I will share my modus operandi for life. I hope that it will be relatable to many.
1. First of all, mindfulness.
I strongly believe in the 'here and now' and do my best to live by this principle. It took me a lot of time to realize the concept of this way of living, but I am really grateful that I exactly understand what this means now.
I always had a hyper imaginative mind: I was a frantic thinker and though I was creative and intelligent as compared to my friends from my early childhood, I was anxious and I had a hard time focusing on a task for more than half an hour continually. As a result, I always jumped from one thing to others and started too many things and could not complete any of them properly. This in return made me even more irritated and anxious and frustrated. All within the 25 years of my life, I have been depressed at times, I have gone through failed relationships and distrust; I have been broke and at times even suicidal. There were times when I saw no purpose in living and felt utterly hopeless and useless. However, all of this changed. I will tell you how.
On the month of July of 2018, I went for ten days of silent retreat and meditation camp nearby my hometown and learned the art of Vipassana meditation which is one of the mindfulness meditation practice as propagated and disseminated by Gautama, the Buddha. Though the initial days of the silence retreat were very tough for my incessant mind, once I started learning how to pay attention to my own body and breath and not to be carried away by my thoughts, I really felt like that was the best thing that ever occurred to me. I was motivated to sign up for the meditation camp by some of my friends and also by my intellectual heroes like Yuval Noah Harrari and Sam Harris. When I completed the ten days course, I felt as light as a feather and a very impactful realization occurred to me: all my life, I was worried and anxious because I reacted to everything that occurred to me, I was not aware of my own thoughts and emotions, and I was controlled haphazardly by them. Learning mindfulness in the camp and practising it daily thereafter, (It has been more than a year now since I have been regularly meditating on a daily basis for an hour or so) I now understand what being in the moment actually means. Rather than observing the thoughts and feelings that occur to us, most of the time we are controlled by them.
Once we learn to pay attention to our thoughts and emotions (which in themself are the product of our bodily brain and hormonal system), we no longer become their slaves. We crave less, we fear less, we get worried far less and all of these are the perks of our simple act of being there in the present. Stress and worry come from our thoughts that are either in the past (remembering, ruminating, regretting) or the future (imagining scenarios and mishappenings before they even occur); and when we are not cognizant enough to realize this, suffering is imminent. However, mindfulness enables us to clearly realise this wisdom as the bearer and sufferer, and it makes life a lot easier, better. Happiness hence is not a target when we practice mindfulness; it is the result of us being actually present at the moment, living the moments fully and truthfully. Rather than fretting over the past that already is gone and the future that we don't see, mindfulness enables us to do what the present demands and do so whole-heartedly. This brings immense joy and meaning into life.
It might sound too good to be true, but a lot of positive things have happened to me after I started mindfulness as a daily habit. If you are reading this, I hope you start practising mindfulness from today itself. There are a lot of free lessons and guidances if one really wants to learn it.
2. Gratitude: the simple act of being thankful is surprisingly effective
Life is uncertain. Even as I type this right now, I am living amidst a pandemic and there is no guarantee that I might even live to see what comes of the world the next year. Accepting this fragility of the human condition and my own limitations as a biological machine, I have learned to grateful for all the things that are in my life. The act of being thankful not only flourishes my bonding with friends and family, but it also instils an intrinsic joy in my subconscious mind. Every day, I start my mornings with some thoughts of gratefulness for my own health, my family, my relationships and virtues. I have noticed that I can wash away a lot of negativity from mt life with this simple attitude.
3. Gather as many experiences and skills as you can
This has been the fundamental motto of my life. Apart from reading as much as I can and gaining expertise in my core area (which is science and biology), I welcome all sorts of experiences into life. I play football, I go for trekking and hiking, I learn guitar and I sing. I have tried to be as much adaptive as I can, and all the experiences have made me better and stronger. Though this kind of activities may seem trivial. but when engaged in continuously, they shape us in a creative way. They make us psychologically resilient and more empathetic and humble.
Philosophically speaking, it doesn’t matter at the end of life how much wealth we accumulate or how many material possessions we gather if we can’t look back into life and feel accomplished with day to day acts of joyfulness. In this regard, happiness and success shall never be a destination but the part of the process of being a more fulfilled person than we were a day before. Day by day growth is the best form of success I strive for, no matter how big or small the steps I take might be.
Apart from these key principles, I believe in the act of sharing knowledge and engaging with fellow human beings at a societal and personal level so that I can learn from them and give back to the community.
Watch the video below where Yuval Noah Harrari talks about the impact of mindfulness in his life: