Cowards die many times many times their deaths, the valiant never taste the death but once’ –William Shakespeare

Call it Bravery, courage, or, valor, this word is used in various situations and everyone would have come across this word at least once. But what is it really? This thought reminds me of two stories from Hindu mythology: Prahalad in Narsimha avatar and Abhimanyu in Mahabharata.

Prahalad, son of Hiranyakashyap, was a true devotee of Lord Vishnu. Being a demon and an enemy of Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashyap strongly criticized it and made may attempts to kill his own child. Prahalad, who was just a 5 year old child at that time did not give up his faith due to fear and stood strong against his father. In the second story, Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna. He was just a teenager and newly married at the time of the war of Mahabharata. Fully aware of the fact that his wife was pregnant at that time, bravely entered chakravyuh, while putting his life at stake and failed the ill – intentions of the enemy. Thereby, he sacrificed his life to keep going the righteous war against the wrongdoers.

In the first story, a child stood by his faith and devotion and in the second case, a person sacrificed his life for what felt right to him. But there is one thing common in both the stories. They both knew that they were weak compared to their opponents.

Somewhere we all are dealing with similar situations in our lives. Amidst so many variations in perspectives and rigid opinions, we all are struggling to express ourselves truly and be who we truly are.

As a child, we all were unaware of the rules and complications of the society. As an untamed beast, we followed our hearts. But as we grew up we started adjusting. We started giving more importance to adjusting to the rules and principles of the society than being ourselves. We sacrificed our best phase and face to become somebody, the society admires. I guess this is true for most of us. Somewhere or the other we all have sacrificed and adjusted to the rules of the society.

But it’s time we act bravely and stand for our true self. We need to stop getting approvals from society and become what we truly are.

Not being scared to be you is the real bravery

Are we manipulated?

‘Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom’– Benjamin Franklin

Exploring and understanding the inner world or the external world requires a clear mind and thought process. Most of us would agree to this one fact.

In our daily lives, we come across situations, where two people having contradicting views quarrel with each other. Interestingly, they both confidently claim to be right. They judge the entire situation based on their pre-existing theories and take less than a second to accuse the other person of being wrong. But is it so simple?

All our lives, our parents, teachers, and friends have been teaching us different things. They have been using a system of positive or negative reinforcement to create the personality that we are today. Eventually, we start thinking on the same lines as them. We may not resemble any one of them in particular, but we surely are an amalgamation of their teachings. These teachings and theories form an invisible box within which our mind is restricted. When we come across some situation that lies beyond this invisible box, we get into a state of denial towards it or consider it as an exceptional case. In the absence of any external influence or a strong inner requirement, we tend to spend our entire life within this invisible box without even realizing it. This is exactly how stereotypes are formed.

For example, Through the ages, womankind has always been treated as secondary citizens. Their abilities and roles have been limited to a great extent. This unequal treatment was considered ideal at one point in time but now the scenario has changed to a great extent. Women are getting out of their predefined roles and are exploring new fields. Though the scenario has changed, some people still find it hard to accept these equal treatments. Not only men but also some women find it hard to break through their pre-existing notion. She also considers it to be wrong. This is mainly because she has been raised in an environment where women were always subdued. These restrictions are nothing but boundaries of the invisible box.

Brain in a box

It is not wrong to form theories but when these theories become limitations, they restrict us from growing. When we step out of this invisible box, we experience a whole another world and therefore, form theories based on our experiences. With every new experience, a new theory evolves, and therefore, the process of learning continues. It is only through this process that one can grow. This is the kind of freedom without which no other freedom matters. This is real wisdom.  

How to explore Yourself

Lose yourself and you will find this world, lose this world and you will find this world”- Adeel Anular

Since the day we gained consciousness, we have been growing a bit every day. There has been a goal set in our life, which we have been struggling to achieve. This process sees no end, it is continuing for us. As a child, we struggled for good grades, wanted to play, wanted toys, etc. After gaining a little maturity, our focus shifts towards creating a stable career and earn money. Then comes the stage when we realize our responsibilities towards our parents, children, and society in general. Once this stage passes, all one wants is peace. Therefore, if we look back, our mind was always occupied by external goals, which are temporary. Now take a second and look back. Suppose you have achieved everything that you wanted in life. When you think about yourself, how do you recognize yourself? Maybe, as a rich, successful, and responsible person, right?

When somebody asks you, “what is a bag”, would you answer it by saying, “It is black in color”?

