For decades my best friend has patiently challenged me to look deeper into in the following questions, and to glean lessons found therein:
- Is this really how you want to interact with the world and those around you?
- Is this who you want to be?
- Is this actually what’s important to you?
To give some context, throughout my childhood and most of my adult life, I was a very angry person who pushed people away by being rather prickly. My method of surviving the internal chaos was to construct barriers, keeping people away thereby decreasing the influx of stimuli. I felt lost; anger provided an anchor for weathering storms, although ironically also created cyclones of its own. Despite feeling like I gained control, it wasn’t a thriving environment. And as mentioned, it moored me to behaviour that others found less than savoury which, as life progressed, left me feeling disconnected and separated.
Earlier this year I had the remarkable opportunity to visit India. Every day was filled with life-altering experiences. Their lasting effects continue to reprogram how I see and interact with myself and the world. Yet, tied to those memories is also a concern, questions that plague me because I’m well aware of my past iniquities—offences for which I feel shame.
- How present, loving and grateful was I, really?
- How often was I ill-tempered and heedless?
- How much did I fail myself and those around me?
I’ve found regret to be unhelpful in my personal development. I chose instead to strive for altruism. To walk this path I must first show kindness to myself. It begins with understanding and acceptance: believing that I was the best person I knew how to be at the time. From that point, a door opens allowing me to step forward into possibility: committing to being and becoming more thoughtful in my consideration, feeling and actions.
Recently, while studying Indian philosophy I read about the Gunas—the qualities, attributes and tendencies of energy that create the essential aspects of all nature. I was immediately intrigued:
- How might these elements of reality be affecting me?
- Could I learn to recognise the interplay of these three Gunas so that I could then offset negative effects and thereby live more consistently from a place of gratitude, compassion and love?
- Could these Gunas be solutions for how to better design my behaviour?
Initially, this reverie sounded well-intentioned but the teachings warn of attempts to manipulate the qualities of nature because such attempts are developmental impediments formed by a sense of doership, called ‘kartrutva buddhi’. In western nomenclature it might be summarised as a narcissistic belief that the individual is the central and crucial element in life.
I realised that I was repeating the habit pattern of attempting to enforce control, this time by manipulating and exploiting cosmic forces for my benefit. Thankfully, I have learned an approach that helps me out of sticky situations like this. It’s the practice of self-enquiry and takes the form, “Who is it that…?” In this case, the question becomes, “Who is it that is attempting to control?” Each time I ask it I’m increasingly finding that the answer is that there’s a general lack of interest in the need for control.
Self-enquiry returns awareness to the present moment. It strips everything away leaving timeless presence. By asking who it is that feels, thinks, desires and questions space is created. It allows a pause for, as Kelly Brogan puts it, “response-ability”. The use of self-enquiry cultivates a reflex to turn inward rather than defending outward. And in regards to the questions at the top of this sharing, I’ve found that reflective hiatus allows a ‘better me’ the opportunity to step forward in consciousness rather than linger behind the restrictions of entrenched patterns.
Being Here Now is the nothingness that is everything.
✌️ ∙ 🌱 ∙ 🙏