By Purnima Coontoor November 2006 For most of us, time is a tyrant, relentlessly pushing us forward. The spiritual journey is all about escaping from its clutches and resting peacefully in the present moment. How do we crest this divide? An exploration. ‘For the one who is possessed by time, there is no way there except bewilderment’- Jelaluddin Rumi‘We suffer when we have not learnt to deal with a situation and enjoy when we have.’-Dr Sujendra prakash‘I give the same kind of detailed attention to all the work I do.’-Ishwar Daitota‘Live life for its own sake; there is no need to have an agenda.’-Dr Ganesh Modern day life makes too many demands on us. ‘One thing at a time…’ no longer seems to be a viable proposition. Your attention is divided among many different tasks at a time, and something else is always more important than what you are doing right now. The cooker whistles, the mobile sings, the baby wails and the doorbell rings – all at the same time. You are unable to concentrate on the task at hand, and make silly mistakes that could have been avoided if you were paying attention. So you do the same work all over again. You then feel dissatisfied with yourself, your family, your boss, the situation, and with life itself. Your movements are jerky, your thoughts are jerky, your body is tense, your mind is muddled, your work output is far from efficient. You feel pulled and pushed in all directions, and are no longer in control. Time is, and you are its slave. Mental and physical exhaustion overtakes you, rendering you more incapable. Bewilderment is all you can feel.Dr. Sujendra Prakash, a psychologist from Bangalore, states in his web site www.supratherapy.com that there are three types of stress: Neustress (neutral stress), Eustress (positive stress) and Distress (negative stress). The symptoms outlined above are simply the effect of distress. It is the root cause of all disorders. He says, ‘For man, suffering comes automatically. People suffer because they have not learnt how to cope with problems. Drowning is automatic, which can be prevented by learning to swim. In any situation, we suffer when we have not learnt to deal with it and enjoy when we have learnt to deal with it. So we first need to learn to deal with stressful situations.’ ‘Sink or swim’ seems to be the Hobson’s choice most face today. It is inevitable that multiple jobs demand our attention at once, but, as Dr. Prakash says, we have to learn to deal with it, and understand where the leakage happens. One way is to cut down on the number of jobs that we take on, and simplify life. But that might not always be possible. Management gurus would tell us to learn simple time management, beginning with tackling procrastination. Just getting down to doing whatever needs to be done is a good way to begin. Beat ProcrastinationAll of us have the same amount of time per day, but procrastinators do not invest it wisely. People put off things that they should be focusing on right now, usually in favor of doing something that is more enjoyable or they are more comfortable doing. This often leads to feelings of guilt or inadequacy, not to mention jobs piling up until they are unmanageable. Time then becomes the favorite villain, forever in short supply. ‘Just the sight of a wash basin full of dirty dishes is enough to depress me. I’d always rather do something else,’ says Anita, a homemaker. ‘I keep postponing it, until by night it has grown into a mountain.’ Resentment follows, and it’s a tired and angry Anita who goes to bed. People also tend to shelve important jobs, in favor of getting urgent jobs done. Getting on that treadmill at 10.30 every morning is important, but going to the ATM at that very hour is urgent. Finishing the project report is important, but checking mail just once more is urgent. Spending time on a leisurely family dinner is important, but catching the prime time news on TV is always urgent. Thus, procrastinators spend lots of time on urgent issues, and bypass important jobs for later. Other reasons (excuses?) could be that the ‘mood’ is not ‘right’, or the ‘time’ is not ‘right’. ‘Just do it’ says an ad for Nike, and it could well be addressed to procrastinators. There can never be a wrong time to do the right thing. Says a verse in Sanskrit: Tadeva lagnam, sudinam tadeva (the right time and day is here and now). If only this simple mantra were applied in everyday situations, a lot could get accomplished. And the feeling of satisfaction from ‘closing a file’ is enormous. Enjoy the JourneyAnother debilitating tendency in people is to put off things for fear of failure, or expectations of doing a perfect job all the time. We tend to either underestimate or overestimate our potential, and settle for all or nothing. More often, it’s nothing. We