There is a world of difference between, ‘I am happy with who I am right now, let me see how much more I can be’ and ‘I cannot accept myself as a failure, I want to do more so that I can start accepting me’. One is empowering and uplifting, the other is degrading and suffering. Route to fulfilment is only through complete acceptance of yourself who you are right now.
Entire internet is awash with millions of resources telling you how you can be more or do more or have more out of your life. They assure you, there is a lot more to life than what you have managed to experience so far. And it is possible to achieve your highest potential, which is much higher than what you have managed to do so far.
Does this urge to be more provide you the inspiration to cross all your limitations? Or does it just make you feel disappointed with yourself, there must surely be a wide awning gap in the life you are living?
Urge to be more, to do more, to have more is the basic foundation of all progress and growth. That is the one unique thing that sets us miles ahead of others in what we have achieved as a race in relatively short time in evolution compared to other intelligent beings on the earth. Without this urge, we will not make efforts to come out of ignorance, poverty, or even suffering. This belief that ‘there is a lot more to me’ is one of the strongest intrinsic motivation factors for all of us to strive our entire lifetimes towards sense of success, achievement, progress or growth. So there is nothing inherently wrong about the urge to be more, to do more or to have more.
But just as with any other psychological factors, there is a downside to this. There is nothing wrong to think ‘there is a lot more to me’, if this is coming from a deep sense of assurance built on self awareness. I know my strengths and weaknesses, I have managed to overcome my limitations in the past and hence I am confident I can achieve a lot more. The problem arises only when ‘there is a lot more to me’ is coming from a place of lack of positive confidence based on accurate self awareness. When it is an unconscious dialog based on our childhood hurt from parent’s expectations. That one tiny exasperated look ‘I did not expect this from you, of all people’ or ‘I expected more from you’ that made some impression in our tiny minds constantly urging us to be more and not allowing us to accept who we are even as adults.
When you take trouble to gain accurate self knowledge, based on your past behaviours, past achievements or failures, strengths and limitations, what results is a conviction that I can achieve more from life. But most of us look for someone to help us with some technique to succeed, missing the most crucial aspect of success or fulfilment, self awareness. Here, life is driven by unconscious patterns born of unfulfilled ambitions and frustrations. No amount of tips and techniques will make any difference in your life without complete self awareness and acceptance. Awareness enables conscious, unconditional self acceptance, which you could not get from anyone else in life. Only then you can be free from unconscious urges for validation, recognition or appreciation from outside sources. In fact, awareness, acceptance and appreciation of yourself is the only door to MORE, of you and for you.
Without relationship with others, it is almost impossible to achieve a healthy relationship with self or lasting inner peace. Relationships are the sounding boards to check our level of self-acceptance.
We count healthy, intimate relationships as one of the main factors in our sense of wellbeing in life. But at the bottom of any kind of inner conflict is our relationship with others, the people around us or the world at large. Can you think of any situation or event in life that involved conflict, discomfort, pain or hurt that does not involve any other person around you? So does it mean our relationship with others, is the cause of our pain or lack of peace in life? In fact, without relationships and the inherent conflict, it is not possible to achieve inner peace. By triggering what needs to be resolved, relationships act as the most crucial catalyst through which we can achieve lasting peace and fulfilment.
Any emotional hurt we have faced in life, is originally caused due to our failed efforts to connect with others. That does not make relationships bad or wrong, as this happens in childhood while we were still making sense of the world around us. As children, we do not know how to communicate our needs, how to express our thoughts or how to process painful emotions. In the process of learning these things, some of the painful memories gets stored in our subconscious. These are the thoughts, patterns and perceptions that define our relationship with others in our adulthood.
In adult life, we start a relationship with ‘How can I live without this person!’, but end up wondering, ‘How can I live with this person, it is so painful!’ The people in our lives that we are most intimate with, are the ones that trigger us most. As those are the only ones that can show us what we are not willing to see within us. Often the person that seems to trigger in us the deepest emotional pain is not the real cause of that pain, they just managed to pull the past pain that is already within us to the surface so that it can heal now. Relationships are mirrors that show us the emotional pain and hurt from childhood that we are unwilling to face within ourselves.
