How is it helping...? The unlikely question that leads to joy and freedom
The mind thrives on motives. Motivation involves steering the energy the mind and its motives in the right direction and plays a big role in succeeding in life. Once we are successful, questions such as how we can help the world and community may come to the forefront of the conscious mind. Without a doubt this is the way to live, helping others and the world we live in and success will likely bring about the inherent desire to help others. When external success is taken as the measure, it is not a level playing field as there are many who want to make a positive impact on the world but cannot. The mind is a great leveler, whether rich or poor our happiness depends on how successful we are in dealing with our own mind. When we apply the question, “How is it helping…?”, it may serve as an easy prompt to mine lasting joy and freedom within our own selves.
How we fare in the external world, in terms of accumulation of wealth and possessions is only one aspect of success. Unfortunately, it has become the most prominent aspect. The more we accumulate, the more we are able to give. However, not many make use of the opportunity to give. For those who do, there is a pitfall to be mindful of. Giving may justify the accumulation, and we may be motivated to accumulate even more wealth. The greed to accumulate may be cleverly masked by the repeated acts of giving. We are also propped up by society which sees us as shining examples to emulate. We may be helping the world, but can we honestly answer the question, “How is it helping our inner growth?” Accumulating, giving, reaccumulating may become distractions that prevent us from going deep within ourselves. Bigger the ship, larger and heavier must be the anchor. In a similar vein, wealth can be thought of as the ship, and the giving becomes the anchor which ties us to our external wealth.
Wealth and giving are not just related to money and external objects. A subtle form of wealth we all accumulate is in the form of our thoughts. How many good thoughts we accrue is another measure of success. Greater the number of positive thoughts, more are the chances of performing good actions. A good act does not always require money as an intermediary. Even a genuine smile or a kind gesture counts just as much as giving money away towards a charitable cause. We don’t need to have great wealth to have good thoughts. They are freely available. Just as the ability to give something in charity is an anchor that binds to our external wealth, good thoughts and actions can also become anchors that bind us to our individuality. Although it may seem like a step further in the right direction, we must again ask the question, “How is it helping us in understanding our true nature?”
An anchor in the mind in the form of a thought, although weightless, may become very difficult to retract. The mind is an easily penetrable medium. It is easy to throw thoughts into the mind as “my thoughts”. Identification with any thought as “my thought” binds our awareness, and the mind is no more a medium of free-flowing expressions. We are pulled in the direction of the external world through sense attractions and to the inner self through an invisible bond. To avoid this friction, we double down on identification with our thoughts and thereby making them heavy anchors.
Sometimes the mind may be inundated with undesirable thoughts. In such situations, it may be best to use our identification with good thoughts as anchors till the wave of negativity passes. When parts of an ocean are frozen with large chunks of ice floating all over, it may be safer for a ship to be docked at the harbor. Similarly, when cold and negative thoughts are prevalent in the mind, making it treacherous for us to navigate the waters of the mind, it is best to be in the company good thoughts. Just as the spring thaw makes a frozen ocean easily navigable, once the cold frost of negativity lifts we must be able to retract our attachment to even good thoughts and let the awareness sail free. Just as the waters of the oceans are not static and are constantly being stirred up by currents, the mind is never static. Every thought will eventually pass, whether good or bad.
When our awareness is not anchored to particular external acts or even thoughts, the question, “How is it helping?” may again be asked. When we are experiencing the joy of sailing on a calm sea and watching a beautiful sunset, we don’t ask ourselves, “How is this helping me?” Lost in that joy of enjoying Nature’s bounty, the question disappears, individual identity vanishes and it feels as if we have come out of a closet of the mind.
When the question disappears the mind, however, does not vanish. It blurs out of context as our awareness expands. To accommodate the grandeur and beauty of nature in our individual consciousness and to fully enjoy it, it cannot be limited to a small thought or part of the mind. Our entire being, and in effect, the power of awareness balloons and assumes immense proportions. In that, the taste of true freedom, which we are all seeking directly or indirectly, is experienced.