“The purpose of life is not to beat yourself over finding your purpose. The purpose of life is to live… purposefully.”
I hit ‘Share’ after I was done putting the required hashtags. People can consume content so fast on Instagram, it’s almost as fast as reading it off your mind. Three likes in as many seconds and I turned off my screen and put my phone in my pocket. There were other things to do during the rest of the day. One of the most important things on my list was ‘thinking’. I had begun to spend so much time thinking off late that I had actually begun to realize just how tough ‘thinking’ can be. It’s a whole different discipline within itself.
How much thinking is ‘healthy pondering’ and just how much, is ‘over thinking’? There’s a fine line but with enough practice, you can decode the puzzle. ‘Thinking’ done the right way is a ‘methodology’, a complex one. With enough thinking, you are sure to arrive at the solutions to most of life’s problems. With too little of it, you are sure to keep running into roadblocks. And with too much thinking, your brain begins to over write previously arrived at conclusions and the whole process becomes useless.
That is what ‘anxiety’ is. Anxiety is that point in the ‘thinking’ process, when you have visited and revisited a particular scenario or solution enough times to have been caught up in the loop of almost reaching the solution and never ever, quite reaching it. At the state of mind I was in, I wanted to accelerate my thinking process and reach the answer that I desperately sought from my conscience; that of finding my purpose in life.
Repeating the question over and over to myself had been proving futile. Leaving my mind idle had hardly been having the energizing effect like I expected it to, and searching for the answer in all external cues that life could offer, had become too cumbersome.
“You can’t do it. You just can’t.”
There comes a point in your life when everywhere you look, for the answers you seek, you reap only more questions. That’s it. There’s nothing anyone has to offer anymore at that point. They’re all question marks for you.
Even the omens that you would read routinely for the right answers, the angels, the gods, the religious texts, philosophical texts, anything you can possibly think of.. none of them prove to be of any help to you.
It’s during times like these that the universe is guiding you to look within. All the angels, all the gods, all the religious texts, all the spirits of all the philosophers, leaders, writers, poets et all are guiding you in just one direction: within.
It’s almost like they’re all asking you to step up your game and step up to the plate and take full responsibility for your life. Don’t look to Jesus, or Buddha or Krishna for your answers, look within.
“That’s the whole point of giving you a mind as complex as that! ” They all seem to be shouting.
“We can’t do anything for you unless you decide to do something for yourself !” They all seem to reason with you, when you turn up on their door, yet again for answers.
Introspection is difficult. Very difficult in fact. When you begin to introspect you realize how sparsely if ever, you have quality conversations with yourself. You can’t just look within and pick a single issue and resolve it like that. On your first forage inwards you shall realize that there are many many unresolved issues lying all around your in your head.
So when you begin to introspect, the first reaction can be to abandon yourself and withdraw to the outside world. To try to distract yourself from the real problems, the real work that needs to be done…within yourself.. and keep looking towards the outer world for answers.
That works sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t. The process is a lot like breathing. You go within, then release yourself without. You hold your breath and dive into the pool, then you exhale as you’re swimming up to the surface. The process of journeying within isn’t a one day process or a one go process. It’s a step by step process and you need to be patient with yourself.
It was 7 am and it felt awfully lonely on the park bench I sat on. I just sat there sitting snugly, in the nippy morning air, with one leg on top of the other. Just watching the world, as I sat smacking the butt of my cigarette on the chain of my watch. The morning Sun seemed to soothe my mind somewhat but this day felt just as gloomy as any.
“Ah.. bugger..” I yawned. Life was boring. Too boring. I sat observing, as everyone around me seemed to be running and hustling to get their day started, in a huge contrast to me.
A gang of ‘fat women’ who actually weren’t fat anymore owing to their fast walking routine over the past few months were huffing down the track at top speed. A middle aged man, who was a regular in the park at this time of the day was performing yoga stretches. An old man, who came every morning to feed wheat flour to ants was sprinkling flour anywhere he could spot an army of ants.
And among all of them, I could see a destitute old woman just standing near the park gate like every other day. Actually, I have never been able to figure out what she wants or if she really is destitute. I have seen a couple of old men hand her a tenner every other day ‘to buy herself a cup of tea’ but she never begs or asks for anything. When I tried once, to give her some money, she withdrew almost as though I had tried, to insult her.
