In India, Saturn is a dreaded planet, for it’s capable of bringing obstacles and misery.
They fear the arrival of the Saturn cycle in the horoscope.
I don’t fear it. I embrace it.
Misery is important
It’s painful. It’s difficult. But it teaches you and evolves you, makes you a better person. And, if embraced wisely, it can even award you an enlightenment.
I went through several heartbreaks, neglect, loss and betrayal. I suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I took several trips to the emergency room because I thought I was dying. I was convinced I had medical issues with my heart. My cardiologist didn’t think so, so he wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants and referred me to a psychiatrist.
I threw the prescription in the garbage and cancelled the appointment with the psychiatrist. I thought he was an idiot, so I went to a neurologist. He gave me a prescription of anti-depressants—and a referral to a psychiatrist—again! These folks are crazy, I thought, and threw the prescription in the garbage again. In hindsight, I’m glad I did that.
I developed a bruise on my back from constantly rubbing against the wall I sat against during my depression. People thought it was a birthmark. I even peed in the same bottle I drank water from, because I couldn’t walk to the bathroom five steps away. Years later, when I saw Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Aviator, confining himself in his theatre and peeing into his milk bottles when he was depressed, I realized I wasn’t the special one.
I suffered a nervous breakdown when tears couldn’t stop flowing through my eyes, while I screamed in agony. None of this is exaggeration.
Give me happiness
I begged for love. I begged for happiness. I even begged them to make me rich at one point, because I thought money could buy happiness.
I went on shopping bouts to buy happiness and heal my depression. Amazon loved me. They called me Amazon Boy at work, because I had a tower of Amazon packages beside my chair that would only grow. This did work, for a few days, but when the excitement of ‘new’ faded, I was back to square one … sad and depressed.
When that failed, I bought a load of saffron from across the world, because someone said saffron heals depression. The Internet said Kashmir saffron is the best, so I bought Kashmir saffron. Someone said I must try Persian, so I tried that too, and Moroccan, and Spanish and … whatever gave me hope. They suggested a pinch, but I used a spoon to dump the saffron in my tea to expedite the healing.
I don’t know, to this day, how the saffron overdose didn’t kill me. I completely lost my appetite and turned into a living skeleton that could’ve been used for Halloween decorations. At one point, I weighed 86 pounds at 5 foot 10 inches tall. That’s a Body Mass Index (BMI) of just a little more than 12.
Travel would help, someone suggested. The Eat, Pray, Love lady had done it, and it had apparently helped her. So I travelled … to Vegas! I stayed in suites, drank all night long, gambled my paycheck away, took a helicopter ride to the beautiful canyons, watched the most expensive shows and visited the best bars in limos.
My life was like a boat in the middle of an infinite ocean with a never-ending storm.
This was life! I’d snapped out of my misery! Or, so it seemed. The hangover of festivity lasted a few days, and then I was miserable again.
It didn’t work. I was going through upheavals. My life was like a boat in the middle of an infinite ocean with a never-ending storm. My emotions were all over the place. I was unstable and extremely volatile. I feared I was going crazy. I’d started questioning my own sanity. And on top of this, I had a full-time job to manage that I couldn’t afford to lose, since I’d already burnt half of my life’s savings in a stock market collapse. I was almost fired from my job.
Every equation was set against me. It was a true manifestation of “When it rains, it pours.” I was left an incapacitated and broken man.
In the middle of the 19th century, benzene’s structure was a mystery. It’s said that [Friedrich August] Kekule thought about it so hard and for so long, that a dream of his revealed the structure symbolically, in the form of a coiled snake. Sometimes, your subconscious mind knows what you want better than your conscious mind does.
I spent countless days looking for a solution to my misery. I read a ton of books and articles, watched a lot of documentaries and virtually dug through the whole Internet for a solution. Nothing seemed to help, because my conscious mind was too logical, skeptical and clouded by external influences to accept anything prima facie. It needed evidence.
I needed someone who’d gone through what I was going through to validate it, but there was no one around. I had to go through my own process of trial and error.
I don’t know if this was a logical deduction made by my conscious mind through trial and error, or something that arose through the guidance of my subconscious. Maybe it was a mix of both. In a flash of wisdom, it occurred to me that I’d created my own sorrows. I understood that the reason for my woes was my expectation that things must go the way I want them to. I was trying to control everything. I was clenching too hard.
And then … I opened my fist for the first time, to let go of control. My ever-stiff body suddenly loosened up, and my breathing changed from forced to an involuntary free flow, just the way it’s intended to be. I’d surrendered to the Universe.
Right at that moment, a flashback occurred, and I recalled “Happiness lies within,” as Buddha had said, and then came a flashback of “My Own Prison,” a Creed song I used to listen to back in the ’90s. After that came another, this time of nimitta-matram and Aham Brahmasmi from The Bhagavad Gita.
There were flashbacks on top of flashbacks. Suddenly, all the dots connected and everything started making sense. It was a moment of profound understanding and revelation. I’d just experienced something that I’d read about in books and heard in documentaries, but had never understood the meaning of.
I’d experienced a state of pure bliss, a state of partial enlightenment. All noises in my mind died an instant death, and my mind became thoughtless. All my emotions were replaced by this newfound state. All my desires had vanished into thin air at that very moment—all except one—the desire to preserve this bliss eternally. Everything else seemed like a fallacy.
I felt peace. Absolute peace.
Getting to simplicity
It wasn’t rocket science to figure out that the most obvious threat to this peace was the noise I’d created around me, the constant worry I was living in. The more things I possessed, the more I had to maintain or worry about them.