We may think since healthy relationships do not have conflict, all we need to do is avoid all conflict in relationships. We may isolate ourselves from people around us, saying I am highly sensitive, or highly spiritual, or highly self-dependant or highly tolerant. But all that does is stuff up all the unresolved emotional content deeper into subconscious so that it creates an unending loop of unhappy relationships filled with more conflict. The only solution to resolve inner and outer conflict is to boldly face the pain with openness and vulnerability.
Many self-help gurus often say, healthy relationship with self is crucial for a healthy relationship with others. But without relationship with others, the elements of healing, integration or completion that are crucial for a healthy relationship with yourself are not possible to achieve. Hence, conflict in our relationships is not to be avoided. Our relationships serve the purpose of showing us what needs to be resolved within us so that we get to a place of deep inner peace.
Many people believe equanimity is one sure shot path to peaceful life. By equanimity, what we usually mean is being unruffled in face of painful experiences of life. Most people understand equanimity as ‘not feeling’ pain or pleasure, being equally poised in face of either or both. Equanimity is often misunderstood as a practice that helps to avoid feeling painful or hurting emotions. But if equanimity is living life like a zombie without any feeling, is there any purpose to living or is life there to escaping from living? Although we say it is better not be carried away by either pain or joy, we do not seek equanimity when we are overjoyed or blissful. We get into such practices only when we are in depth of pain. True equanimity means feeling everything, allowing yourself to experience the depths of pain and the heights of pleasure. Universe is created for us to experience it fully, not to escape from it in the name of spiritual enlightenment.
Equanimity is one of the most profound and wonderful teachings of eastern philosophy which is often misunderstood. It is profound because it teaches us that life is for living and experiencing everything, not escaping anything. It teaches us that pain is not wrong, bad or something to be avoided at any cost. Pain is just as momentary as pleasure, so if you just allow painful emotions to be felt, you can move on to the next experience. Any painful emotion or experience just rises up like waves in an ocean to subside in a short time, if only we just allow it. It is we, who hold on to that experience, trying to avoid, fix or find a solution so we don’t have to face pain ever again. Equanimity teaches us to just stay vulnerable to pain, just as we stay open to pleasure or happiness.
True equanimity helps us to stay peaceful in life. Imagine just for one moment you do not fear pain and you are ready to feel everything. How would your life be? There is no need for any struggle, or to fight or avoid all those things that may cause you pain. No need to fear that others may cheat, deceive or take advantage or get better of you. No need to control others in an effort to avoid feeling in their power. No need to compete with others to avoid feeling less than them. Whatever happens you just experience and feel through the emotions in it, so you can move on. So what is left in your life experience then? Just calm and peace even as you flow through painful or pleasurable experiences of life.
One thing that keeps us away from peace and hence cause all the conflict and chaos is a need for being in control. This need is the toughest thing to give up because of the underlying fear and deep insecurity that is the root of this need. We remain as confused and hurt children as long as we don’t recognise this insecurity and address it. And we keep causing conflict and chaos in our own personal world and world at large until we resolve it within us.
Being in control is the biggest illusion we created out of our ego’s insecurity in this ego driven world. Not a single person is truly in control of what can happen in his or her life. When we think everything is going smooth and is perfectly under control, life throws at us something completely unexpected. No one is truly in control nor can ever be, but that doesn’t stop us from constantly trying to reassure ourselves that by being in control we don’t have to fear so many painful things. We may be able to control few things in our lives that have caused past pain, so that it doesn’t repeat again. But we cannot stop life from hurting us with something completely unexpected. Recognising this vulnerability inherent in being human saves us from a lot of hurt and pain that no amount of striving for control can. That is why vulnerability is the true strength. It liberates us from fear of pain, the core fear behind all our damaging actions and behaviours.
We strive for control because we do not know how to deal with the insecurity and fear of getting hurt or the pain in our lives. But as long as we are seeking to control, we are in fact prisoners of this fear that is driving the need for control. As we are not free anymore, it drives us deeper into fear and insecurity and a much larger need for control. If one individual is desperately trying to control the one they love, always “for their own good”, we can see how both the parties are prisoners, one is a prisoner of fear and the other is of control. This need for control is the main cause of conflict in relationships – being parent and child or spouses or friends.