There were so many different kinds of people in the park at any given day around the same time that it was baffling to understand what day of the week it was. The park was just as full on a Saturday or Sunday as a Wednesday or Friday. The 7 am crowd seemed to be an awfully punctual crowd to me. I saw most of these guys everyday without fail, no matter what day of the week it was.
A little further from me stood a pothead, smoking a joint, wireless headphones on his ears. He gazed in my general direction as I lit my cigarette. We could’ve waved to each other but I didn’t think he would’ve liked it. He generally seemed to me like he wanted to be left alone. I guess when you’re the kind of person who smokes weed at 7 am in a public park, you’re not really keen on pleasantries.
I was in the mood to savor the taste of the fine tobacco and lull my mind to sleep anyway. I had been awake all night the night before and was looking forward to being able to sleep after all. The insomnia coupled with the nicotine rush was enough ‘high’ for me.
Two or three drags of nothingness later, I realized how I was one of the regulars of the park too. This had been my routine for some time now. Sleeping at 10 am, waking up at 5 pm. Others most probably viewed me the same way I viewed them. I was the ‘guy on the bench’ for them, probably. The thought made me smile. It made me smile to think this way. To realize how we’re all really in the same boat, sailing in the same general direction, despite the differences in our approach or mindset.
I was not sure if I wanted the same things as the rest though. They seemed so certain about their ways and routines while I had become uncertain about everything off late. What did any of this mean at all? Eat, Sleep, Work, Crap.. repeat the same everyday until you die. If I was not feeling inclined to indulge in the same routines as the others, while being in the same routines as all others, there was an inherent flaw in my approach!
“There must be a deeper meaning to all of this”
I murmured to myself, with my eyes closed and my mind perplexed. People had it all so sorted in their ways and I was just too hung up on finding the ‘larger’ meaning, looking at the ‘deeper’ picture of life. “This is why you’re in utter crap!” I thought to myself, as it slowly began to drizzle.
I didn’t care to move however. The shade from the thick branches of the tree beside my bench was enough to keep me from getting wet.
People on the track however, all began to respond to the rain in their own ways. Some began running to the exit so as to reach home before the rain intensified. Some sought shelter under the trees. A select few, just went about their daily rituals unperturbed. I glanced at the spot the old woman stood. She seemed to have left, probably to have a cup of tea.
I don’t normally like being indoors when it’s raining. I think many people probably feel the same but there aren’t as many shady trees in the park as there are people. Even if they all wanted to, not many would be able to stay without getting drenched. Hmm. Seemed like an interesting thought.
I kept sitting on the bench by which time the rain had intensified from a drizzle to a steady shower. I was in no hurry to get back home and miss the soothing morning Sun being replaced by beautiful dark clouds as they went rushing by, the sun rays peeking through them still.
The colors changing, the lights changing, the trees waving in the freshness of the wind… It made for a beautiful sight. For a moment, I completely forgot I was in the city and not in the mountains.
“Why would you leave a lovely morning just like that and rush into your house just because of the rain?” I smiled and shook my head from side to side.
It’s true, there are ‘things’ you need to do. But maybe, you don’t need to do the things you think you need to do. What’s there to be had in leaving a perfect situation to just keep on track with an imperfect life? Why leave the rain? Why not sit under the shade of a leafy tree like me and enjoy the refreshing shower like the birds and the trees? Delhi is a hot city mostly and we don’t get showers so often unless it’s the monsoon.
At that moment, a busy jogger huffed past me, drawing my attention to himself with the patter of his jogging shoes on the asphalt track. The rain didn’t seem to have deterred him in any way.
“Yeah that’s one way too.” I thought to myself as I raised my eyebrows, unconvinced of his approach being the right one either.
He seemed a tad too driven I felt, laughing to myself as the rain intensified and I heard a powerful thunderclap. The tree couldn’t shield me from a thundershower so, comparing the distance back to my house and to a picnic hut a little further inside the park, I decided to run towards the picnic hut before it began to pour. That was a good decision. I got just a little wet as I jogged there and it rained continuously for the next one hour. In fact, it rained well until noon. I was able to get back home without being soaked, by opting to jog back within the small gap in which the rain had reduced back to a drizzle.
