People love to grumble. People love to criticize and put down others. People love to indulge in self-pity. What is this propensity for people to gravitate towards the negative?
We do this because it gives us a false sense of power. When we complain or criticise a relative, a spouse, the government or politics, we immediately are placed in the ‘right’ and the other in the ‘wrong’. This is the basis of the ego. The egoic mind thrives of ‘me’ and the ‘other’ and always derives its sense of self worth through this comparative assessment. The ego always tries to protect itself. Either it indulges in self-praise in one’s accomplishments or it indulges in blame and criticism. But because good things happening to you (always in comparison to others) are rare, it slips into a default complaining mode. Also society frowns upon people who boast. But society pities and indulges in people who complain. Therefore, complaining becomes a default way of life.
In order to live a internally rich and fulfilled life, we must be very alert to avoid falling into this trap of grumbling or boasting. How do you do this? We do this by identifying what we love. Love transcends the egoic mind. It is our innermost state of being. Here we use the term ‘Love’ to mean a spontaneous expression of one’s inner nature, devoid of external comparisons. This is what comes to us naturally and we feel a deep sense of home with such activities. This might be gardening, horse riding, carpentry, cooking or whatever it is. It could be your job if you are lucky. In either case, this state of being transcends the egoic state. It is only when we can connect to this deep part of ourselves, we realize that life is so much more meaningful and content. The ‘other’ drops off. How does this play out in real life?
Let’s say someone close to you got a new car. Instantly the egoic part of our mind feels a pang of jealousy in the stomach. This is absolutely normal. At that time, pause and ask yourself. Is this what I want? What do I love? Is this my path? Asking yourself these honest questions is extremely important, for they help you stay focussed. Haven’t we all done this: Gone online to check the new model of the car your cousin just bought? Or we ourself visit a showroom soon after? At this juncture, we do not see what our needs are. We constantly live the needs of others, whether they are relevant to us or not. This vicarious living is the basis of the egoic mind. And this is the antithesis of living a free life.
A free life is a life lead consciously. It is not a life lead on impulses. Living a conscious life implies knowing who we are. And what does that mean? It means understanding your deepest, innermost desires. Ask yourself regularly: What do I consider to be a fulfilled life when I look back at my life at the age of 80? As always the answers do not come impromptu. Over time, they slowly are revealed to you. Usually when we are interacting with friends and family, we begin to know how we do not want to live our lives. Framing this negatively can be very useful. What type of life do I definitely not want? This technique of negation can help you get in touch with the innermost yearning, the innermost ‘you’ who is craving expression.
And once we align our lives to this innermost ‘I’, life becomes filled with meaning. We ‘know’ who we are. And everything else – what society does, what our friends do, what our partners say, become irrelevant to our lives and our purpose. It isn’t as though we become insensitive to others. On the contrary, we become far more tuned to their needs and assist them in realizing their own inner selves.
When we start living life aligned with our ‘love’, grumbles and false inflation drop away. They are useless to what we want in life. Were we interviewed by the local TV? That’s alright! What was important was that we conveyed a message through this medium and not the accolades and attention we got from the audience and our friends and family. We realize that the false egoic grandeur is not true love, is not our life’s purpose. And therefore, our actions become efficient and our lives become meaningful. It is then, and only then grumbling and all associated negativity can drop away.
That is why, perhaps it is wisely said “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”