Practising on Question 4
Before I was familiar with Joseph Campbell’s work, I kept coming across this idea but somehow thought it was relevant to the whole ‘find your passion, quit your job and get to be on a TED talk someday’ aspirations. This was the time when I had read on the Flow state and totally embraced the idea: what made life worth living was finding pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”
I could not quite connect the dots but felt something inside me move. I was in my early 20s and knew very well that joy was not simply escapism to sex, drugs and rock&roll. It was not just going along with what my peers were doing or what would make people in my life happy either. Climbing the social ladder was the most available and imposed option and I stayed close to this path but it had not been inspiring for me. I started observing intently: the need for security and belonging in all of us, the tendency to chase default roles in some of us. Keeping up the appearances was much better than asking unpredictable questions. Yes, scary at first- not a single question but a series of questions.
Over the years, I experienced that the most answers to these questions are actually the simplest.
I kept looking at the mirror with the intent to discover, tough days and starry nights passed by and my answers started falling into place. This brought in a sense that everything is in its right place and complete for a while, till I’m ready for the next cycle of life.
Here’s a tasting menu of those questions:
What if you can not find an answer for years? This is the worry of the mind owning the powers of your agency. You might not find a route for a few months, so what? I’ve quite the tendency to think of time as the linear progress of a scarce resource. And that is only one way of looking at it. What soothes and gets me back on track is remembering the many stories of my life where time was not linear at all, there were sudden leaps to what’s next. You feel stuck for months, and then you change the essential elements of your life in a week. The only way you could get stuck for years is when you fully resist all the new things knocking on your door.
What if you find a ‘wrong’ answer? This simply does not make sense as you’d need to ask, who defines wrong. If you’re acting with agency and following an individual trajectory, no potential answer you’re after is deemed wrong.
What if there’s no help and you fail? Well, even the people who are outright judging and criticising you, who are triggering you with their assumptions are actually forming a solid ground for you to move forward. They are showing you vividly that you have the choice to sit there and make a list of why things can be difficult or why ‘following their lead’ is safer or simply do it your way.
And when you follow your lead and go on the hero’s journey, it’s a relief to meet them again on the road, as you have become another person through your choices. Even when you did not get the hidden treasures, you made a life to treasure.
What if this is irreversible and you might be late? This is the best and the worst news: If you are alive and breathing, there is always a return. Best news as there’s so much freedom in new possibilities. Worst news, as this confirms the ownership of your life — it is you who will decide what to do with that next moment. Just stop and wait for small changes? Fine. Take a seemingly trivial action leading to the bigger change? Sounds good.
‘Being late’ is the mind creeping in with the assumptions of a linear time again. You might be late for one thing, there’s always another option leading to the same fulfilment or even bigger.
Through this thought exercise, the grip of fear is gradually losing its strength. And that’s the time when you are open to the unknown, open to the whispers inside you. It is a moment where you know you’re expressing your true self. The outcome becomes irrelevant, you are not thinking of what this will lead to or how things ‘should’ be. The moment is fulfilling in itself.
Let’s put labels aside : whether you call it inner knowing, intuition or your heart chakra is peripheral. It is simply there when you experience it. And if you chase it to have ‘been there and done that’, it gets elusive. The effort does not bear fruit unless your intention is aligned with who you are : there is no help in consuming libraries of knowledge or practising what the gurus advise.
As I write these words, I am in such a state of flow- following my bliss. It’s as if my fingers on the keyboard have their own sense of what to do. They are finding it easy to move without hesitation. And everything stops when it no longer feels like a delightful thing to do.
This is a refreshing definition of freedom, simple and powerful. And it can not be captured and traded on like the commodities of our material world. The moment I start thinking about it, I know that the flow is over.
Luckily, this also means you have no way of knowing when you will feel like this again. An unknown barrier that suddenly disappears when you ease your thoughts. A gift given to you only when you do not expect gifts at all. A mysterious miracle that we all have, as long as we live.