This need for control in collective conscious becomes more dangerous when it results in dictatorships and worst possible crimes against humanity. Because all the worst dictators or conquerers or even an entire race feeling superior to others, truly believe they are doing it all for the good of the humanity, for saving the humanity by “positive control”. If everyone comes into my way of thinking, feeling and behaving, everything painful in the world will become alright. But this kind of perfect control exists only in our illusion. The only way to reach harmony is to lose the need for control by addressing our own fears and insecurities. The only demon out there is our own fear, and it is a vulnerable beast that needs to be embraced with love not to be conquered by control.
There are several methods commonly taught as part of spirituality that act as coping mechanisms for the pains and suffering in life. Some of them include being in the moment, equanimity, detachment, positive thinking, etc. However, all of them are often end up as just escape mechanisms for people who are struggling with pain and suffering in life. More importantly, none of them even allude to how to fully involve in life and resolve the pain. Peace cannot be achieved unless we have courage to face our pain.
Take for example, being in the moment. Do we actually have to make an effort to stay in the present when we are going through something close to our hearts? Say, something you enjoy doing, as eating your favourite ice cream, playing in the first showers? We only think of being in the moment when there is a painful and nagging situation, when we are at our wit’s end to figure out how to manage it. Being in the moment is not avoiding but fully engaging with what is happening. But most of the time we use being in the moment to actually escape from our own painful thoughts that won’t go away.
Take another spiritual practice of equanimity. Equanimity is commonly understood as staying neutral to all the situations in life. But in fact, equanimity is not neutrality. It is not avoiding painful or pleasurable emotions or being passive but being fully involved and allowing everything without resistance. Equanimity is being alive to both pain and pleasure as a rich experience without any preference towards one or other. True equanimity involves and includes everything. Not as it is commonly interpreted, as excluding or avoiding everything.
Complete acceptance is the most powerful solution to conflict and chaos. There is as much conflict in the heart as there is chaos in the world we see outside of us today. At all the levels of human existence, we are in a constant quest for acceptance. Not feeling accepted is at the core of all chaos and conflict. Right from individual personality level to the community at large, every conflict is a search for acceptance that we are unable to give to ourselves.
As a child, we are always expected to be something other than who we are. Not feeling accepted for exactly how we are, there is always a constant need to change, fix or adapt. If we are a talkative child, we are expected to be less chatty. If we are an introspective or intuitive child, we are nudged to be more outgoing or analytical. As we grow up, this continues to be a feeling of not being accepted, always feeling some gap in how we are showing up, however it is. No wonder FaceBook or YouTube likes define our existence today.
As individuals in a society, there is constant pressure to fit into the box of being acceptable. This narrow box never really fits anyone’s unique expression. We try to fit in 7.2 billion unique expressions into well defined boxes so that they do not outrage our sense of propriety or threaten our sense of security. Not much scope for real freedom of expression. By the time we grow up with these societal limitations, we get used to the boxes and we are lulled by an illusion we have freedom. However, the conflict in heart doesn’t go away, it pops up every time there is a life issue involving heart based decisions.
As a part of community, being accepted for our own faith, belief systems, ideologies – for a sense of belonging, defines our existential conflicts in the larger world. Entire history is full of bloody conflicts just on the basis – our belief in God has to be accepted by others as their belief too. As if, I cannot sustain my faith in my God or ideology unless everyone believes and accepts the same version of it.
Self acceptance is a powerful solution that allows us to grow out of our need for external validation. It allows us not just to accept who we are but also extend same level of acceptance to others and their expression, their belief systems and perspectives. We turn up into mature, responsible and tolerant individuals who do not have any need for conflict or chaos to sustain that belief in ourselves or our unique expression.
Peace is the most potent power in the entire Universe. We mistakenly equate power with having power over someone else or some situation external to us. But true power lies in being at absolute inner peace in face of any kind of external influence.
Imagine someone who is in that state of unshakeable peace. No one can be more powerful than that one at complete peace, when no external persons or situations can shake that peace. Who can have ascendency over them? Now imagine someone who is at peace in some situations but gets agitated in other situations by some one else’s influence. Who is more powerful? The one who can maintain his peace or the one who loses peace with external stimulus?
We may think such peace is not possible. But it is not just possible, it is surprisingly easy to be in a peaceful mode. It is we who give away others the power to influence our inner peace. All we need to do is to realise and commit to make our own peace to be more of a priority than anything else, even being right or having our own way. It does not make us powerless but more powerful.