Seeking God

The change of all things

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” I came across this Tony Robbins quote and thought about how much our lives can change in just one year.

In my case, lots of changes in 2014 – professionally, I went from a crappy job to a free-flowing freelance life to a suddenly challenging and supremely fulfilling new career. Personally, I struggled with home help until I married the mess, learnt cooking, gave up all notions of being the perfect homemaker, and went with the flow, taking each day at a time.

But it’s as a parent that I think the idea of change really takes the mickey out of you.

I consider myself one of the most broadminded mothers of teen girls in Delhi — I am really cool with boyfriends, doing pot, drinking, cigarettes, making out, lesbian fantasies, rocky relationships, obsessive dieting and everything else that teen girls indulge in around the world. (And perhaps due to my complete okay-ness with the above, neither girl has really gotten into major trouble for any of it. Well, maybe just once or twice, and then never again.)

But even so, my daughters actually consider me very conservative. The reason: I do not like them to wear revealing clothing, and I’m a monstrous embodiment of The Nag if they stay out late.

Now, my reasons are to do with how unsafe Delhi is for young women. I constantly tell them, “If we were in San Francisco (where my brother lives), I wouldn’t make such a big deal of it.” But they do not believe me. They think it’s a character flaw. So they manufacture little and big defiances — they carry teeny-tiny skirts in their bags and change in the mall. And they stay out late despite all assurances they will be home by 9 pm. It’s an effective way to get what they want and punish me at the same time, and everyone knows that if there’s one thing a teen girl wants, it’s to punish her mother.

So I spend many hours mulling over the idea of change.

How generations change. How lifestyles change. How fashions and preferences change. And how some things stay the same.

I ask myself if I have truly changed as a mother and as a human being in all these years. I ask myself why, if I can accept so much else, I can’t accept these two attributes of teenhood. I recognise that my resistance is born from fear and insecurity and a desire to protect, but I am unable to fix it. The beast is larger than me.

But when we are finished changing, we are finished.

I suppose my ‘end-of-the-year’ roundup is not really about change but about why we mustn’t resist change because if we do, change will find us in an awkward open-mouth pose like that surprise party photo we all hate.

No matter how far we’ve come, there’s always a long way to go, and that’s the beauty of life after all. It’s nothing to fret about. I have to keep adapting and changing myself as a parent, I have to make peace with the storm. The sooner we accept change, the greater we grow.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?

Change isn’t a threat. It’s a promise.

Seeking God

Giving up on enlightenment

After I’d written this post about a discussion that had come up in my Gita class in the Aurobindo Ashram, my teacher called me on the phone a few days later (he’s just so amazing).

“You must know that your questions in class were very important. Very important,” he began. “Not everyone knows that they do not actually wish for enlightenment and liberation from the cycles of life and death. At least you know that now.”

“I want you to ask yourself two questions,” he went on without beating around the bush. “First, if you do not want enlightenment, then why do you attend Gita classes? Why do you strive for spiritual evolution?” I was silent in response.

“Second,” he went on without a pause, “ask yourself, what is the difference between those who have achieved spiritual liberation and yourself… Buddha, or your Krishna. What makes them enlightened and you not?” He added a few words of encouragement and left me to my pondering.

I really couldn’t answer his questions, either of them. So like a coward, I began avoiding his classes and finally stopped going there altogether.

It’s been over two months.

I’m still hiding.

I’m not just afraid of the answer. I’m afraid of the change it will bring into my life. Just when I’d become comfortable.

Seeking God

Acceptance and change

The opposite of every profound truth is often another profound truth, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the context of acceptance versus change.

Lao Tzu said, “A man is born gentle and weak; at his death he is hard and stiff. All things, including the grass and trees, are soft and pliable in life; dry and brittle in death. Stiffness is thus a companion of death; flexibility a companion of life. An army that cannot yield will be defeated. A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail.”

There is a great case for acceptance. To go with the flow. To be pliant to change, and mould yourself accordingly. I am a great believer in accepting what one cannot change, like my frizzy hair or curvy structure. I work my way around them, and I accept that I can never look like the models I work with.

On the other hand, there is also a great case for being the change you want to see in the world. For not just accepting change as inevitable (“nothing is more permanent but change”) but also being proactive in bringing change about in your life when your situation forces you to. There is a great case for being courageous and taking the bull by its horns, jumping in with faith for wings, and course-correcting when you feel you aren’t on the right path.

Neti, neti, said the sage on his way to enlightenment. ‘Not this, not this.’

That’s what our journey looks like, sometimes: This is not who I am. Turn. That is not who I am. Turn. This is not who I am. Turn.

(Next question: Who am I?)

Sometimes it takes a vacation with all the people you love the most in your life and celebrating your 40th birthday on a cruise to awaken you to the fact that something in your life is bothering you like a needle in your brain and needs course-correction.

Sometimes, nature forces change on you. Sometimes, you change things yourself. Either way, you will never be the same again.

And that’s something you may as well accept.