Wearing the artificial mask of calmness and pretending to be what you’re not is a tremendous effort. The moment you give up the facade and be authentic, you feel relieved because you have the freedom to be yourself.
The problem is when you want to be a certain way because you feel that’s the way you should be. People aspire to have the calmness and composure of great saints like Ramana Maharishi.
But how calm a person is, depends on their past conditioning: the family that raised them, the schooling environment, the values they inherited from their environment, and the indoctrinated cultural beliefs.
If you were born in a high-conflict home where your parents had disagreements, you’d likely have some psychological issues, say like emotional dysregulation. As a child, you learned some coping mechanisms to deal with pain which got carried into adulthood.
Now you hate your childhood. You don’t want to be like that, but you carry the same false image you created years back. What could you have done? Were things in your control? Did you get to choose your family, friends, relatives, school, or enemies? So why is your inner child so afraid?
You unknowingly carry a load on your head – the baggage of the past. And you call it “me and my sad story.” The weight of that load pressures you, but you don’t know what to do. The load is present when you’re with your family, friends, coworkers, and it even shows up in your dreams.
It doesn’t matter how sorted you think your life is; the load is always present. It remains no matter how accomplished you think you are. No amount of alphabets after your name will take that load off.
This load is the ego-mind that shows up as “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine.” The “I” or “me” attaches itself to a story. The load is either of the dead past or future fantasies.
Bad things happened to me. My dreams did not come true. My family doesn’t care about me. My friends don’t care. I have a horrible boss at work. I don’t trust people anymore. Nobody recognizes my efforts and achievements. No matter how much I do for others, nobody respects me. I fail at every project I undertake.
In the other scenario, the mind dwells into a fantasy future. I will be happy when I have a huge bank balance. I will be at peace when I become enlightened. I will be happy when I meet the person of my dreams. I will be satisfied when I’m out of the 9 to 5 grind. What will happen If I lose my job? What will I do if my investments tank? What about my future? What about my family’s future? You get the idea.
We keep swinging like a pendulum between dead past and future fantasy.
Do you see the tirade of the never-ending thinking mind? It goes on and on cause it loves misery and victimhood. While it’s natural to have these thoughts, the suffering begins when we get carried away in the stream of horizontal thinking, imagining the worst-case scenarios, one after the other.
The undercurrents of the obsessive thinking mind are so strong that one keeps ruminating the same scenarios repeatedly. It produces such strong feelings and emotions that it hijacks the brain’s ability to pause and reflect. It’s like watching a series of horror shows on repeat.
Ego loves this kind of involvement, and that’s how it enhances the personal sense of identification. We become more serious, more stressed, depressed, anxious, and whatnot. There can be no peace when the “I” or ego creates strong identifications. Things should be like this. Things should not be like that. I want this to happen. I don’t want that to happen.
It is why most of our relationships are a mess. We expect people to be a certain way, and we base our happiness on that. Trying to change someone of their nature is an act of violence. The problem is that all discomforts and irritations are within us, but the ego loves to pin the blame on others.
So why does the ego do that? It does that because it identifies with the sense of separation – me versus others. The mind creates a strong veil that makes us believe we exist as separate identities.
This personal identification or “me” keeps repeating the same stories. The ego’s job is to keep reinforcing this fictitious image. The ego’s nature is to expand and enhance itself by any means possible.
So what to do? What do you do when you’ve finished your water supply and see a mirage in the desert? You simply see the situation for what it is. No matter how parched you are, the mirage will not produce water.
Once you know the truth, your pain of thirst will never turn into suffering. You’ll know that your feeling in the moment has nothing to do with the reality of the situation.
When we see our thoughts, feelings, and emotions for what they are rather than how they should be, it is the dawn of witnessing. One witnesses things without creating judgments or reactions. So when a painful thought arises in conscious awareness, the thought is seen without distortion, i.e., without filtering it through the lens of past conditioning.
A space gets created between the observer and the observed that cuts off the involvement by not allowing the thought to propagate into further thinking. So the ego does not get the opportunity to cling and get carried away by the thinking mind. As this understanding deepens, the ego gives up control, surrendering to “what is.”
Suffering is a consequence of the ego getting involved in the content of consciousness. Your true nature is not either the ego or the mind. You are the pure consciousness or awareness space in which everything appears. Your consciousness creates both the external and the internal world.
So my final concept is that though we appear to be separate in duality, it is the same consciousness that runs through all. The separation is an illusion created by the mind. Conflicts happen when we identify ourselves as the thinking, which in simple terms is attachment to “me and my story.”
Conflicts occur when my thinking contradicts yours. Since I am attached to my thoughts in the form of concepts, ideologies, and beliefs, anything that challenges them directly attacks the “me.” But when the realization of oneness happens, dissolving the “me and my story,” there’s complete acceptance of what is.
It is true freedom from suffering as the “me” to suffer has disappeared. It is a choiceless awareness that is our natural state. Nothing can stop the pain, but with this new understanding, the pain does not translate into suffering.