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Creating Flow

The Freedom To Be

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Having just completed a workshop for a group of young and energetic twenty year olds, I wondered what I would have to say to myself if I came across my 20 something avatar now. Here is a letter to him with a decade of experience.

***

Dear Ajay,

Relax. It will all turn out fine.

Actually, it is all fine even now. Except you think it is not and that you need to do something to make things right. A vague haze of getting a job, making a living and getting married someday. The haze will lift in its own time, until then it will make you run in circles, leaving you dizzy and exhausted at times.

All your hard work to become a Chartered Accountant will be reduced to nought. You will forget all that you studied, except the three basic principles of accounting. Which you shall not make use of anyway. The only time you will mention your degree will be to share about your journey from numbers to people. Mostly to emphasize that people need to follow their passion. Infact that will become your passion – helping others get in touch with their passion.

Your girlfriend will eventually marry your college friend. You will be confused how best to relate to the opposite sex for a long time. Just know you are not the only one. You will come across many definitions of love. Neither of it will help you in anyway. For love cannot be learnt, much less taught.  You may find it hard to understand this now, yet, love has nothing to do with a man-woman relationship. Neither, is it exclusive or conditional. It will take another decade and more than a few heartbreaks for you to live this insight. You will discover many flavours of love. Intimacy is one, letting go is another.

You will struggle very hard in your corporate life. It will not interest you. Yet you will not know what else to do. You will shift from finance to human resources thinking it will give you a chance to work with people, growth and awareness. Gradually you will realize that that the prime purpose of corporations is to grow profits not people. Human resource training will be mostly scripted modules where the latest leadership model will be delivered, in an entertaining manner. The impact of these trainings will be temporary and will not have any lasting impact on organisation or human reality. Some day you will drop all models and theories of change. Become empty and realize the value of ‘I don’t know’. You will call this flow.

Many gurus and ashrams will feature in your path of self-discovery. A good amount of books and workshops too. They will give you a new identity of a seeker. It will make you a scholar on the subject of life. Not a practitioner. You will forsake being in touch with your so-called negative feelings of anger and lust, to be perceived as a spiritual person. One day you will have a volcanic eruption and all that you have suppressed will emerge. This will be far more therapeutic than all the books you would have read on self-expression.

There will come a time when you will feel as though you are standing on crossroads, not knowing what action to take. Anger and fear will give birth to so many voices, that you will not know which one is yours. You will borrow other’s voices for a while, until you find your own. Until then it will be a lonely existence. You will think all is lost. Just hold on because the night is the darkest before the break of a new dawn.

Even though you do not feel him now, there is a frozen child inside of you. He holds all the secret to your joy, love, spontaneity and wisdom. You will have to warm him and bring him back to life. You will receive help from others in doing this, the most unlikely people. You will meet them when the time is right. Just remain open to receiving them. Do not think too much about it. Some will come and go. Others will remain.

You will realize that work is simply an expression of who you are. Moreover, there is no shame in following your bliss. Giving names to relationships robs them from the joy of relating and love can operate only in freedom, not obligation.

Eventually you will come to a point where you will realise self-analysis is not self-growth. Thinking about the past and hoping for a better future will not take you anywhere. Neither will it secure you. You will learn to embrace insecurity as an integral part of being alive. And you will someday, accept yourself as you are and consider what comes with the least effort as what is natural to you. At this point, you will relax into your being and flow in life’s river, floating effortlessly.

Of course I know, no matter what I say, none of this will stop you from falling and hurting. That is essential for you to own your insights. Just want you to finally know.

Relax. It will all turn out fine.

Yours,

Ajay

***

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“You tell me what to do?” she said.

I looked out of the large sliding windows and noticed the morning sea go about its business of creating waves. The water merged with the mangroves acting as a green bridge between the concrete promenade and the sea. A boundary indicating the end of nature and the start of civilization.

We sat in a sea facing apartment. It was where she had grown. Her parent’s home. This very room where we sat, had bunker beds where she and her two sisters had spent their childhood. She had occupied the top bunker. So, she told me.

“My elder sister never liked me. She thinks we are adopted children. We have had terrible fights. Terrible.” She emphasized. That word heavy with difficult memories.  “I always did what my parents told me. I was a good daughter. Whenever, I didn’t  know what to do, I prayed to God. I recited the Gurbani – a holy Sikh chant. And, I got an answer in some form or the other. Once, while going to school, I forgot to take money and had to buy a bus ticket. I chanted and found a 25 paise coin on the railing. I always got an answer in some form or the other. ”

I nodded. It was fascinating to hear her talk. Watching her story unspool before my eyes. She felt I could help her. At cross-roads in her marriage. With two small daughters. She did not know what to do.

“He says my contribution to our marriage is zero. He doesn’t understand my contribution as a mother….” she trailed, as she reached for a tissue to wipe her tears. Unable to contain the hurt of being unacknowledged for her contribution. “He doesn’t understand what I say. He does not believe in self-growth or change. He is now filing for divorce. I don’t know whether the marriage will last or not.” She picks another tissue.

