By Akber Ayub
It is often difficult to pinpoint the beginning of a spiritual journey. In my case, serendipitous coincidences paved the way. On hindsight, however, I realise that I seemed to have a propensity for such events.
I have always had an alert, curious mind; always getting to the core of issues, bent on unravelling enigmas (I am a mechanical engineer by training, and now a travel writer by choice). Simultaneously, I also had the constant perception of an inner world; a certain pull towards nature and ultimately, a quest for truth. I remember taking off on Sunday mornings, when the world was asleep, on solitary sojourns, driving along country roads with no particular destination in mind, intent only on putting more distance between me and the city (Bangalore). Invariably I ended up, as if guided by an unseen force, at beautiful spots – a river or lakeside, a hilltop, green pastures or a wooded patch. I could spend hours in solitude, taking in nature, delighting in the stillness, for once free of the capers of the mind.
This tenuous connection to something higher than me transformed into spiritual leanings and gradually, took me to diverse spiritual centres in search of truth and meaning. That same unseen force seemed to work behind me when, through coincidences, I came upon books by eclectic writers like James Redfield, Deepak Chopra, Louise Hay and Eckhart Tolle – chancing upon them in a bookstore, someone pointedly lending a book to me unasked, or stumbling upon a book title. I understood how Sufism is the spiritual arm of Islam just as Gnosticism is of Christianity, and Advaita Vedanta of Hinduism, not to speak of Zen Buddhism and Taoism. History tells us that the core spiritual teachings in every religion have always been sidestepped and obscured from the mainstream. Every spiritual seeker is aware of this. No wonder Western writers have been increasingly looking to the spiritual essence of Eastern religions. Spiritual gems culled from these sources are now being re-presented in a plethora of books emanating from the West.
Somewhere along the way, I picked up a wonderful tool called forgiveness, and unburdened myself of the heavy baggage of grudges, bitterness and past pain. The salutary effect it has had in every area of my life is amazing – from food habits to career changes to family and social ties. Ego was a big hurdle too – a demanding, unforgiving parasite that had made my mind its home, and made me believe I was it. Dismantling its talons from the recesses of my mind has proved a formidable task. However, once again, that unseen force came to my aid – it is a great ally. Writing, I discovered, has been a great help too. I started working on my first novel – a dark mystery – quite some time ago. Taking my protagonist through life’s dark alleys, grim days and murky nights and the grisly twists and turns of the plot have had an unexpected result – a catharsis of sorts for me!
Writing has also been a gateway as it were, to that divine source within, that all of us possess. I have had a way with words since long: probably got it from my late mother. Nevertheless, I had not done any serious pen pushing until mid-life when I began looking for something more meaningful than a successful engineering career. I turned to writing. The first piece I wrote was predictably on the human mind. An unpretentious monthly called Meantime carried that story – and the editor wanted more. That is when I began looking at my love for travel, and commenced writing article-sized travelogues. Leading national dailies carried my travel pieces. Travel mags were next and I started doing assignments for top-end publications. I also began writing on topical environmental issues, on science, and then spirituality. I later did assignments for publishing houses on coffee-table travel books and others. Some time in the midst of all this, I started working on my first novel – tapping into that same higher source for inspiration.
Apart from spurring my creative output, the journey has also involved a spring-cleaning of my psyche, making room as it were for a higher consciousness. What have I learnt so far? I resonate with these home-truths: that life is about dissolving the old and creating anew, that lasting peace and happiness can come only from meeting the deep spiritual needs of the soul.
Akber Ayub is a mechanical engineer by profession, an ex-marine engineer, ex- industrialist, member of a college faculty, and finally, following his heart, now a writer.
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