By Amarnath Kuldeep
Today’s global culture fosters a notion of perfection that exceeds human capacities. A notion that demands individual to function like a machine; as a tireless and consistently productive worker undeterred by life’s emotional aches and urges.
Just as the inner workings of the machine are concealed by a shiny exterior, so are we humans expected to maintain a fanciful composure on the outside that is unlikely to reflect our intricate inner world. And so we gloss ourselves in this veneer of confidence and strength, expending a great deal of our vital energy in preserving this facade instead of using the energy to heal.
How will we come to acknowledge our shortcomings if we expect ourselves to have none? Without acknowledging them, how do we expect ourselves to be attentive to the parts that need to be loved and healed?
We carry the wounds from our past for years, without allowing ourselves the care and treatment for the pain that comes with them. Vehemently denying the existence of one’s vulnerabilities and insecurities to appear to be devoid of suffering is not being “perfect”; it is a thirst to appear “normal” and healthy as instructed by the society.
It is hardly a surprise then, that sometimes the shoddy stitches we use to patch up our emotional lacerations burst open when least expected. Consciously or unconsciously, we make the choice to live with this pain.
For an overwhelming number of us, this inability to deal with and nurture pain, comes from the conditioning of the social institutions of our age. It is not that we are incapable of working with ourselves, it is simply that we aren’t dispensed the right mechanisms to this end.
We are taught to brush aside our grievances and resolve them without dwelling on them in any capacity. But there are ways to cope and to work with ourselves that don’t resort to burying our pain, or denying indispensable aspects of ourselves. This is what I feel is the essence of the work in the Inner and Outer Ecology Programme. Nurturance.
To the uninitiated, the very method might appear absurd and incongruent with the rules of life. How does it make sense for a group of near strangers to sit around in a circle and disclose parts of themselves that even their most intimate companions might be unaware of? What good will it do to dissolve that seasoned exterior of ours, even if temporarily, and bare our vulnerabilities to others?
Today, it is not uncommon to find a conviction in people that their perceived problems are only their own. That sharing our pain with others would only burden them and furthermore that the more of ourselves we share, the more power the other holds over us. These are the assumptions we make, and it would do good to re-examine these assumptions and separate truth from the fear induced prejudices.
How much power do you have over yourself if you are so overly engaged in hiding aspects of yourself from the world?
It would seem to me that the more we hide away in fear of judgement, the more we let the external world power over us, and the more we acquiescently entangle ourselves in a web of our self-created illusions. Whereas, such a dilemma would cease to exist were we to accept those parts of ourself and celebrate them. Celebration, not exhibition, mind you, for there is a great distinction between the two. Exhibitionism entails a search for validation from the external. We are seeking approval, or sometimes even disapproval, from others. It does not necessitate a feeling of comfort with the self.
It is only when you surrender to life, and cease this endeavour of hiding the “undesirables” in yourself, that you find serenity. This, I feel, is one of the very core principles on which the sharing circle methodology of the programme is rooted.
The workings are quite simple, and yet, if one is observant, it is possible to see the magic in the dynamic the sharing circle demonstrates. In a literal sense it is just a group of people positioned in a circular formation sharing their experiences and the concerns that have arisen from those experiences. But to see the magic in this circle, one has to observe its finer workings. One has to open oneself to the possibility that such a device, seemingly so rudimentary, can work on levels that are hard for the rational mind to comprehend.
However, it is possible to witness, as the dynamic of the group unfurls and lays bare the interconnectedness of us with ourselves, each other, and everything around us.
When we begin disclosing parts our life to other people, when we give them little glimpses into what shapes our reality, the relationship we share with them begins to grow. For one, the mere act of sharing takes a huge weight off the shoulders. It is a very wholesome relief that comes with purging one’s emotional baggage. I have found it to have enlivened me in more ways than one.
Sharing also works to make us mindful of all that we have in common with our fellow humans. Somewhere the journey has been similar in its fundamental qualities, the experiences that we have had are not altogether dissimilar, and there are aspects in each of us that can relate to the joys and tribulations of the other, be it in whatever measure.
We understand the language of emotions. We understand their highs and their lows, their inescapability and their necessity. We understand love, we understand pain, we understand disappointment, and we understand the innumerable other human emotions. In all this we can see in the other what is but, a reflection of us. And therein lies the strength of human community.
Perhaps if we were more in touch with this unity, we wouldn’t exhaust so much in going against the other.
In a number of ways it as also what our societies expect of us, to deal with our demons in the confines of our personal space, in our own personal time. Hardly ever does one find a safe and sacred space where, the depths of their being can be poured out to others. We are all in one big rush to do away with what we perceive to be problems. The high functioning, fast-paced life of the urban has made us all excessively impatient. It is even visible in our idioms.
You can’t wait for the grass to grow, they say. Well, what else do we presume to do?
Of course, it is not to say we haven’t succeeded in that venture with all our growth, accelerating additives and genetic engineering, but, in the larger scheme of things these have left in their wake a grave imbalance in our ecological systems. Nature does not operate in such haste. It provides for an organic growth that takes its due time.
We have grown far too arrogant if we believe that we can accelerate the workings of the universe’s grander systems. It is perchance, time for us to take a step back from the commotion of this haphazard world we have created, rife with its artificial dictates and inhibitions. Perhaps, it is time we observed the natural world as it manifests itself around us and, even through us. I do not believe we have come to be irreparably disconnected from our roots.
With a little faith, I believe, we can come to realise ourselves to be a part of the greater divinity that is nature.
Amarnath Duleep is a student of the Sustainability Living course at Bhoomi College.