Are you enjoying the freedom consciously?

 |   Nisha Gopalakrishnan

The commencement speeches contain pearls of wisdom which is not only a useful piece of advice for the students graduating but for others as well. I love to listen to these speeches because many of them are a source of inspiration. I am writing this blog after hearing one such commencement address; late David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005, in which he conveys that freedom is being in conscious and thinking consciously. In a society where there is a steady increase in the number of people diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders, the speech though delivered more than a decade ago holds relevance more than ever!

The whole speech is well worth hearing. I would like to quote a snippet of the speech here:

Learning how to think means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

I remember during my graduation, my thought process was just centered around doing well during the recession and retaining the job I secured. I never envisioned my day to day life. It has been more than seven years since my graduation, now all I think about is making my day to day drudgeries, routine work more bearable. Until about few years ago, I mostly relied on my conscious thought process. When I faced a hurdle, I felt the whole world was turning against me. It triggered the dominoes effect and felt that I was perpetually doomed!

There is an old saying which goes like this:
“The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master.”

David Foster says about the cliche,

Like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are dead long before they pull the trigger.

We grow up reading about fairy tales, gaining knowledge through education but often feel helpless in confronting the weak points in our lives. Our education fails to equip us with, how to think or to make us more well adjusted to the curve balls that the life hits us.
I had written about a blog how perspectively is more important than the situation. Our conscious thought process helps in shifting our perspective about the hurdles that we face in our life and helps in moving past it.

There is a lovely story by that I had read, it goes like this:

In a small village, in the valley, lived a man who always appeared to be happy. He always smiled and shared kind and encouraging words with everyone he met. Everyone who met him left feeling a lot better about themselves and in a happier state of mind than before. People knew they could rely on him and regarded as a good friend. One of the villagers was curious to know about his secret to happiness and how he was able to be kind and helpful.

He happened to meet this happy guy one day, and he asked him:
“Most of the people are selfish and also unsatisfied. They smile less often and neither are kind or helpful others. Can you explain why?”.

The man responded with a smile, “When you make peace with yourself, you will be in harmony with the rest of the world. The spirit in yourself helps in recognizing the right spirit in others which makes it easy to be kind and well disposed with all. You become strong and firm only when your thoughts are under your control. The personality helps you in performing certain actions. However, your habits and thoughts control your character. The inner goodness and the happiness that resides within you will be revealed only through good habits and thoughts.”

“Habits which serve well needs to develop. Develop The Skills to concentrate and to control the thoughts. The work is challenging and a never ending process. It is not an easy task to overcome many obstacles ” said the villager.

“If you think only about difficulties, what you see and experience would be that alone. Try to quieten the disheartened feelings and thoughts to stay in this peace. Do not get carried away by your thoughts and find the inner calm within you”.

“Is that the secret?” asked the villager.

“Watch your thoughts and see how they rush in and out. Stay in the quietness that arises. The moments of peace will be brief at first, but gets longer over time. This peace is also a strength, power, kindness, and love. With time, you will realize that you are one with the Universal Power, It will help you to think and act from a different dimension which is not motivated by selfish, small, limited ego.”

“I shall try to remember your words,” said the villager. He then continued, “You seem not to be affected and influenced by what surrounds you. You also are always helpful and kind to everyone. They are not trying to exploit you as well as treating you right.”

“By having good character and kindness does not point out the weakness in oneself. You can be good and still be strong. People can sense this inner strength and never try to exploit. Being steady and calm helps in being kind and helpful to people because you can and want to. Strength drives your action, not your weakness. Many people think that greatness or goodness means it is a sign of weakness, but it is not. It can manifest together with strength and power.”

The villager went away after he was happy and satisfied with the response.

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of David Foster’s book “Infinite Jest”. David Foster said that getting educated and understanding how to think is the real freedom. The alternative way to lead life is guided by unconsciousness, which is the default setting, the rat race, in which the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing”.

But unfortunately, being educated does not mean understanding how to think. There are many people trained to work in industries but not to use their conscious mind to utilize their capabilities fully.

About Nisha Gopalakrishnan 22 Articles
A software professional, blogger and an enthusiast of latest technology news and startup ideas.

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