need to be gentle with ourselves, allow space for mistakes, and take pleasure in the performance of the task rather than worry about its outcome. Film actor Hrithik Roshan has been often quoted to say that the success or failure of his films becomes immaterial to him by the time he is done with them, because he always finds the process enriching. This can be a rewarding attitude to take, and it comes recommended from no less a being than Lord Krishna himself: Karmanyaevadhikaraste maa phaleshu kadachan (You have the right only to duty, not to its results). This is not to say that we should never expect results for our work, but that if we take care of the work itself, results will follow automatically. Children fall into this mode quite easily. Just look at a child painting; can you see the rapture on her face, apart from blotches of color on the sheet, when she is producing her work of art? This is because children’s egos are not fully developed, and they are able to find joy in simple things. Tackling our jobs with the innocence and enthusiasm of a child is one of the keys to enter timelessness. While children do it automatically, we need to make an effort. The first step in that direction is to drop the ego. Drop the EgoThe human ego is very strong, and very problematic. Most people cannot let go of their problems as they give them a strong sense of identity and importance. Frequently we get stuck to the problems, unable to seek solutions. When in the thick of things, people think longingly of retirement, and when they do, they fall into depression. The need ‘to do’ something all the time is an exclusive human trait, and purely the work of an advanced ego. And this has been ingrained in man at a very young age and reiterated at all stages of life. When the need to prove something, do something, or get somewhere, is realized as a never ending and futile game, time slows down dramatically. The focus then shifts from doing something specific to just doing whatever is required at that moment. Academician and Vedantic philosopher, Dr Ganesh, says that appreciation of art helped him understand and lead life better. ‘The purpose of art is to transcend all purposes,’ he says, adding, ‘Of what apparent use is a beautiful painting? Art for art’s sake, and life for life’s sake. The purpose is given by the ego, and once the idea of a purpose is dropped, ego is dropped too. Just live life for its own sake, there is no need to have an agenda.’ Osho reflects the same thoughts when he says that birds fly and flowers bloom for no reason at all. They neither look for appreciation nor care for reward…and they never seem to be in a hurry! New age guru Deepak Chopra, in his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, recommends that one should make a habit of sitting without doing anything, not even thinking, for half an hour every morning and evening. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Even when we are at the dentist’s or waiting somewhere, we tend to reach for a magazine, or listen to the radio, or meditate, or look at people and have a dialog within. Without realizing it, we are adding to our stress. In Zen Buddhism, sitting still is called being in a state of ‘Zazen’. Zen lays great importance on dropping the ego, and is full of techniques to help seekers do that. Often, initiates are asked to just chop wood, or dice potatoes, or do some other innocuous deed for years together. Osho often says that the most vital operations of our body happen without the interference of our ego, like breathing and blood circulation. The universe will take care of everything for us, if only we let it. Only a state of deep and total surrender to the forces of the universe and nothing less will do. All religions have realized the limitations of the human ego. Christians have been taught to say, ‘Thy will be done’, and Mohammedans, ‘Inshallah’. Dada Vaswani’s simple mantra to overcome stress is… ‘Meri dori tere haath’ (my life-strings are in your hands). ‘Don’t be worried about doing,’ says Osho ‘just learn to let the grass grow by itself.’ Buddha tried all tricks to attain enlightenment, and it happened automatically when he sat down exhausted and dropped all ‘doing’. The danger in this is that man can happily misunderstand the meaning of ‘letting the grass grow’ as a license for laziness. It also seems to be an extremely fatalistic attitude to adapt. If God will take care of everything, why should we do anything? But to surrender is to drop the sense of ‘doership’ and not the action itself. It’s realising that everything is happening ‘through’ you, and not ‘by’ you. And to surrender is not to feel helpless, but rather feel safe and secure, like a child clasped at the mother&
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