Obviously not!

So similarly, ‘successful’, ‘rich‘, and ‘responsible’ don’t define you, they are merely some layers of identification that you have developed over a while. You are the basic entity, which has given existence to the above layers of identification and traits.

Realizing that the traits you are recognized by are not the real you, is the very first step in the quest of exploring yourself. Thereafter, it starts a journey of life where the focus deviates towards internal growth. Slowly and gradually one realizes that the external world is nothing but a reflection of self. A better understanding of the inner self changes our perception of the external world to a great extent. It is a quest where every question leads to an answer and every answer leads to a new question. With every new answer, you shed off a layer of fake identity and what remains, in the end, is real you. This treasure hunt is the very purpose of life.

How to look for answers?

In this quest, life is the teacher and you are the disciple. Nobody can answer your questions. They can surely provide you with a direction, but the answer still has to be yours. Every answer is realized when you start observing yourself mindfully and further analyze all your observations. You have to start observing life as a third person. You have to study your situation and the emotional response it produces within you. With this study, a person understands himself better and becomes the master of his system. When this happens, he becomes mentally suitable to realize his true potential. On clearing this stage, you understand your conscience better which will further lead you to your true self.

Every episode of your life is a lesson of self-exploration. What kind of student you become is your call.

Being selective with information

Sherlock once said to Watson, “I consider that a man’s brain is originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you chose. A fool takes all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his attic” 

We are surrounded by a variety of information. The process of receiving information that starts at our birth is continuing till date. Even if you exclude the first ten years, throughout the remaining time, you have been subjected to a variety of information. Our schooling involved a new lesson every day. But how much of it do you actually remember? This in no way means that schooling is not important. If a child is not exposed to a variety of information, it might develop a restricted mindset and will fail to realize its passion. The process of being selective starts after one has realized their field of interest and is mature enough to distinguish between important and unimportant information. On a daily basis, we come across all kinds of information, but not all of them are useful to us. In fact, the majority of the information that we receive each day is mainly for entertainment purposes and in no way contributes to our growth. Thanks to the internet, they can be accessed anytime and anywhere and need not occupy our minds. This does not mean that we are not supposed to enjoy life. This only means, we should never let the unwanted information occupy our mind to an extent that we lose hold of the useful piece of information.

Now, what information is useful varies for each one of us. We can only talk for ourselves. For example, for a software engineer, medical researches going on all around the world is not important, whereas for a doctor it is. The information that is useful to us depends on our interests and requirements.

But some information is required to be known to all as a part of our responsibility being a citizen and human being such as laws, crimes, self-defense, and general awareness. No compromises should be made on them. Carrying a piece of luggage that you surely know will be of no use to you is not preparation, it is merely an extra load. Wisdom lies in knowing what to know and what not to know.

Positive thinking v/s Unrealistic thinking

Yesterday I came across a question. ‘When I believe that I will not be infected by COVID 19, am I being positive or negative’. This made me wonder about the kind of image of positivity people have in mind. Many people feel that positive thinking means that one has to focus only on positive things and ignore the facts that generate negativity. But do you think that such an approach to life is right?

Let us consider this case, we all are aware of the fact that it is a contagious virus. Thinking that you will not catch the virus means that you are ignorant of the situation which in turn makes your thinking unrealistic. If you let such a thought- process guide you, you will end up catching the infection and will also contribute towards its spread. So, unrealistic thinking, that you thought was positive, produced negative consequences. Thereafter, people complain that positive thinking is not working for them. It is important to understand that any form of thinking should be a derivative of facts and not a preconceived theory. Positive thinking is not being ignorant about the problems or flaws. It means perceiving the negative aspects of the situation as a challenge rather than a restriction. This challenge is a way of life of bringing out a better version of you by giving you a direction of growth.

Process of Growth

For example, in the present scenario, while we were in lockdown many of us fixated on the impact that this prolonged lockdown might have on the economy. Anticipating an upcoming problem based on facts is not being negative but worrying about it and allowing it to weaken your mental health surely is. Lockdown period must have been used to prepare oneself physically and mentally capable enough to withstand the upcoming problems with an attitude that you are capable enough of figuring out a solution for your problems.

Perceiving the problems as challenges and using them as a motivation towards growth is called positive thinking. It is very important to understand this difference between positive thinking and unrealistic thinking. Where positive thinking promotes growth, unrealistic thinking inhibits growth.