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June 07, 2006

Choosing less choice

Prasad started the session with a Shanti Mantra:

Om poornamadah poornamidam
Poornaat poornamudachyate
Poornasya poornamaadaya

For translation, see one of our past sessions.

Prasad checked in by saying that he has been spending time focusing on effortless action and learning to pay more attention to what comes naturally and effortlessly but his past, conditioned patterns keep growing like weeds. �How do I keep my commitment to myself to be effortless instead of continually striving and going after things to learn, to master and to compete?� � is the question that Prasad seems to be interested in.

Nirmala said that recently she started wondering why she has been keeping herself very busy all the time. Earlier she said she had a lot of work at the office and thought she was busy due to that. But these days, when work isn�t very busy, she says she lines up activities to keep herself busy. Why do we stay active just to stay active?

Vijay said that he too has been thinking about how to spend his time in a meaningful way. In that context he recollected a question he had heard that asks, �Do things that make our life easier necessarily make our life better?�

I said that I watched a documentary on the Indian saint, Ramana Maharishi. The documentary shows that Venkataraman (as he was known before sainthood) had an awakening when he was 16 when he was afraid of death one day and tried to simulate dying by lying on the floor like a corpse. He later claimed that his awakening was fully due to grace and once it happened, he never �came back� to the normal human �I�, which is full of desires and fears.

I said that many other people like Jiddu Krishnamurti and Eckhart Tolle have also said that their awakening was not due to using the mind to analyze and understand spirituality but it was due to their state of being and grace.

I said that this pattern � of people claiming that their awakening was not due to the seeking � dampens my enthusiasm in discovering ways to live �in a state of being effortless� as Prasad mentioned earlier.

Srikanth shared a story: Once a very enthusiastic new student in a Zen monastery asked his master how long will it take for him to get enlightened. The master said, �Perhaps five years�. The student asked how long will it take if he worked hard and master said, �Then it will take ten years�. The surprised student asked how long will it take if he worked 24 hours a day. The master said, �Perhaps never�.

The lives of awakened people and stories like this seem to say that spiritual awakening cannot be put in the same category as an ordinary desire. One cannot �go after� it and �achieve it�. One can only purify oneself and be prepared for grace. The process seems to be discontinuous and unpredictable.

Srikanth said that he too has been asking himself what does he really want in his life. He said when he asked himself what would he do if he had all the money he ever needed, the answer he got was: To solve challenging problems; to explore the unknown and innovate solutions. He said that being in the unknown is frustrating and exciting at the same time.

He said that any other kind of task gets boring eventually and takes away the spirit.

Manju said that she had not had the problem of doing some work for a living and longing for work that connected with ones passion. She said that she had always enjoyed her profession and always felt that it was her own choice. She said that she had developed the ability to be detached from the fruits of her work and hence could enjoy the work itself and not wait for the rewards of the work to be happy. She said that it seems to be possible to love any work if one puts aside ones ego.

Haranath shared one of his experiences that helped him check his ego.
He said that several years before, he was traveling to India from the US. On the plane, next to his seat was a man who looked simple, had a long beard and was not very sophisticated. Having shifted to the US and having acquired some wealth and style, he said he looked upon the simple looking man a bit condescendingly.

When they got down, all the way to baggage collection and customs, he still looked at the other person as somewhat inferior.

After they cleared customs and walked out, he said he found his relative who had come to pick him up, gave him a hug and glanced around to see where the other person was. He found a huge number of people gathered around that person to welcome him.

He said that several years later, recently he was attending a seminar at Stanford and found out that that person his met in the plane is Sri Sri Ravishankar of Art of Living. It looked liked Sri Sri remembered that event as well and told Haranath that he was expecting Haranath to come back and talk about that event.

One theme that we chose to engage in after the check-ins was human beings� addiction to choice. How much of choice is good enough for us?
Most of us seem to believe that the more choices we have in our life, the better it is. Be it inventing many activities to keep busy, exploring different ways of spirituality, finding easier and easier ways to do something, seeking new challenges etc.

Prasad said that in a psychology study, it was found that when people were asked to choose from 100 different cheeses, they were overwhelmed. And people who were given only 6 choices were able to choose easily. There is a business book that just came out that discusses how having limited choice is much better than having too much choice and how it impacts our decision making and satisfaction.

Prasad also said that he has been discovering that what his mind considers to be new and exciting in the beginning eventually turns out to be repetition of the same old thought patterns that are only superficially new. He said that his mind is more interested in what is new and different than what is monotonous and repetitive.

Interestingly, he found out that what the mind considers to be grunge work � tasks that seem to be repetitive and mechanical: from household chores to daily practices like exercise, meditation etc and being mindful throughout the day � are actually great means to reduce the ego, create the space where there is no mind activity, and hence allow real creativity to emerge.

In other words, self discipline and staying with practices and principles that are connected with who oneself are the ones that allow the mind to become free of addictions.

He said we seek choices, seek excitement and tend to create work for ourselves and fill our time to avoid boredom. This is because we are afraid of what is ordinary, afraid of emptiness and space and do not have faith in our real self, the universal consciousness to fill that space with meaning.

This again ties into what came up initially in the session � Instead of �going after� things, could we reduce our choices, purify our ego, create space, have faith and be prepared for our real self to do some real work?

Interestingly, J.Krishnamurti said that true and deep awareness transforms and it has nothing to do with choice... In other words, choiceless awareness is the phrase that he used and I wonder whether that is what we also mean?

Posted by Ragu at June 7, 2006 12:04 PM