I gaze out. The sun’s rays reflected on the waters, creating a sparkle in the sea. Like a piece of jewellery tossed on the bobbing waves. Few people walk on the promenade. The afternoon heat claiming its space, keeping people away.

“What have you thought about it?” I ask.

“I have two close friends. One says I should know my rights as a wife and go to a lawyer. Which I did. The other friend says that I should not even think of leaving the marriage. What example will I be setting for my children? Which is what I would like to do. Yet it is difficult. Very difficult!” she explains her dilemma.

“But you know what! I think there is a pattern between my relationships. Between me-and-my-sister and me-and-my-husband. I think there is something common in both. I don’t know what it is. I am hoping you can help me. Perhaps the answer lies in that pattern.”

I looked at her for a while. Searching for a response.

“Where is your inner compass?” the question emerged, catching even me by surprise.

“How do you navigate yourself? How do you make choices?” A chain of questions, one linked to another. “At the moment I see you being guided by forces outside of you – parents, friends, books, God – each telling you how to live your life, pulling you apart fragmenting you. Where is your inner compass?” I repeated.

“I don’t think I have one. How do I build it?” she asked.

I wondered. Can it be built or is it lost. Buried under layers and layers of conditioning. Under the mountains of expectations, we build for others and ourselves. Does a plant need to be told that it needs sunlight and rich soil to grow? Does the sea need to find its natural tidal rhythms? Does a baby need a timetable to announce its hunger? We are born with a natural primitive instinct that knows. It knows what nurtures us and what doesn’t. Our feelings broadcast the messages from our soul, if we care to listen. The inner compass knows our calling. Our natural gifts. And where we belong. It is perhaps our only true guide in the ever-changing contours of the world. We do not need to build it. It is there ticking, under the mental sand dunes of social dos and don’ts, should and should nots. All we need to do is dig, dig, dig…and find it.

“What do you wish to create?” I gave her the shovel to dig.

She noted that question in her small diary. “That is something I need to think of?” The question seemed to find its roots in her. Perhaps the digging had started.

Meanwhile the sea outside continued its shimmering game with the sun.

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As the participants poured in and took their places, the streaming light from the large windows flooded the room, making it seem more spacious than it was. Each had their own expectations. Their own dreams. Yet for these two days, their roles as social entrepreneurs got them together. This was a leadership retreat and they had come here to learn about negotiation, delegation, time management and engaging stakeholders. At least, that is what they had planned for their training needs.

The two facilitators had a plan for the training, as well. The projector in the middle of the room was part of the plan. So was the power point they had prepared. They were confident. They had done this before. Two hours of presentation and two hours of engagement. It was a safe bet. For them, and for the participants. With the structure in place, what could go wrong?

Apart from the participants and the two facilitators, there was something else in the room. An unseen alive force. Something vibrant, yet still. It was the spirit of that room. Created out of the unconscious intermingling of the deepest desires, fears and beliefs of all those present. It was witnessing the gathering unfold. It had a life and a plan of its own.

The ‘training’ began with a question. A question each, that a member wanted to explore. That question led to more questions. Questions of all kinds. Probing, searching, looking in the deepest corners of the person. Like, a slithery snake made of questions let loose inside, looking for what was hidden, unacknowledged and unappreciated. Some questions were evaded, some were answered. It did not matter the snake had access to what was inside. It knew. Now the task was to bring the hidden to light, the results of the first exploration.

What emerged was a child and an engineer. The child was rebellious. The engineer analytical. Neither were listening or reflecting. The child wanted and the engineer rationalized. How could learning happen? It didn’t. Yet the framework was rattled. Was shaken. Learning would happen. The process had begun. The seed was sown. It would grow in its own time.

The sharing moved the spirit of the room. Other participants wanted to find the people hidden inside them. The hidden stories waiting to be told. Very soon, the projector was swept aside unused and the power-point forgotten. What really mattered now was to explore and share the unconscious spirit. Drink from the well of the unknown. A bitter portion that illuminated life.

As we explored the room was filled with more participants. Characters from within. Unseen yet very much alive in each participant.

We came across a small girl that wanted to play in the rain. Yet was afraid of getting wet.

We found a guerrilla warrior ready for the next battle. Yet not strategising enough to win the war.

We discovered another small girl that was now grown up. Yet finding it difficult to say goodbye to her old self.

We found a grass-root leader who had found his roots at a young age. Yet to develop the capacity to have difficult conversations.

And each character had a story to tell. An untold story. We narrated its story and set it free.

At the end, the participants felt lighter. The facilitators felt fulfilled. There was meaning in discovering and sharing stories. It was not part of the training plan. It was not part of the skill-list the participants had posted. Yet it was real. Healing. Self generative. Like a dip in the icy cold Ganges waters at Rishikesh. It pricks you all over. Yet invigorates your soul.

The ‘training’ that was planned for four hours extended to two days. The spirit of the room had staked its claim.

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