Friday, 22 January 2010


The question our teacher asked us was:
Can this moment, this exact moment, right now, be anything different from what it IS?

The straight and simple answer to that question is NO. This moment cannot be any different. In that sense it is inevitable. Anything I do will only change the next moment. But this moment, as it exists right now, is inevitable. Accepting this inevitability of present moment is not fatalism (there is, I think, a tendency to jump to the conclusion that to accept something as inevitable is equivalent to subscribing to fatalism) but an act of realism. The present therefore, needs to be accepted, not grudgingly or helplessly but with a full awareness of that which is and with complete knowledge of the nature of this acceptance.

Before I move on to what exactly this acceptance does, there's one more clarification that needs to be made, for we use the words of the English language too loosely and vaguely. To accept is not the same as giving in or becoming helpless or subservient. It does not mean that one becomes a victim of circumstance and resorts to a life of lethargy and laziness. Acceptance here is being used in it simplest and most literal sense - to acknowledge reality, to take complete cognizance of it as a fact.

But why accept? What does it do and how is it related to the idea of freedom that I talked about in the previous post? Acceptance does two things: first, it lets one enjoy the present completely and fully. For it is only the present which exists. The past is dead and the future only a projection or illusion of one's imagination. It brings home the fact that only the present exists; that this present, this moment is unique, has never come before and will never come again in all of existence; that the ray of sunshine that dances on your feet, as you walk on a busy street is your ray of sunshine, that the little cloud you see rumbling on the horizon will not be there in the next moment. Knowing this, I can attest from personal experience, adds a lot of beauty to every little thing that surrounds you. It makes one aware of all that one takes for granted, brings a sense of joy to every step taken, every sight seen, every sound, every smell and every touch. It makes wallowing in the past seem shallow and worrying about the future seem pointless. And that, is a great relief.

The second thing that acceptance does, and this is how it relates to action, is that it ensures that the mind has complete information about any situation that it finds itself in. To acknowledge reality is to acknowledge everything about reality without prejudice and without fear. When in denial or when in a hurry to think ahead without first thinking of all that constitutes the present, the mind only has incomplete information. It only sees that which it wants to see. But when it accepts with full awareness, it sees everything that there is to see in that moment. This brings both clarity and objectivity and gives one the power to shape the next moment in whatever manner one wills. It brings about the mental flexibility to do what must be done in any situation and the competence to do that which is required in the manner that one best can.

The evening that we discussed this notion of acceptance, we were asked to focus on practicing it for at least the next twenty-four hours. To consciously tell ourselves to accept the moment as inevitable, to focus on everything about the present without wishing for this moment to change. I am going to take the liberty of putting down two small instances.

For those of you who know me, you also know that I've been going through a bit of a turbulent time (bit is an understatement!) in the last few months. While the eye of the storm has now blown over, I've been victim of my greatest weakness: mulling things over and over again in my head; of letting them turn around in ever distorting spirals, succumbing to anger, guilt and grief in turn. That night, once I came back home, I sat on my bed and for the next hour focussed only on accepting every part of what had happened just as it had; accepting all that it was in the present (however different from what I had really wanted); accepting that I could not change that which already is but only that which was to come. It may sound unreal right now (it certainly sounds fantastic to my skeptical ears) but the happiness and peace that descended as well as the confidence I felt in facing whatever came the next morning or the next moment was unbelievable. I'll not lay claims to having achieved that state permanently. I'll be honest, I slip into my ruminations of old now and then, but they are rarer and less intense. It is slowly becoming a memory in its entirety as opposed to bits and pieces that I must analyse.

My other experience was more mundane but nevertheless significant to me. On Friday night (a week ago), we were given a list of things in class that we needed to bring on Sunday early morning for the puja. Now I normally have an off on Saturdays. But as Murphy would have it I was working this particular Saturday and as Murphy would again have it, I had to buy pretty much everything on that list. I knew I wouldn't make it back in time on Friday or Saturday to pick up anything. My usual self would have freaked out at this situation and gone into hyperventilation. I would have made a dozen phone calls and fretted to a million people. I'll also admit that sitting there listening to that list, I did freak out mildly and go into a tizzy of sorts wondering how ever was I going to manage it?! But sitting there and telling myself that this was and that I just had to work around it saved me a lot of time and my vocal chords, I might add. It did all turn out right eventually :)

And now I realize that I haven't been very brief with my experiences. I hope I've gotten the point across. Freedom requires mental and emotional flexibility. Acceptance provides the mental flexibility; responsibility the emotional flexibility. That's going to be my next post. However, I think I'll take a break over the weekend. Or maybe I won't. :)


rgc said...

Does it mean that every minute you must keep looking for purpose?

A quote which will be useful here :
"If you value yourself, you will value your time. If you value your time, you will know what to do with it."

In a big picture context this is very true. That does not mean we need to be critical of our every move, but we need to keep our wandering mind in check.

Unknown said...

@Rehab it isn't about having a purpose or being critical. It is just being aware of the choices one makes and not blaming fate or destiny. Read the above post on responsibility.

You don't have to act on everything. Inaction is also an appropriate response for time IS precious. But it needs to come out of knowing and not out of lethargy or because it is just easier to maintain status quo.