I went home, went to sleep, woke up at 5 pm and walked back to the park as soon as I had had a cup of tea for a cigarette. I sat down at the same bench I usually sit on and lit a cigarette. Still trying to ‘think’, still trying to introspect. When I began to think about the little episode from the morning, it opened up my mind to life, in a completely different way.
The way I see it, we are all doing what we are and functioning in the normalcy of our everyday lives, like the people at the park; the 7 am crowd. When we are faced with challenges, pleasant or unpleasant, we all have a different mechanism of response based on our life priorities.
The first category of people are those, who march on day after day, come what may, like the jogger I found too driven. Such people find peace in keeping up with their routine unlike ‘everybody else’. These people maybe referred to as crazy by those in the second category.
Which brings me to The second category of people are those who derive satisfaction from functioning on the plane of ‘least resistance’. They prefer that their lives function ‘as usual’ and throw up as few surprises or upsets in routine. Such people have their own boat to keep afloat. They run their lives like a tight ship and have clearly defined aims. Most people follow in this category. If they don’t, they are taught to fall in this category.
Then there is the third category of people, those who are in it, for the experience. They are in it just to explore what’s next. These people may be referred to as crazy by the people in the second category.
I realized that day, that I fall in the third category. I didn’t care if it rained continuously for two hours or more. I didn’t care if it rained only for a few minutes. The bottom line for me was that I loved the rain and I wasn’t about to rush indoors due to the fear of getting wet. Sure, being in this category involved its own bit of smart decision making. It was a smart move taking shelter in the picnic hut when I realized it was going to come down pouring. Later on, taking advantage of the rain subsiding and running back home within that window was a matter of choice. Whether to stay on in the experience or to get out of it when you think you’re done.
In these three categories of people, it was quite apparent that there was no right or wrong way about what they did and how they did it. Things get complicated only when you are half committed to what you believe in and half –hearted in how you act.
You cannot rush back home as soon as it begins to rain and enjoy the view from your apartment window, overlooking.. the parking lot!
Maybe some of the others enjoyed the rain better from their balcony than I did in the view of the lush greenery of the football field and an open view of the sky. Even so, both experiences can’t be the same. They can’t be and they shouldn’t be, because then it wouldn’t be fair to those who are in it for what it is.
Would it be fair, if I got to enjoy the same view and the same experience and the same smells, sights and sounds as the people who had rushed back home as soon as the first few drops of rain fell on them? No. It wouldn’t. Some experiences are reserved and quite often, the most beautiful ones.. for those completely invested in them.
You have to be in that experience to really truly know what it felt like it.
Just like the people who made it back home in time to make a hot cup of tea and enjoy the nice rainy day from their balcony. No, I couldn’t have had that. I could only have had what I had and I could only have loved what it was in the moment.
That is what life is about, isn’t it? Choices.
As for the jogger who completed his daily 5 laps on the track despite the rain and the wind? What experience did he have?
Well, he made great progress on toughening up his resolve to stick to his plan and not take a day off, come hell or high water. You can’t beat commitment like that with something else. Whatever it is that he had set himself that goal for, I’m sure it gave him immense satisfaction that day by not giving up. Not taking an off day. No slack at all.
Imagine however, that he had gone home that day and fallen ill in the evening. What then? Had the effort been worth it, in that case?
Now this is interesting. This is interesting because this is how decisions lead to decisions and choices to more choices that lead you to what you ‘become’ eventually.
When you take a tough decision like that one, you may immediately be called out on whether you’re bluffing or you’re serious.
If you do get ill, do you call in sick the next day? or Do you resist the setback, brave the sickness and turn up again another day, defying the odds?
There is no right answer to this unfortunately.
I can only recall that the rain made me realize I was neither the one to shy away from the rain nor one to defy the elements and have my own way. I was an experience seeker and riding the flow of the moment gave me immense pleasure. That is all that mattered in the journey to discovering myself….
Being in it just for the experience!