I’m back in Rishikesh after several years’ absence, slowly taking in all the remarkable changes (I hesitate to say developments) that have happened here since 2013. The local businesses are being crowded out by bigger commercial ventures and chains of cafés and restaurants that render the small city a more homogenised version of itself.
While there is still a lot of charm, now one has to seek it out a bit more as so much has become a commercial concern; the increased pollution is another price to be paid for this growth. The evening ārti, or fire ceremony, at the edge of the River Ganges has gone from a spiritual expression of gratitude for life itself to a highly-choreographed televised event. What was once a personal act of devotion is now a tourist attraction, with many not really sure of what is happening around them.
Of course, this exchange of meaning for money is happening all around us in multiple ways.
The pressures we face by society are enormous and often unseen – financial growth at all costs, and material wealth to show it off are only a part of the story. Social constructs are different everywhere and around the world there are varying norms and habits that people adhere to. But all of them are like a collective delusion.
Because most people have chosen not to question social norms they are perpetuated through generations, becoming the reality to which we conform and adhere as if it were true. Individuals who step outside of this reality are considered abnormal, dysfunctional, or difficult.
An individual who works in a company for 20 years maintains the delusion that he or she will be secure because they have a job. When the company closes and they lose their job they’re angry and can’t accept the new state of affairs; they believed the story that they were secure because of the job. None of this was ever true but as long as the situation didn’t change much their belief continued as if it were an absolute truth. Living like this is like being a child, not taking responsibility for one’s life.
Being responsible in life isn’t about paying our bills on time, sending the kids to school or driving within the legal limit.
Those things are societal norms and have little to do with personal responsibility, which rests upon recognising that we are responsible for how we respond to whatever happens: we are never a victim of circumstances but a participant in life itself.
Our choices move us in one direction or another, yet we are not creating this life, nor did we create this body, nor have we ever created any of what surrounds us.
Life flows through us and we are ‘simply’ living it.
All of it is given to us: our body was given to us by our parents who’s bodies were also given to them, all of which is supported by the Earth and the ever-present awareness in which all of it is happening. Only the mind can’t see this truth and we believe that we are separate beings instead of an integral part of life itself, so we become anxious and insecure.
If we truly want to feel secure in this ever-changing world, we need to connect to the unchanging awareness that we already are, the field of all manifestation, and hold on to the manifested parts less tightly.
Sitting in contemplation every day is a reminder that the thing that is beating your heart is making all hearts beat, and making all life possible. The Vedas call this Brahma, but it’s neither a God nor a form.
By ‘resting’ in Brahma you are with the only thing that is unchanging in your life: your true self. You are already that which you seek.
With much love and light as always,
Still reading?! Our retreat in Basunti was a great success with a harmonious and enthusiastic group that made teaching a joy every day. I would love to help guide you on your personal or literal journey of personal and spiritual growth in 2019. If you would like to join the Align with Purpose Course starting in January or come along on a retreat next year, do get in touch for more information.