Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Elusive Present

The Elusive Present

Desire pulls us forward; pain holds us back. As a consequence we are always oscillating between the two. A mind dwelling on the future or the past will perpetually be unhappy. Happiness can only be found by anchoring in present.

Unfortunately we rarely live in the present--the ego drives us into thinking about what we want to achieve in the future and at the same time it is also fond of reliving the pains and pleasures that it has experienced in the past. As a result, the mind darts back and forth between past and future. This restlessness of the mind is the root of our unhappiness because the ego is constantly rejecting the present.

Even when we think we are preoccupied with doing what we are presently doing--like chatting with someone--we are constantly judging, comparing and reacting. Whenever we do that, we are actually using past and future as our frames of reference and hence, not living in the present.

Living in the present means accepting the fullness of the moment--what Eckhart Tolle calls, Entering the Now. Things happen, you acknowledge them and you act without judgement, without any selfish interest. This principle lies at the heart of every religion that preaches complete surrender to the Will of God. This is the true practice of spiritual mindfulness.

Wouldn't such a mind be very dull? Isn't such a state of mind equal to "mindlessness"?

Far from it. Being mindless means the person is not capable of thinking at all. Being mindful means that the mind is in tune with the natural flow of the universe. Every thought that surfaces on the mind is free from the drag of the past or the pull of the future. It just emerges spontaneously.

Thoughts that emerge this way are full of potency because they come from Nature's deep wellspring of creativity. An artist at work enters into such a state of mind instinctively. We know we are in such a state of mind when we have no awareness of time passing. This feeling of timelessness comes about because we have momentarily forgotten about our past and our future.

Peace of mind and and consequently happiness lies in focussing on the present. But strangely to most of us, it is the present that is the most elusive moment of all.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Limits of Selflessness

The Limits of Selflessness

I attended a friend's wedding dinner at a leading five-star hotel in KL on Saturday night. It was fun being able to catch up with a lot of my old friends and acquaintances again. Usually on such occassions, the happiest people are not the much-harried newly-weds themselves but their relatives and friends who get to have a good time at their expense.

So we had a good time, gorging ourselves on the sumptuous food but most of the time, we were drowning ourselves in the freely flowing beer and wine. While the womenfolk exchanged notes about baby nappies and day care centers, the men would whisper among themselves in conspiratorial tones about their latest extra-marital adventures.

Most married men like to complain to me that since they got married, they have no more time for themselves. But to me that is a given; if you get married, you have to be prepared to devote at least half of your time to your other half. Over time, the typical couple will work out an optimum balance between personal and family life. This "impedance matching" can only come about if there's no selfishness on either side. It fails when one party attempts to take advantage of the other.

But of course, we are all selfish creatures. The confirmed bachelor is selfish because he is not willing to give up his freedom; the married man is selfish because he thinks he can have the cake and eat it too.

Ultimately, we will all suffer in one way or another because of our selfishness. That too is a given. Learning to love someone is merely a first step towards total selflessness. But people in love often find themselves amplifying their selfishness even further, and thus intensifying the suffering.

Only when we are married, do we get to test the limits of our selflessness. And only then do we realise how innately selfish we all really are.