Learning to Change With the Times
While it is good to live with the values learnt in your childhood, sometimes you have to break free, says RENU GULATI
All of us are bound by rules and regulations we acquire from our family, society, culture and environment. I am not asking you to give up discipline and run wild, but check which rules are helpful and which must be discarded as you grow up. Some disciplines are the need of the hour but they can be outdated. They might have worked for you in the past, but may not do so any longer. Put yourself to the test and see what happens when you release old patterns of thinking, speech and behaviour. The more you believe and trust in yourself, the happier you will be.
When you were a child, did you ever have to train yourself to think and act in a particular way? But after a certain age, you were molded by discipline through your family, school and society. This would have had a profound effect and has made you who you are today. An upbringing based on ahimsa would have been ideal and that ahimsa starts with yourself; how many of you were taught to be kind to yourself, especially if you came from a family of high achievers? I speak from this point of view as this was the way I was brought up. Good ethics was the foundation, but the feeling to be ‘this or that’ was not a healthy one in the long run. I finally learnt what is good for me through self-discipline. Sometimes as they say, you have to be ‘cruel to yourself to be kind’.
I was exposed to religion in my late teens, and this was the time when what you should or should not do suddenly became important. I had entered into the ‘religious/spiritual’ world, although now I must admit that I am not particularly fond of either these days as both worlds are mostly used to divide rather than unite. At this point, I acquired more baggage. I don’t come from a ‘blame’ culture or perspective, but I can honestly say that the baggage I accumulated from such traditions were so entrenched in ‘guilt’ that it has not been easy to let go of them.
Now with the advent of the ‘new age/self-improvement’ methods, one often hears that ‘fear is harmful’ and that one must focus on trying to dissipate ‘fear’. Earlier we were told that ‘the more you put your energy on anything, the more it increases. So, then you often find yourself in the midst of a stalemate.
It is for precisely these reasons that in ancient times, one took the guidance of a ‘guru’ and that guidance was holistic and individualistic; furthermore, you were advised not to share the practices given to you by the guru with another because they believed that the more you discuss your practices, the more confused you could become after receiving a multitude of opinions. Everyone is unique with different traits and needs a different approach to life which can keep changing. It was for this reason that one generally had the same guru for a lifetime. The parents too are your gurus, as they know their child well.
The point that I am trying to make is that yes, we do need to follow certain ‘rules’ but not to the point where we become fixated on them even when they have become outdated and counter-productive. It is, therefore, helpful to have a wise guide to share perspectives with and to know when to shed old baggage. Everyone has an inner, healing intelligence and the less we suffocate it with old baggage, the more it is able to breathe and function like we did when we were children.
By writing this, I am not attempting to put down any form of religion or evolutionary-based teaching, but simply to make sure that they are a help, rather than a hindrance. You should be able to recognise what teachings from your past are still valid, and what you should discard or change with the times. Eventually, if you don’t change with the times, your rigid beliefs will lead you on a guilt trip. Guilt is a destructive emotion for it is self-punishment about the past. Guilt has its uses, though, for it can sometimes be an inner voice preventing us from making the same mistake again.
Ultimately, the lesson to be learnt here is that first and foremost, ‘be kind to yourself’. From this point onwards, allow your inner intelligence to flow smoothly and guide you in life. Even gurus acknowledge that and often say to their disciples: ‘You are your own best healer’.
Renu Gulati is a lawyer from the UK and holds an MSc in Ayurveda from London since 2006. Based in Rishikesh, she consults, teaches and writes in the field of Ayurveda, internationally.
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