In 2006 I spent three weeks in Mumbai attending the daily satsangs of Ramesh Balsekar, a spiritual guru in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, and the former translator of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
He would ask us to choose an event during the day which we felt fully responsible for like choosing a dish from a menu, or crossing the busy street. Ramesh would then begin to deconstruct our apparent ownership of this choice by highlighting all of the causes and conditions which had given rise to it; universal and personal, internal and external, cultural and physical.
At the end of every meeting we always discovered that, actually, we hadn’t chosen anything: life had.
Rather than feeling robbed of my free will, I always felt like I was suddenly a part of a vast unfolding movement, whether it was life, the cosmos, consciousness or god. For the rest of my stay in India I had the sense that the entire universe was present within every thought, action and event.
This was a major turning point for me.
I saw that if we can begin to relax our fixation that we are “separate walled-off selves” then our craving for personal control – and the stress, frustration and failure which accompanies it – can wane. It’s then that we melt into the flow of life as it unfolds in each moment, always fresh and always new.
Rather than feeling small, isolated and afraid, we realise that we are an essential flavour of something vast, majestic and ultimately unknowable. Yet that something isn’t “out there” somewhere, hidden from sight. It’s here, right now, as this very moment.
Of course, the very idea of surrendering to the fullness of each moment is completely counterintuitive to most of us, but just consider the alternative: trying to control every moment as it arises. The first option is merely terrifying, whereas the second is absolutely impossible.
“Leap”, the old Zen parable teaches, “and the net will catch you”.