20s emerge from school or college determined to change the world.
Well-meaning and idealistic, many of them, at great personal sacrifice, launch into a career of activism. Often, the journey ends in frustration and burn-out. No matter how much they harangue the corporate and industrial world, they refuse to change. And the common man, they fume, is only interested in his roj ki roti (daily bread).
What went wrong? There is a poem of Rumi’s which goes something like this: “In my youth, I was foolish, and so I tried to change the world. Now wiser, I only try to change myself.”
Changing oneself is the only guaranteed way of changing the world. How so? Arriving at changing oneself is usually a process we reach after we have done banging our foreheads on the nearest wall in frustration at our inability to make others change. “No matter how much I tell you to study beforehand, you only wake up at the last minute,” you rave at your teen, but to no avail. And one fine day, it hits you like the proverbial ton of bricks, that, really, there is nothing you can do to make others change. They are not robots whom you can crank with a lever. They are human beings with a will of their own. And there is no guarantee that they will obey your dictates.
And iIn fact, the only person you can reliably change is yourself! That news is often far from being welcome. It means we have to stop blaming others and work on changing ourselves. But in the absence of any other solution, we buckle down to it. Instead of waiting for your spouse to bring in the milk or newspaper, you do that yourself. You even learn to make your own cup of tea instead of leaving it to your spouse. You also learn to go on Amazon and order what you need instead of waiting endlessly for your daughter to find the time. You pick up the clothes on the floor and even learn to button your mouth about it instead of flaring at the culprit.
And slowly, things change. Your family notices that you are much less vocal than before. And they start noticing that even without them, things are getting done. Their conscience begins to prick them and you receive a pleasant surprise when they volunteer to help you. “Look, Dad, let me help you to book your plane ticket,”, or “Mom, you wanted something from Amazon, right?”. But the biggest change will be in you. You will enjoy a pleasant sense of power. You can manage things by yourself. You don’t have to depend on others. And slowly, you begin to flex your change muscles a bit more adventurously. How about learning to be a bit more organised? How about working to control my temper? Or learning to be more patient?
Over time, you learn the tools of transformation, which are only two: Selfself-awareness and acceptance of all that you become aware of. With these as your support, you begin to shift and change. The more you change, the more power pulses within you. People can’t seem to push your buttons any more. And as self-awareness shines light on your behaviour and conditioning, you slowly become more accepting of other people’s behaviour too. Just like you, they too are doing the best they can. Just like you, they too are not in control of their likes and dislikes, their cravings and aversions. Your family finds that you give much more space than before. And that you seem to take the trouble to understand them, and not just blame them. Free of the need to defend themselves, they too become a little more introspective and begin to change.
And one fine day, you wake up to find that your family life is much more harmonious than before. And what did you do? You only changed yourself!
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