Oh look, a credit card with cash back offer—take it!
A balance transfer offer at a 1 percent interest rate—take it!
A 25 percent off coupon with a $100 purchase—shop!
Oh no, now I need to keep track of monthly payments, have too many credit cards to handle, and need to return the shoes because they were an impulsive buy to meet the $100 mark!
I started cutting down on unnecessary things and got rid of anything redundant. I got rid of so much that my whole apartment could be packed into two suitcases.
I and I alone was responsible for adding the unnecessary fuss and complexities to my life, and I had to simplify it.
I started cutting down on unnecessary things and got rid of anything redundant. I got rid of so much that my whole apartment could be packed into two suitcases. Just two.
I’d turned into a minimalist. For three years in a row, I didn’t buy a single piece of clothing or shoes and I slept on the floor without a mattress. I wasn’t practicing extremity, though. When I needed something, I bought it. I just started avoiding redundancy.
This was simplification. And this wasn’t limited to things, but extended to people, too. Less names, birthdays and anniversaries to remember, right?
While simplification helped me cut down on noise, it didn’t completely eliminate it. Why? Because I was still meeting and interacting with people, I had to hear their opinions and judgments, and I had to form my own to carry on a conversation. Sometimes, those conversations weren’t so pleasant, and they often messed up my peace. Besides, in this Internet era with an explosion of information, the world seems too chaotic to give a piece of your mind to every affair that’s going on around the world. At least, I couldn’t afford to do so. I had to protect the silent state of my mind.
What could solve this problem? I asked myself. Simplification was easy to achieve, but neutrality wasn’t. When I was home, I was secluded, with nobody around me. There were no subjects to discuss. There was nothing to hear and nothing to see besides the Internet and TV, but I always had the option to switch them off at my will. It was noiseless, peaceful. But as soon as I went out, I was in a noisy and chaotic world. After having experienced peace, I was prepared to give away anything to maintain it.
I decided to cut off my ties with the world and lived in solace for a while, until I realized that in an attempt to maintain peace, I was only running away from the world. I was like the ostrich who’d bury his head in the sand, thinking, “I can’t see the world, so that means the world can’t see me.” I was only being indifferent, and it didn’t seem right.
Be like water
Be the lotus, which is surrounded by mud, muck and dirt, yet pushes itself to grow beyond all of that into a beautiful flower.
It was a Eureka moment! But how would I do that?!
It turns out, practice was the key. And I had to train my mind to practice it.
People want you to form opinions. They want you to take a stand. They want your reaction. For some reason, they were confused or bewildered by my neutrality. A date walked away from me because I refused to take a stand on who was a better presidential candidate, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I didn’t care, I really didn’t. To me, it was neutrality.
I became extremely selective about where to use my mind and what to remember or respond to. This was reinforced by an article I read in Scientific American that estimated the human memory storage capacity to be around 2.5 petabytes. That means the human brain has a limited memory. LIMITED! Being a computer engineer, I immediately understood what that meant, and that I had to become extremely selective about what I wanted to memorize and grasp to avoid an override of my existing memory cells.
I stopped paying attention to everything that was happening around me, or around the world. I didn’t go the extreme route, though, because extremity is never a good idea. I was still on top of current affairs, but I was selective. Taunts about not remembering important events, anniversaries and birthdays of my friends and family became regular, but that didn’t bother me, because it didn’t matter anymore. I’d found my Kryptonite. Many times, my neutrality was mistaken for indifference, but on the contrary, I’d maintained my kindness.
Being neutral made me non-reactive, focused, agile and resilient. Reactions arise from emotions. Since I didn’t care about most of the stuff around me, I had no emotions attached to them and therefore had nothing to react to.
Bruce Lee, not just one of the greatest martial artists of all time, but also a philosopher and spiritual master, once said the following in an interview:
It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.
Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Running water never grows stale. So you just have to keep on flowing. Be water, my friend.
This also happens to be one of the most influential lines in my life that helps me cultivate agility, focus and resiliency.
Back in the 1950s, when the world faced a tough call to choose a power bloc during the Cold War, a few countries got together to form a Non-Aligned Movement—to stay neutral. They didn’t join any bloc but remained neutral. This not only helped them stay away from the conflicts, but also allowed them to focus on their own development and progress.
Knowledge of this only reaffirmed my belief that I was on the right path.
We become special
One reason for this is because we resist change. We change only when forced to by circumstances. There are thousands of books, motivational speakers, gurus and saints out there to teach and to preach. Some of us learn, understand and practice, but most of us don’t, and I was one of them.
Born and raised as a Hindu in India, I was taught the stories of Dharma, Karma, righteousness, spirituality, enlightenment and Nirvana as a kid. From the time I was a toddler, I had access to an abundance of wisdom-filled texts.
The path you discover or choose is immaterial, as long as it leads you to your ultimate destination.
Did I learn? Yes. Did I practice it? No, not until I was faced with circumstances that forced me to. Theory and practice are very different things. I’d learned certain principles in theory, but they only became part of me through practice.
Peace, the ultimate destination, can be attained through various paths. I attained mine through simplification and neutrality. Some may attain it through Yoga or meditation, and others may discover an entirely new path to follow on their own journey. The path you discover or choose is immaterial, as long as it leads you to your ultimate destination.
I transitioned from a believer to an atheist and then to agnostic during the course of my development. I realized that the universe doesn’t have a special cradle designed for any of us. We aren’t born special, we become special. To this day, I don’t know if God exists, but honestly, it doesn’t matter anymore, because I discovered what I needed the most … my path to Peace.
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