Sunday, 27 December 2009

Soul Searching

Such a funny phrase – I mean what does it mean exactly? There is barely proof (depending on which school of philosophy you adhere to) that the soul exists – so how can one search something that has no solid existence? And how does one go about a search of this kind? What kind of navigational tools does one employ? Is there even anything to find there? Or do we just invent what we want to find in an effort to make our endeavors worthwhile?
I came to India with the hopes of finding a little time to get to grips with my inner-self, my ‘true nature’ and all that malarkey. And here I am in Goa, with time on my hands, sitting in a hammock………mastering the art of Sudoku! I mean – it’s pretty cool stuff – rearranging numbers 1 through 9 incessantly to complete a square puzzle – for like hours on end – and I suppose, maybe in a way this task has a zen like quality to it – but really – aren’t there better ways, more useful ways I could be applying myself to the task of delving into my soul?

Of course – Sudoku is nothing more than a distraction tactic – one of many, like reading ‘War and Peace’ – (seriously – do literally critics really believe this is one of the greatest books ever written – cause if they do then I think I’m missing something – sure it has it’s moments – but in my humble opinion – the Russian nobility of the early 1800’s were mostly a bunch of pillocks, so to write 1400 pages of waffle about their vacuous thoughts and lives – well – I suppose that’s an achievement in and of itself – to get through that without blowing your own knee cap off with a sawn off shot gun – but really – for me – Tolstoy is a cool name – but not really the greatest writer of all time – but anyway – I digress), or editing photos, or obsessing about my gradually expanding waist line (thanks to sitting around doing nothing – obviously one of my least enlightened past-times – I’m quite sure that obsessing about an extra pound or two would be considered a little self-serving and positively unenlightened by Mr. Siddartha) and the list could go on!

Originally I had planned to use this time in Goa for all of the above but also to get settled into a daily regimen of yoga (in preparation for the yoga teacher training course I intend to do) and meditation (to help me obtain a stillness of mind and some inner calm). Now, granted – I have spent some time in a much needed state of relaxation, doing none of that – but as the time here has progressed and I’ve played, ‘avoid the task’ with greater determination and denial daily, the state of relaxation that I had managed to attain initially has dwindled and been replaced with that oh so familiar state that I learned to call ‘free floating anxiety’ during my oh so useful time studying for my BA in Psychology many moons ago.

So – what is it all about? This anxiety! This state of discontent! Is it just the unattended energy of an over-active mind looking for something to do? Is it the quiet urging from within to give myself a task, to find a role? The need to be achieving something with my life? To be working towards some greater goal? Or is it something else? Is it my soul, whispering to me, from the depths of it’s recess, wherever that may be, that there has to be more to life than Sudoku in a hammock and Tolstoy in Paperback Penguin Classics?

I do believe that there is more – but what ‘more’ means is different to every person, and that is where the challenge lies. Every soul must have it’s own ideal environment in which it will thrive? Every person’s idea of true happiness must be a subjectively different experience.
Perhaps the search for happiness in life is actually like a big game of, ‘hunt the thimble’. In today’s world though, the way I see it, one of the biggest problems is that there are so many choices and options – there are so many different thimbles in so many different places. It’s impossible to narrow it down. It’s like hunting for the thimble, with a playing field the size of the Americas, with only public transport to assist you in moving from place to place to find your soul’s delight. I use the analogy of public transport as a medium for locomotion as it seems fitting to me, considering that most public transport systems are impossible to fathom and seriously overpriced. In turn, this reference to pricing is borne out of the fact that there are many ‘navigational tools’ for searching of the soul, in the form of self help books and motivational guru’s out there ready to assist in your search, but this help usually comes at a hefty and unjustifiably high price, and doesn’t even end up leaving you where you want to be – just like public transport! In the same way, the search for something that makes your soul sing is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. It could take a lifetime of searching and you still won’t come up with the goods.

Or perhaps the search is more like pin the tail on the donkey. The tail is like your happiness. You already hold it in your hands – you just need a place to put it! We go through life blind-folded, just like in the game, with no way of seeing what is under our noses, so we just blindly take a stab in roughly the right direction, hoping that where the pin lands will be in about the right spot. The parallel between life and the game is in the element of competition. For most of us, the best way to determine our level of success is to look around at those close to us and compare our circumstances to theirs; to see if we are happier than our neighbors – did we pin the tail closer than anybody else? – Or did we, in fact, pin the tail on the end of the donkey’s nose, but being too proud to ask for another turn we settle with our first attempt and claim the booby prize instead of swallowing our pride and giving it another shot.

Life is full of second chances. Every day when we wake up, it’s another opportunity to start over, to have another go. But for most of us, we never see that. Since we are so determined to get it right first time, we refuse to acknowledge that we might be going down the wrong path, we refuse to take the blindfold off – or rather, to put the blind-fold back on! Or else we are so convinced that in that hunt for the thimble, we’ve already taken so many wrong turns en-route that we will never make it back to the road we should have been on, so we continue on, in the hope that maybe there’ll be a short-cut up ahead.

Really, there is now easy way, no simple answer! No one can guide you down the ‘right path’ to your destiny because each and every path is unique and individual. But I have to at least hope that the search is more like a treasure hunt, than an aimless game of chase. There have to be clues along the way. That is why I believe it is important to try new things all the time, to try new roles in life on for size, and see how they feel.

It’s important to follow those sparks of inspiration: perhaps that moment of clarity you have while you are singing in the shower, or that seed of an idea that pops into your thoughts while you sit at a red light, is a clue from your soul about where it’s source of nourishment might lie.
So why is it so hard to follow through on those ideas? All those good intentions? If nourishment is good for you, shouldn’t it be easy to find the will to eat, to put great plans into action? Well – to that I say, ask the fat lady why she still hasn’t stopped eating fries and whipped cream and switched to salad when she knows it’s what her body needs and will ultimately make her feel good and healthy. It isn’t always easy to do the right thing, the good thing, the healthy thing that will ultimately lead you to happiness.

Sometimes I feel weak, I feel lost, I feel lazy. But that’s what makes me human. And sometimes it’s OK to forgive myself for that. But in forgiving myself I also have to live with the realization that another day passed without fulfilling my goal, which will ultimately lead me to the possible fulfillment of my soul. I have to live with that, knowing that that is what makes me anxious.
Eventually, I suppose, my anxiety will lead me to action, and action will lead me to enlightenment, or at the very least contentment. But if I don’t try I’ll never know. So if you would excuse me for a few moments I have a Sudoku book to burn and a month of meditation to catch up on – this may take a while!

1 comment:

  1. Giddy up! Great read once again. First of all, regarding over-choice, I highly recommend reading Alvin Toffler's Future Shock about this exact thing. It was written in 1970 and continues to be a serious reference, you can probably find it in a book store in Goa. Also, yeah, put down the Sodoku book! I think the impact of your travels on this trip has simply overshadowed your initial plans. So get on with it and bring your ass home soon and we'll show you loads of enlightenment. Your anxiety? You want a place to call home, finally, and live your life of love to the fullest.
    p.s. for further reading about SOUL SEARCHING read most of the posts at : )